Role of WSMZ

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Smalma, Jan 2, 2013.

  1. Creatch'r

    Creatch'r Heavies...

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    Hatchery fish aren't to blame. Habitat destruction (spawning and rearing) is número uno. Our rivers just flat out can't support the returns that they once could.

    Hatchery fish do not help and are one piece to the current puzzle. Novels have been written by many more versed than myself hit the search button and find all you'll need. Experts please correct me if I'm wrong.
     
  2. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Skyrise -
    You have touched on some good issues. As an angler I started steelheading a decade or so before you did with most of my fishing on the Snohomish and all the experienced anglers talked about those early "wild fish". They tended to show up in late November (Thanksgiving fish) or early December and were typically larger (10 to 14#s) than what anglers now refer to as the "hatchery brads". And yes today we do not see many of those early "wild fish". During the 1980s those fish continued to return in good numbers it was just after the mid-1980s they all had missing adipose fins. That a earlier scale sampling confirm that those so-called early wild fish (at least in North Puget Sound rivers) were actually early 3-salt hatchery steelhead. Just another example of how preceptions can be mis-leading.

    A couple things happen in the early 1950s. After nearly a 1/2 century of hathcery attempts at raising steelhead the Game Department cracked the "code" in successfully producing steelhead smolts that were survive and return. The key was raising the fish to an acceptable size (6 to 8 inch) with spring releases. As a result for the first time there were good numbers of both hatchery and wild fish in the rivers. The second and prehaps more important issue it is now clear that in the early 1950 we entered a cycle of good ocean survive conditions for Puget Sound steelhead. We now know that those good conditions are drive by changes in what has been called Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and it is the norm for those cycles to last 2 or 3 decades.

    One of the interesting things about those PDO cycles is that it has been observed that when Alaska and Washington tend to experience opposite conditions. When things are good here they are bad up north and when bad here good up north. I found it interesting that during the period we saw good steelhead conditions here in PS (early to 1950s to late 1970s/early80s). During the period the steelhead returns to the Situk river (one of the world's best?) were approximately 1/10 of what they were in the decades before or since that good era here in Puget Sound. Those poor returns happen in spite of having consistent and good habitat, no hatchery fish, no tribal fisheries, etc.

    In short the up and down cycles in anadromous salmonids (such as those driven by PDO conditions) are normal and should be expected. Of course when additional pressure is put on the resource (whether habitat, harvest, hatchery/wild interactions) the down turns will likely be larger than otherwise would have been expected.

    Curt
     
  3. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

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    So, let's all hope the 3 decades of down cycle is done and we're about to turn the corner. It would stand to reason that the last down cycle would have been around 1920-1950. Do the return records show this? Perhaps the ways and methods of record keeping have changed such that they are not comparable, but if these natural cycles are on record, that's a good thing. Odds are most of us will experience at least one in our lifetimes. I caught the end of the last one and, the good Lord willing, might see another.
     
  4. TallFlyGuy

    TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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