Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Freestone, Sep 17, 2008.
Please excuse me for generalizing. Thankfully YOU would never do that!
Cactus, Have you ever met or talk to the guy?
Woodway, I am sorry but I believe you are wrong. The permit does not allow a fishery for ESA-listed endangered fish, only some amount of incidental take (accidental catching) while fishing for other un-listed species. Look at the title of the permit below…it is a permit for UNLISTED fish only (non-ESA listed, non-endangered fish).
Permit Number: 1554
Permit Type: Incidental Take
Program Name: Recreational Fisheries for Unlisted Species in the Middle and Upper Columbia River and its Tributaries
The permit allows the incidental take (accidental catching) of steelhead and Chinook while fishing for other fish, not the intentional take or intentional targeting of steelhead and chinook. Intentional take (catching/targeting) is illegal and the permit does not give WDFW permission for an open season on endangered steelhead or chinook. Since Federal Law trumps state law, WDFW is wrong to publish anything that appears to authorize a season on endangered fish because they have no such authority. Anyone intentionally targeting endangered steelhead or Chinook is in violation of Federal Law and actually state law, which also makes it a crime – no matter what the Rules Pamphet* says. In some circumstances, it is a Felony not just a ticket. But somehow, we’re supposed to just know all this so I know one rule change I will be suggesting this year!
I have suggested this wording be clarified/corrected before but I don't think WDFW thought it was a problem. I'm glad to have this post to show them how confusing it is!
* Note: there is a disclaimer in the Rules pamphlet that basically says that it is summary of state law and not the law itself. We are still responsible to follow state law no matter what the pamphlet says, even if it is wrong.
Freestone, thank you - don't apologize - for aiding our understanding.
I guess my next question is: does this type of guide behavior, and the rumpus it leads to on public forums, result in fewer or more bookings? I would not fish with this guide (and I have fished with him before, twice) but are there anglers who think that exploiting a "loophole" in the regs for a chance to hook a steelhead is OK, like cheating the IRS? Does greater notoriety get him more jobs, and prove the adage that any advertising is good advertising?
Josh, the Rules pamphlet would indicate that it is open for steelhead but it can't be open as the steelhead in the river are endangered. Here is my take on all this, although I’m no expert:
The pamphlet is very mis-leading or flat-out wrong depending on your view. (see my previous post) It requires you to know that it is illegal to fish for an endangered species. It is against state and federal law to 'take' an endangered species be it a plant, animal or fish. To ‘take’ means: '"harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct." The definition 'take' would include targeting (pursue) an endangered fish and 'illegal take' is a serious violation of Federal and State Law (it can be a Felony, not just a ticket). Therefore, there can be no fishing of any kind in a river with endangered fish because of the chance of harming them. However, the Feds can issue a special permit that will allow some 'incidental take' (read insignificant accidental catching or killing) under a very strict set of rules. These are called Section 10 permits* (see below) and for fish, NOAA is in charge of issuing them. These permits are usually issued for various scientific purposes aimed at improving the recovery of the species but may cause harm to a few of them in the process. So many people complained about the original ESA law believing it would shut down all commerce, development, commercial fishing , etc that the law was later ammended to allow other non-scientific activities if one could prove that an activity will not harm or minimally harm the endangered species (like a recreational or commercial fishery for another species). The 'incidental take' allowed is strictly defined on each permit and must be carefully monitored and reported. If the permitted take is exceeded, the activity must be halted or in the case of a fishery, be closed. That is what happened on the Methow this week.
So why do we get to fish the Methow at all given that its steelhead and Chinook are endangered? How do we justify potentially killing more endangered steelhead just so we can enjoy a recreational activity? Well, because there are several permits** that allow specific tightly controlled fisheries to take place on the Upper Columbia and its tribs. There was a long, hard-fought effort to get a permit that included a trout season on the Methow from June 1 - Sept 30. WDFW convinced NOAA that the impact on endangered fish would be minimal and the allowed 'incidental take' of steelhead is very small. (take = catch, whether not it was released) Keep in mind the take of steelhead is supposed to be incidental, not purposeful ‘take' (catching or targeting). The 'take' (catching) of all steelhead is regularly monitored by creel surveys and other means to make sure the maximum take is not exceeded; if it were, WDFW would be in violation of the permit (and among other things, we might not be allowed a trout season next year). The total permitted incidental take/catch on the Methow during trout season is:
"1. No more than 20 adult UCR steelhead be caught and released in the Methow River trout fishery, of which 2 fish may die; (Note that it doesn’t differentiate between hatchery or wild fish, I assume because we won’t know until later in the season if we’ll need those hatchery fish for spawning.)
Therefore, when 20 adult UCR steelhead are caught during the 4 month trout season, WDFW is required to close the trout season. 20 steelhead aren't very many over 4 months which is why the WDFW employees were telling people to break them off if they hooked one. Since the permit was for a trout fishery only and permits only incidental take of listed steelhead, anyone intentionally fishing for steelhead (or Chinook) would be in violation of Federal Law whether or not they released it. Let me be clear - even intentional C&R fishing for an endangered species is illegal, period. The permit even requires that: "5. The WDFW shall take measures to prevent the inadvertent illegal take of ESA-listed fish". Again depending on the situation, this can be a Felony, not merely a ticket. Yes, it can be hard to prove someone was targeting them, but it is still illegal not to mention highly unethical!
That is the trout season, so why a steelhead season? Because WDFW made a case that it can be bad for wild fish if too many hatchery fish spawn. They asked NOAA for a permit that allowed them to cull/kill the excess hatchery steelhead. (the permit is for the Upper Columbia River and tributaries including the Methow, Wenatchee, Okanagan, etc) A permit was granted that allows WDFW to cull excess hatchery fish at the dams, fish traps, etc to prevent them from spawning in too large a number. However, under certain conditions, WDFW can choose to allow anglers to kill the hatchery fish instead of doing it themselves. For this to happen, there first has to be excess hatchery fish (in ratio to wild fish) and then the return of wild fish must be high enough to withstand a certain amount of accidental deaths because even C&R will cause some deaths. But please note: this is not a C&R fishery to target endangered wild fish because that is illegal; it is only open so that excess hatchery fish can be culled. WDFW could (and some would argue should) do it at the dams, etc and not have a steelhead season at all but they try to keep us happy. NOAA has threatened to shut down the steelhead season if people C&R hatchery steelhead as the only reason for allowing any fishing in the first place was to kill the hatchery fish. If we have a season this year and if you C&R hatchery steelhead, you will be partly responsible if NOAA shuts it down, the same as those who targeted steelhead during the trout season helped shut down the trout season early.
Truthfully, I don't know how WDFW can get away with allowing us to release hatchery steelhead instead of requiring us to kill the first 2 we catch, ‘punch’ them and stop fishing that day. Given how many people view these openings as C&R fisheries and view catching an endangered wild steelhead as some kind of prize to be pursued and be proud of, I'm starting to wonder if NOAA was crazy for issuing the permits at all…
** Steelhead season: http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Salmon-Harvest-Hatcheries/Hatcheries/upload/1396Permit_final.pdf
Trout season and General Recreational Fishery: http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Salmon-Harvest-Hatcheries/Salmon-Fishery-Management/upload/1554_Permit.pdf
Interesting. The site now says (and I copy/paste)
"Me? I take off for the Methow Valley again to chase the big Westslope Cutties again, but this time we will spend half our time skating Crystal Caddis for ...........Wow."
Hmmmm. Someones been reading this website.
Before this gets to far...I would like to say a couple of things.... First I am not defending any one, but it should be noted that guides during the Summer C&R trout season on the Methow only make up aproximately 10% of the anglers ie..their clients...So no one guide is responsible for the closer. There were alot of regular anglers targeting steelhead. Also I have seen writen on here some comment that alot of guides were seen on the river, not true. There are alot of private anglers that have their own 3 man rafts and or pontoon boats. Just cause you see a raft does not mean they are a guide. I have seen no more then 4 diff guides on the river at one time and that is the exception to the norm. Only seen that a couple of times.
Those that know me know that I have been warning about targeting steelhead this time a year and what might happen...Not going to get into whether it is in the regs or not I have explained it a number of times....I have been saying this for a few years now.
It breaks my heart to see the river closed...But bottom line is the protection of the listed fish takes #1 priority. I don't think anyone can say other wise...It should be noted that this time it was steelhead next time it could be Bulltrout that are over impacted.
Simply...we as anglers are suppose to be responsible stewards of the water, whether the rules say we can or can not do this or that....
You are right, I don't. At least I don't accuse people of things based on a vaguely worded statement they made on a web site. Based on the statement the guide in question made he is no more the cause of the closure then I or you are.
Come on now. We all know what he was talking about. He was quite clear. I am quite sure that a guide advertising a potential loophole in the reg.'s helped cement any emergency closure. All I know is that it didn't help Josh Root, and that pisses me off!
Hopefully it'll reopen for hatchery retention. That way I can use all my political capital to lobby the ole lady for a fall steelhead trip. Then I'll drive over and spend a few days getting skunked like last time. Oh the glory of steelhead.
I hate Tampa,
I could very well be wrong. I don't pretend to be a rules expert.
But I have read the rules several times and the freshwater rules are VERY clear that Steelhead are considered to be trout. Nowhere do the rules say anything about being illegal to target listed steelhead. The rules do discuss proper handling and relasing of wild steelhead.
Look at the Methow River rules and tell me where it says you cannot fish for listed steelhead...
From my reading of the rules, I cannot say that the guide was breaking the law. Now I 100% don't agree with targeting a listed fish, but it looks to me like what he was doing was legit. Unfortunately, it appears to have contributed to the river closing early.
Don't rely on the pamphlet. Always dbl check the the WDFW website for any emergency rule change. You should always dbl check the website before fishing any waters.
Here's the link to the closure:
The point and moral of this story is that people were out there w/ 8 weight two handed rods, targeting steelhead. They were openly talking about what they were doing and didn't seem to care. Too bad fish and game wasn't handing out tickets to anyone with a 7 weight rod or bigger. Also, if I understood this correctly, there is a 20 fish overhead, so if trout (cuts and bows) fishermen happen to catch up to 20 steelhead in the river, fish and game will shut it down. Bottom line is that uninformed yahoos are screwing around with an endangered species. It saddens me that this little jem has been "blown up"
CS- how bout them Twins!
Let's say you are fishing a nice trout run on the Methow on Sept 15. Below you, towards the tail out, a long down and away cast, but doable, you see a nice fish porpoise. The setting sun glints off of chrome, and a brief blush of was that red?, and you know, I mean, YOU KNOW, that was no spawning salmon. That was either a patented enormous Methow cutbow..or that was a steelhead.
From what I've read..I guess ya'll are just gonna reel on up and leave the river.