Puget Sound Steelhead Petition

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by ospreysteelhead, Oct 25, 2009.

  1. The Quan

    The Quan member

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    .. the whole system needs to be tackled not just steelheading. I have grown up on the Hood canal since I was first born. I remember when people used to enjoy fishing with their sons and daughters, Ya know how many people fish now in my area......NONE, ZERO. I never and I mean never see anybody throwing out a line for even fun anymore. Nobody evens bothers. If this state was really commited to getting the fish to come back they would have went after the real problems. We all know what they are by now !! They are using us the average sport fisher as a distraction, the same technique that is used in politics for a distraction from the real issues driven by politics, mismanagement and money. The regs are so bad now that I am seriously considering fishing at will this year. Making my own schedule. I am not kidding. I am tired of it. I am tired of not looking forward to the new reg book and bleak season around the corner. Most of us only have so much time to fish anyway. I am at the point where it makes more sense to fish and take the hit of a fine. Screw it. This is coming form a guy who does nothing but use fly rods and releases 99% of my catch no matter what the rules are. I use my moral judgment. I used to be able to go out and breath the fresh air of winter, spring and fall or whenever I wanted to get away from the rat race of life. Fishing can be such a Zen thing. That is why I really go and I am sure that is why most go also. Now there is barely any time or any where to go without breaking some new regulation out there. So to the fish cops out there, I guess you will just have to find me out in the deep woods hiking rivers this year. Or are you too lazy to do the work ! Or if I get caught fishing "off season " I will be more than happy to take a hit for the team, It will be worth every penny !! I can afford it !!
     
  2. ospreysteelhead

    ospreysteelhead Member

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    definitely not encouraging people to fish out of season. Hood canal steelhead are extremely depressed
     
  3. The Quan

    The Quan member

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    Fist off I said what I said to make a point. I will be responsible for my own actions. People are getting so tired of the B.S. that they are going to do what they want to do. I have run into quite a few of them over the years. Good people too ! They are fed up. And I am not talking just about Hood canal rivers. Ask yourself why the canal rivers are so depressed in steelhead and kings and silvers but are over run with CHUMS !!! It is no coincidence let me tell ya ! I actually had a lead canal biologist tell me years ago that he believed that a lot of the steelhead headed in the Hood Canal were inadvertantly being NETTED with the chums. He said this because the chums can be followed closely by steelhead into the Winter :eek: That is preety sad if true. I have had it up to my ears with all the talk about it too. That is for a whole new topic that is for sure. By the way I caught a native steelhead in the Canal over the summer, quite the treat I must say. I had never caught one in this river, ever ! Maybe in the next reg book June will be off limits to fishing too ! ;) :eek: Anyway what you are doing is a good thing. Atleast it is moving in the right direction. I've signed it and good luck !:)
     
  4. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Ospreysteelhead -
    I continue to think that while the Cedar may not be typical Puget Sound system its history is of value to this discussion. It at one time had a robust wild population with escapements well above 1,000 wild spawners. With the sea lion problem during the late 1980s/early 1990 escapements fell to less than 100 spawners. In the early 1990s the river was closed to fishing, the hatchery plants ended and the worst of the offending sea lions were "removed". Within a steelhead generation escapements increased to the 600 range. However since then escapements (with no fishing) have fallen to only a dozen or two a year.

    However if you want to look at other examples lets look at the larger picture. Most folks agree that extremely poor marine survival of steelhead smolts has become the norm across Georgia/Puget basin. As result we are seeing very poor returns through out Puget Sound and lower BC mainland and the east coast of Vancouver Island. While this whole situation is pretty depressing what makes a look at the large picture interesting is that of the steelhead collapse in the region those rivers south of the border mostly had siginificant steelhead hatchery programs while those north of the border were mostly hatchery free. The steelhead popualtions on both sides of the border have gone into the tank with the notable exception of the Vedder; the one river north of the border with a large hatchery program whose steelhead population for some reason seems to be holding its own.

    In short the steelhead collapse occurred regardless of the status of various basins's hatchery programs. If the hatchery programs are not the root cause of the collapse I'm not seeing how changing those programs is going to reverse the situation in significant ways.

    To those that still may be reading all this I'm not saying that folks should not be asking for changes in management direction and some sort of action. I just saying that looking at the hatchery programs is not likely to provide much benefit. As an alternate I would such that our steelhead populations would benefit from a more holostic approach to the management of the species. That begins with the recognization of a couple critical factors -

    1) our beloved steelhead are just a part of the diversity of O. mykiss. In discussions of recovery of any of our other salmonids first and foremost in those discussions the importance of the divesity within that species is key. Yet with our O. mykiss we continue to focus on a single life history. And yes I recognize that the feds purposely excluded all but the anadromous life history from their ESA listing but that should not preclude us from looking at the larger picture.

    2) It is the norm to see wide swings marine survivals of the various anadromous salmonids with those swings often lasting several decades. Once we recognize that these swings are normal (though we may question whether our actions as a species have altered the timing and magnitude of those swings) the question becomes how has the fish survived those cycles in the past and how can we modify "management" to be reponsive to those swings.

    I would argue that the resident form of O. mykiss (aka the rainbow) are an important population safety net for the species providing a genetic resevoir for the population as well as providing some smolts to jump start the anadromous form when conditions improve. I find it interesting that where the anadromous life history becomes a poor survival strategy we see the development of robust resident populations if given a chance. It does seem to matter whether the selection against the anadromous form is from diverting the smolts to corn fields (the Yakima), kill them at our dams (the Methow) or the smolts disappearing at sea (the Cedar) when the rainbows become successful when given a chance.

    Again one man's thoughts
    Curt
     
  5. James Mello

    James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

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    The biggest argument against this line of reasoning is based on the same "holostic" approach you are advocating. Regardless of the origin of the steelhead, they are still competing for the same forage resource and escaping the same predators. So if you have a population that is near historic levels, but lower forage and potentially greater populations of predators, it seems that the entire population will be affected across the board.

    The problem with this concept is that it doesn't follow any logical basis, only a political one. If you only have a few variable you can control in an experiment AND there is a strong correlation that leads you to believe that it may be causation, you SHOULD modify the variables you have, rather than just giving up and blaming things out of your control. We can play what if's all we want, but if we don't control the things we can, we are just basically saying the entire issue is out of our control when we don't even fully understand the entire problem.
     
  6. ospreysteelhead

    ospreysteelhead Member

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    Curt,

    Many good points regarding natural variation in marine survival and the importance of protect the full lifehistory spectrum. You wont find me disagreeing there.

    However to say the Geogia Strait doesn't have many of the same problems with hatchery supplementation is flat out wrong. There are huge hatchery programs in many Lower Mainland Rivers as well as many on the east side of Vancouver Island. They also have to contend with fish farms as they migrate North through the Georgia Strait.

    I'm not pointing to hatcheries as the ONLY reason puget sound steelhead are in decline, but as James says its one of the few things the state can control and hatcheries CERTAINLY are having some impacts. The point of the petition is that the magnitude of those impacts are probably considerably greater than incidental mortality associated with CnR fishing so why not reduce or remove hatchery impacts all together in some places?

    Furthermore, fisheries targeting early returning hatchery fish have dramatically truncated wild steelhead return timing over the last 40 years. If we hope to recover abundance and give fish the chance to adapt in the face of looming environmental change we need to recover as much of the diversity of the species as possible. As you say steelhead are a species that thrives off of diversity and in the long term diversity drives abundance, not the other way around.

    Osprey
     
  7. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Osprey -
    First let me say that I appreciate your obvious passion for our wild fish and willingness to work on their behalf. In addition as I have stated a number of times I believe discussions such as we are having is a benefit; providing information to folks so that they can make informed decisions - thanks for taking part.

    However I must admit that your first post on this thread did rub me the wrong way. You said:

    "WDFW has taken further steps to reduce wild steelhead angling opportunity in Puget Sound. With populations at very low levels, reductions in angler opportunity may be justified, however reducing angling will not lead to recovery. As anglers we need to demand that the state take far more substantial action to recover wild steelhead including but not limited to eliminating hatchery programs in systems where populations are deemed too fragile to support C&R angling."

    The tone of that statement sounds as if folks can not have their CnR fisheries on wild fish then the hatchery programs need to end. While it may well be that was not your intention that is how it came across me and I would have an issue with that sort of selfish position.

    However putting that aside (water under the bridge) and to continue with our discussion.

    I originally thought when you were talking about elimination hatchery programs you were specificially targeting steelhead programs. Now it is clear you are talking about all hatchery programs. I can certianly pin point a number of hatchery changes I would love to see I honestly don't think they would make much of a difference for our wild steelhead (Chinook would be another matter). With the expansion of the discussion to our anadromous species complex I think that the Snohomish presents an insightful example for the difficultity facing our steelhead.

    In the mid-1990s there was directed effort by the co-managers to do a better job of putting wild fish on the spawning grounds across species complex; a more holostic/multiple species approach. In spite of a large hatchery presences in the basin (two steelhead hatcheries, a state salmon hatchery and a large tribal hatchery at the mouth with a aggregate releases of as much as 10 million fish) that was largely successful. If one were compare the spawning escapements since the later half of the 1990s to those the previous 15 years we would find a significant increase in the total biomass of wild spawners as well as increases in every species except steelhead. The numbers of spawning wild coho, Chinook, pinks, chums, and bull trout have all increased and while there isn't any monitoring of the sea-run cutthroat the ancedotal information from anglers is that they have also increased. Yet the wild steelhead numbers have fallen. What makes this distressing is that in the Snohomish steelhead for that period have had the most conservative fisheries management of any of the anadromous species.

    Steelhead in the basin since the early 1980s have seen a constant movement towards more and more conservative management yet with each step there seems to be fewer fish. Selective fishing has been a management tool with the basin's steelhead for a 1/4 century . There has been ongoing refinements in the steelehad hatchery program to reduce hatrchery/wild intereactions for over a 1/4 of century. As we all are painfully aware there has been continued reduction in wild fishing opportunities (lost of the spring CnR fishery for example) as the steelhead escapements have fallen. Reduced fishing impacts and reduced hatchery and wild genetic interactions have failed to reduced the population decline and one could argue based on the evidence they have made it worst - fewer fish than before the changes

    Now the devil is ecosystem interaction with all that hatchery production. The wild steelhead smolts that are leaving the basin are the largest of the anadromous smolts and they spend the least amount of time in the river's estuary, near shore areas or even the sound itself yet somehow we are to believe that they are more vulunerable to multiple species hatchery ecosystem intereactions than the other species. I'm just not buying it.

    Yes I will concede just like reduction of fishing impacts and genetic hatchery/wild interactions there has to be some benefits from hatchery reform. However just as clearly it does not address the major factor. And even more importantly focusing on hatchery reform as the major issues like wild harvest earlier in the decade only serves to shift the focus away from what is the major driver in our steelhead populations declines. After much thought on the plight of our steelhead I convinced that futher steelhead management needs to focus on the issues I raised early in this thread and allowing us to be diverted by secondary issues only delays that focus shift.

    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  8. Brazda

    Brazda Fly Fishing guide "The Bogy House" Lodge

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    This would solve the problem as long as the comercials released the wilds when caught, traps have long been abolished by the WDFW or whomever was managing then early 1900?.
    Time to bring them back along with VERY GOOD ENFORCENENT!
     
  9. Leopardbow

    Leopardbow Member

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    While I think selective harvest is only part of the solution, it is what I believe as a significant first step. WDFW also conducted their study of selective harvest and I am anxious to hear their results as well.


    Colville Tribes, States Test 'Selective' Commercial Fishing Gear To Reduce Wild Fish Mortality

    The notion of harvesting fish from the Columbia River basin with "selective" commercial gear is gaining attention, with central Washington's Colville Tribes among those taking the lead. The ultimate goal is to boost the harvest of hatchery fish while aiding in the conservation of imperiled wild salmon and steelhead stocks.

    By picking and choosing what's harvested, fishery managers could better control the straying of hatchery fish onto spawning grounds, and also pluck out enough wild fish to enhance gene pools at hatcheries.

    The latest science indicates that a mingling of hatchery and wild fish on the spawning grounds can reduce the fitness of the natural population, while an infusion of wild native genes can likely improve the hatchery product. "I think it's going to take time, but I think it's going to move forward," the Colville Tribes' Joe Peone said of the desire to see selective techniques employed upstream and downstream by sport and commercial fishers. Peone is director of the tribes' fish and wildlife department.

    In the mid-Columbia region where the Colvilles fish, the ability to live capture fish would aid in the recovery of stocks that are protected under the Endangered Species Act, such as Upper Columbia wild spring chinook salmon and steelhead. The wild fish could be released to continue their spawning journey and marked hatchery fish harvested to fill tribal members' stores.
    The ideal is to identify gear that can be obtained at relatively low cost and can be operated with high catch rates and high fish release survival.

    "You can use a whole range of gears in different areas," Keith Kutchins told the Northwest Power and Conservation Council during an August presentation about the gear testing. Kutchins supervised the testing last year and again this year. Considered would be beach and purse seine netting, fishwheels, weirs, hoop nets, tangle nets, dip nets, angling, surface Merwin traps and other alternatives.

    Tribal tests using a variety of gear are continuing for the second season with positive results. For five days in late September tribal researchers deployed a purse seine in the reservoir above Wells Dam on the mid-Columbia to test, primarily, its effectiveness at harvesting steelhead without harming protected members of the run.
    The score? Some 68 fin-clipped hatchery steelhead "keepers," seven unmarked wild fish that were released, and zero wild steelhead mortalities.

    The catch was modest given the enormity of this year's steelhead run, but tribal fishermen proved once again that they could catch and release wild fish relatively unharmed with the purse seine. "I'd say we've had a real good year," Colville biologist James Ives said of the spring, summer and fall gear testing. One disappointment was the inability to land larger numbers of steelhead from what is a banner 2009 run. Through Oct. 9 a total of 38,709 steelhead had been counted swimming up Priest Rapid Dam's fish ladders. That's the second highest count on record.

    The count upriver at Wells Dam through Oct. 13 includes 8,280 wild steelhead and 15,756 hatchery origin steelhead.
    But, "it was really slim pickings. We though we would catch a lot of steelhead but it just didn't happen," Ives said. "We just didn't find them."

    The following week the tribes used a "tangle" net, catching another 44 steelhead, including 33 hatchery fish and 11 "natural origin" steelhead. Unfortunately, six of the wild fish died, leaving that gear with a 55 percent mortality rate for steelhead. Tangle nets had been used in 2008 to catch summer chinook with an 80 percent survival rate. The tangle nets have a smaller mesh than traditional gill-nets so that netted fish are less likely to "gilled" and suffocated.

    "Purse seines are the way to go" in most instances for steelhead and performed well on other species as well, tribal biologist Michael Rayton said. The tribes will spend more time this fall using tangle nets to target coho salmon.

    Using the purse seine this summer and fall the tribes harvested 2,394 summer chinook, including 1,196 hatchery origin and 1,198 natural origin fish with only four mortalities. That amounts to a 99 percent direct survival rate, according to preliminary data compiled by the researchers. They also caught 62 summer chinook with tangle nets and released 24 of the fish that were of natural origin. The survival rate was nearly 88 percent.

    The tribes also caught 14,422 sockeye this summer, about 500 with a tangle net and the rest with the purse seine.
    The summer-fall chinook or the sockeye are not ESA-listed. But the tribes' want a sufficient number of the wild fish to escape spawn and keep the populations healthy.

    The 700-foot long purse seine is deployed in a J or U shape, extending down into the water 40 feet. As it fills with fish, the ends are pulled together to entrap salmon and other stocks.

    "You can go through and pick those that have an adipose fin and let them swim over the cork line" to continue their journey, Kutchins said. Most of the hatchery fish are marked with a clipped adipose fin.

    Tribal officials are promoting the use of selective gear and showcasing their results. They presented this year's preliminary research data to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission as well as to the NPCC. Peone said that about 30 different people, most of them fishery managers, came out during August to watch the tribes' gear testing. Much of the test fishing took place at the confluence of the Columbia and Okanogan rivers and in the Okanogan and at its confluence with the Similkameen. "We've been up there and people have been out with us," the WDFW's Eric Kinne said of the learning process related to selective fishing. The state agency this year launched its own tests of live capture gear.

    The WDFW this late summer-early fall targeted tule fall chinook and early-run coho using the same purse seine boat, Dreamcatcher, used by the Colvilles. The boat was specially outfitted for the tribes and was leased this past season. But, the tribes intend to buy it, Peone said.

    The state is testing three selective gear types -- purse and beach seines and a floating Merwin trap. All corral fish while leaving them free-swimming. Once contained, fish can be identified and released by type or species with a minimum amount of handling.

    "Instantaneous mortality is next to none," Kinne said of the state's gear tests. And again the purse seine did best, sweeping in about 100 fish per day, including tule and bright fall chinook, coho, steelhead and a few small sturgeon. The beach seine netted about 70 fish per day and the Merwin trap only 16 total, Kinne said.

    The one-year pilot study is supported by $200,000 in federal funding. If selective gear is employed it would allow commercial fishers to catch more hatchery fish overall by reducing the mortality rate. Impacts (mortalities) on listed wild fish serve to limit both sport and commercial harvests.

    It is estimate that standard mesh gill-nets cause a post release mortality of 30 percent for steelhead and 40 percent for spring chinook salmon. The estimates for smaller mesh tangle nets are 14.7 percent for spring chinook and 18 percent for steelhead. In the fall the estimated steelhead mortality is 66 percent when gill-nets with 8-inch mesh are deployed and 59 percent with 9-inch mesh.

    The WDFW says the pilot study is likely just the first step in a multi-year effort to identify -- and likely modify -- commercial fishing gear for possible incorporation into fisheries. The state contracted with commercial fishermen to conduct the tests.
    Shifting to more selective gear is consistent with principles developed by the Hatchery Scientific Review Group and with the state's Conservation and Sustainable Fisheries Plan, Kinne said. The HSRG says selective fisheries should be used to control the number of strays on spawning grounds and help fortify hatchery broodstock.

    The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will be testing more selective gear as well in the coming days, evaluating the effectiveness of using tangle nets on coho salmon. The Colvilles would like to see some of the returning salmon get through the gauntlet of fisheries that the fish face in the ocean and in the lower Columbia. "We're at the end of the line," Peone said. Funding for the Colville gear testing was approved as part of the NPCC's 2007-2009 fish and wildlife program budget and guaranteed in May 2008 with the signing of a memorandum of agreement that calls for continued testing through 2010 and deployment of selective gear, if appropriate through 2017.

    The MOA was signed by the tribes, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. BPA provides funding for the Council program and for much of the work called for in the MOA. The selective fish gear evaluation and deployment is earmarked for $2.8 million over the 10-year span.
     
  10. boyd72

    boyd72 Northwestman

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    # 76, Support the cause!
     
  11. ospreysteelhead

    ospreysteelhead Member

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    selective harvest is definitely part of the recovery picture, but unless marine survival increases substantially in puget sound wild steelhead abundance will not recover to pre 1990s levels anytime soon. Reduced releases of early timed hatchery steelhead will have the added benefit of lowering incidental harvest mortality on early timed winter steelhead, which may have once been numerically dominant in most systems. These fish utilize different portions of the watershed complex which now see very few spawners.

    An excellent example of this is a statistic I read somewhere. In the 1970s 70% of skagit steelhead spawned in tributaries, 30% in the mainstem skagit. that number has now shifted to 30% tribs, 70% mainstem. This is a gross oversimplification but it highlights the fact that early timed fish which once utilized tributary habitat extensively have been reduced dramatically in numbers.
     
  12. Leopardbow

    Leopardbow Member

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    Well unfortunately we can't change marine surival, well we are trying by cleaning up the Puget Sound, but directly we can't make an immediate change like we could the reduction through selective harvest and decreased mortality.

    Same with tribs, estuaries, habitat, etc. We are making great progress, continually improving what we have damaged, but again only one piece of the 4H pie.
     
  13. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Ospreysteelhead,

    The tributary : mainstem steelhead spawner distribution changes from year to year. It's not like is was always one thing in the 1970s and something else now. The distribution generally appears to be influenced by spring time stream flow. Higher water, more tributary spawning; low flows, more mainstem spawning.

    Sg
     
  14. ospreysteelhead

    ospreysteelhead Member

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    Salmo, I was referring to a general trend rather than year to year. I think if you looked at the spawning distribution of fish in the Skagit system, trib v. mainstem taking into account year to year variation you would see a major shift away from trib spawning. Its not like subpopulations in tributaries just decided to start spawning in the mainstem, its that the abundance of trib spawning populations has declined. Curt you likely know more about this than me, can you comment?
     
  15. ospreysteelhead

    ospreysteelhead Member

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    Curt,

    As you know marine survival in the first few days/weeks has been VERY low. A colleague of mine at UW worked on an acoustic tagging project in cooperation with NOAA and tracked smolts coming out of the Puyallup, Green and I believe the Skagit. The project started sometime after 2000 (I want to say around 2004 or 2005) well into the period of low marine survival in we're currently seeing in Puget Sound. They then tracked the survival of fish out of the Puget Sound and past a number of acoustic arrays which are now operating in the Puget Sound and at the mouth of the straight of Juan de Fuca. Survivorship out of the Puget Sound for the years they studied ranged from 3% to 8%. So on average about 95% of smolts were dying within the first couple of weeks of life. Early marine survival as you well know is one of the most important factors in determining adult run size and considering historic marine survival was in the neighborhood of 10-25% (Keogh River Studies 1970s-1990ish) this is extremely troubling.

    Essentially, before steelhead even leave the sound they are already experiencing half to one fifth of their historic marine survival. So, yes you are right, steelhead do leave Puget Sound quickly, but apparently it doesn't matter. They're still getting hammered in the sound. I don't think you or anyone at the state can say with any certainty that hatchery fish aren't playing a major role in depressing early marine survival. I understand that you dont believe they are, we'll have to disagree on that one but if hatchery fish aren't at least contributing, what's depressing early marine survival so dramatically?


    Osprey