How is the Sauk/Skagit this year?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by MJGROTA, Dec 22, 2011.

  1. Andrew Lawrence

    Andrew Lawrence Active Member

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    Salmo g… Just out of curiosity, is this the result from the effects (massive siltation, etc.) of the flood that occurred in the fall of 2003?
     
  2. Ringlee

    Ringlee Doesn't care how you fish Moderator

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    We have always been on the same page regarding standing up for C&R fisheries and I support fisheries where runs are healthy and look to make reg changes like C&R, Selective Gear. I live in Washington and I am watching the fish dwindle and the fisheries dwindle hand in hand. Responsible wild steelhead angling opportunities on the Skagit or PS can't and shouldn't happen without recovery. Plain and simple and the way the management plans are going, it's going to take a long time for anything to happen with the current plans. Kick starting recovery is essential and this is what needs to be discussed and implemented before we can talk about angling opportunities. Many NGO's are working to get WDFW and the Fed's to do something. Just because it's not plastered all over websites and in weekly emails, doesn't mean things aren't happening.

    Are you simply pissed because people didn't stand up for the C&R fishery to remain in the regs on ESA listed, underescaping wild steelhead fisheries?

    Look at WDFW's track record to anything proactive in nature for Wild Steelhead. C&R on the OP, How did that go? Selective Gear rules, how did that go? Go check out the last major rule cycle proposal's sponsored by the WSC and other Orgs. regarding wild steelhead. See how all those turned out.
     
  3. ChrisC

    ChrisC Active Member

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    William's point about California's Eel river is spot on - I remember particular rivers of great historical or biological significance in California still offering opportunity with very restrictive regulations such as "Dec. 1 through Mar. 7, but only on Sat., Sun., Wed., legal holidays and opening and closing days. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used." These regulations applied to rivers far, far more damaged than those mentioned above and yet they were restrictive enough that over a long enough time, there are examples where populations have recovered enough to offer more angling days (but still with barbless, no bait regs). Among the contingent of steelhead fishermen who fish these systems you will also find some pretty passionate people (gear and fly) who are making an impact at the local level defending these rivers. Without angling opportunity, I would argue that apathy and lack of awareness will be a bigger longer threat to long-term viability than incremental mortality. Worst case, poaching remains and increases as you have no one but poachers who have a good reason to be on these rivers.

    To Ringlee's point, it would be great to see the fish advocacy organizations provide a more clear position on what they are trying to achieve short-term and longer-term. This was recently posted on the Osprey blog - very well put on what would represent a more enlightened approach:
    http://ospreysteelheadnews.blogspot.com/

    There's still time to submit comments back to WDFW on their proposed rule changes:
    http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/release.php?id=oct1911a
     
  4. Nailknot

    Nailknot Active Member

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    I have found reading the website of the various fish advocacy groups a great way to surmise what their agenda is. I usually read the mission first, maybe brush up on current projects and initiatives, read about past work, you know... typical things folks do when they seek knowledge. Reading and such.

    As for closing the rivers to recreational fishing. Look no further than WDFW. The agenda there may be much more difficult to surmise. However, I am quite sure WDFW is happy to have anglers looking at fish advocacy groups with conspiracy theories, than looking to the fish managers and accountable parties for answers.
     
  5. Creatch'r

    Creatch'r Heavies...

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    I'm surprised I haven't received an actual answer to my question. Here we are talking about things that may or may not be harming our steelhead. When the skagit gets GILLNETTED every spring and wild steelhead die. No statistics, studies, science or theory needed. How many? 20? 50? 150?

    How many spawners could be spared if the nets stayed out just a few more weeks? Seems like something that could and should be addressed. Maybe I'm wrong and none get caught but I find that impossible to believe considering how late some of these fish show up.
     
  6. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Well-Known Member

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    Andrew,

    In part yes, the flood effects could be a factor. However, abundance declined in all index reaches while the dam reach increased, supporting my point that if the Skagit dams were having a major adverse effect on the population, that absolute and relative increase would not have occurred.

    Sean,

    The major effect of the gillnetting is that it is visible, kills fish, and therefore invites criticism. Obviously it doesn't do the fish any good, but in the scheme of things, it's one of the small bit players. Three or four years ago, the nets took 400 wild steelhead, and that was an anomoly. The typical catch is in the dozens. In terms of subsequent run size abundance, the incidental gillnet catch usually has no measurable effect, sort of like the CNR fishery. The limiting factors as well as the not so limiting factors have been discussed at length here in this thread.

    Sg
     
  7. Plecoptera

    Plecoptera Active Member

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    I'm also surprised they are still allowed to do this in spite of where things are at. The returns are so bad that a C&R fishery is determined to have too much of an impact yet a May gillnet fishery goes as planned every year. I've personally seen several steelhead come up in a single net pull during this spring "chinook" net fishery.

    Even though this may not be much of an impact, it is still an impact and is the only one that can be eliminated immediately... just quit netting. None of the other impacts are optional.

    I don't get why they don't just net the Cascade. Thats where all the springers go anyways, and way fewer nates to intercept. Having nets below the Sauk confluence in May is ridiculous.
     
  8. Rich Simms

    Rich Simms Active Member

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    FYI, Here is the WSC's response to last year's closure and believe it would pertain to this year's as well. I am more than happy to provide the WSC comments to WDFW 2011-2017 Strategic Plan regarding wild steelhead http://wildsteelheadcoalition.org/WSC_WCTU.pdf This may provide some context regarding priorities for the agency.

    The closure of the North Sounds streams was the catalyst for the birth of the WSC. The anglers developing the organization didn't like it, (the closures) but supported the decision since it was put into place due to low returns, however we questioned what got us to this point. Lot's of people got involved and attended hearings, but I personally noticed when the Skagit/Sauk was opened back up the following year folks seemed to get apathetic again, even though the Sky and NF Stilly remained closed, it seemed the prevailing attitude was at least the Skagit is open. It looks like a fire is burning again, which, in my opinion is a good thing, apathy is not good for advocacy. Although a healthy debate on a bulletin board provides a release of frustrations, but my challenge is to put those frustrations into action. That's what I did, the Sky was my home river...eleven years ago, to me it was a wake up call, perhaps this will be yours.


    As many of you have heard by now the rivers around the Puget Sound will close even earlier than expected due to low wild steelhead returns. Jim Scott, assistant director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) said that pre-season estimates developed by WDFW last fall indicate that wild steelhead will return in numbers far short of target levels. The closures are necessary to meet the conservation objectives of WDFW’s statewide steelhead management plan and comply with provisions of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), he said. “We’re closing these rivers early because of conservation concerns,” Scott said. “With low numbers of wild steelhead expected back, we need to take this action to protect those wild fish that do return.”

    While it is a continuing bitter pill to swallow the Wild Steelhead Coalition supports the ruling as a measure to conserve wild steelhead in Puget Sound , but we continue to request the WDFW to look beyond closures as a means to conserve and recover wild steelhead. We hope this will be an increasing call for more participation in steelhead advocacy and not simply allow cynicism to cloud our thinking. No doubt this closure will result in more effort on the coastal streams and provide increased pressure on the wild fish in those systems, which are also in a downward trend. We request that anglers look beyond just simply moving their fishing efforts over to other opportunities, but step up into conservation efforts and hold the WDFW accountable to developing more conservation based steelhead management plans that focus on recovery and abundance rather than harvest allocations.
     
  9. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Andrew -
    A good question! That 2003 flood was a signifcant event.

    Some additional info on the impacts that the massive 2003 flood had ont he Sauk. As you know that late October put massive amounts of silt in the river. The casue of that silt wsa the huge rain fall(have seen estimates that 21 inchs of rain fell in 24 hours) on Glacier peak. With the receding glaciers over the lsat few decades there were massive amounts of exposed glacial tilt on the peak. Normally that materail is covered by snow during the flood season but with both the timing and amount rain huge amounts of material was washed from the peak down the Suiattle and Whitechuck. As anyone who attempted to fish the sauk in the winer of 2003/2004 that material literally buried the river under feet of sand.

    The affect on fish like steelhead and the bull trout was huge. Not only were many the juvenile fish in the river at the time of the flood literally buried alive there were long term impacts on the eggs of spawning fish for several years. Just one example it has been typical on the Sauk to see the peak emergence of hatching steelhed fryin early August. The emergence following the 2003 flood shifted to early July; The fry were emerging from the gravel at less than fully developed - some still had not fully absorb. Such behavior is the fish's respond to lower dissloved oxygen in the in-gravel water flowing around the eggs. This often happens in heavily silted gravels where there isn't enough quality water flowing through gravel to support the fry (the eggs require less oxygen). By emerging from the gravel the fry experience higher mortalities than if they had been able to remain in the relative safety of the gravels for that extra month.

    I saw that early emergence of fry every summer through 2008. Clearly the survival of Sauk steelhead took an immediate hit from the flood and those impacts on the juvenilescontinued for at least another 5 years. It is equally clear that those imapcts from that flood was not just confined to the Sauk; that materail also found its way into the Skagit. Today that sand can be found all the way down into the tidal water portion of the basin. The 2003 flood is continuing to affect the basin.

    It ahs been noted that when the quality of the steelhead spawning gravels is adversely impacted the spawnig fish will seek out alternate spawning areas. Those that fished the North Fork Stillaguamish during the mid-1980s may have seen that behavioral response in action. After Deer Creek unraveled winter steelhead spawning surveys found a dramatic shift in the distrubtion of the redds in theNF. That shift was from below Deer Creek to the waters above Deer Creek.

    While it may be the case as suggested by Salmo g the increased steelhead spawn use in the mainstem Skagit above the Sauk because of more favorable flows it could also be the case (at least what litte I know about steelhad and their behavior) that is the result of steelhead behavior response to what was happening elsewhere in the basin.

    BTW -
    In the decade prior to the 2003 flood the portion of the total wild winter steelhed spawning population using the upper Skagit main stem (above the Sauk) was declining as compared to the use during the 1978 to 1992 period.

    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  10. KerryS

    KerryS Ignored Member

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    I will add to your observations on the affects of the 2003 flood on the Skagit. It also took the river up to 5 years to clear after that flood. Think about this. The huge amount of silt that washed into the river during the flood caused noticeable turbidity for 5 years. Even during the late months of summer into the fall when the river dropped after melt runoff it never cleared.
     
  11. Rich Simms

    Rich Simms Active Member

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    Curt, That was a great summary regarding the impacts of the '03 flood, I also believe it really impacted the productivity in the basin. But the beauty of wild fish is the ability to seek out available habitat to survive.
     
  12. Andrew Lawrence

    Andrew Lawrence Active Member

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    iagree Thanks Curt!
     
  13. Thomas Mitchell

    Thomas Mitchell Active Member

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    I have nothing to add to this thread other than sincere thanks to the previous posters. It's been very educational and even the divergent threads are all signal and no noise...

    Much appreciated.
     
  14. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Rich -
    I agree that the adaptability of steelhead is pretty cool. It is important to remember that even though some of the Sauk steelhead may have sought out alternate spawning habitats those habitats were being used by other fish and overall there undoubtly was a productivity lost for the population.

    The main stem Skagit is surprising lacking in the kinds of habitats need to provide for the complex rearing needs of the juvenile steelhead over the two year period that most of the fish are in freshwater before smolting.

    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  15. Andrew Lawrence

    Andrew Lawrence Active Member

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    Just out curiosity, has there been any sort of increase in the number of redds (spawning steelhead) in the portion of the Sauk River (including the South Fork) above the mouth of the Whitechuck River? On the other hand, does the increase in redds in different potions of the Skagit system only pertain to the “dam river reach”, as was stated by Salmo_g in an earlier post?