Skagit River Steehead

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Andrew Lawrence, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. Charles Sullivan

    Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

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    Early hatchery fish = early netting = dead early wild fish in nets

    Altough the old timers seem to say that the fishing was better later in the season, this may be because their would be more fish late in the season since the numbers build on themselves over time. Fish that return in December can still be caught in March. For this reason, March will always have better fishing than December.

    Additionally, if you look at the slides that started this thread you will see that although wild fish smolt over an extended period of time, the majority of them smolt just after or at the same time as the hatchery fish. This means that they are in the PS just after or with the hatchery smolts. Whether this makes any difference in wild smolt survival in the PS is unknown and truthfully unstudied. Maybe the extended smolting time is the reason that wild fish smolt to adult rates are high. Those smolts that are leaving before or after the hatchery smolts may make up the difference. Over time it may be expected that these fish that smolt before and after (I'd expect especially before) the hatchery fish will grown in number. This wouldn't be a guarenteed outcome of mortality caused by hatchery smolt interaction though. If it is happening it would be a clue.

    It's always assumed that we are dealing with hatchery impacts by having different run timing and spawn timing. Essentailly, it is believed that in river impacts of hatchery fish can be managed. I don't think this is the case and represents more than a bit of hubris.

    What I am always amazed at is that no thought appears to be given to potential impacts in the lower river/near shore environments and in the PS although we know that the 2 stocks are comingled at that time and we know that that is where the majority of mortality occurs to skagit wild steelhead. We keep studying genetics like Germans concerned with purity. We aren't studying where and when the smolts are dying although most bio.'s I know say it's before they hit the big ocean.

    Add to this fact that the hatchery is an epic failure with regards to return on investment and you really have to ask the question as to why it is still pumping out 200,000 or so smolts per years. Actually, you should ask as a tax payer why it pumps out even 1 smolt. This isn't a mitigation hatchery. Maybe the hatchery should be cut and the money could be used to come up with a steelhead management plan or maybe we could try and fund a study on smolt survival in the PS.

    If you look at the Nooksack the hatchery is even less succesful. The return rate is abysmal. The potential interaction with wild fish is sure high though given theat they are in the PS/ Salish sea at the same time.

    FWIW, My only Skagit fish last year came on Christmas eve day. It was a lovely albeit small wild hen. A true joy of a fish that made a day away from my mother in law that much better.

    Go Sox,
    cds
     
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  2. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

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    IMO, the problem is not having fisheries that offers a reasonable chance for catch by anglers. I know there are hard-lines drawn on this topic, and everyone's points are well taken; arguments for and against have been hashed over more times than the Ford vs. Chevy or Evinrude vs. Mercury debate.

    But in the end, I think most want viable fisheries that offer improved numbers of catch-able fish. And, personally, I don't care what pedigree they are. Some will say that's a short-sided view, and perhaps you are correct, but fly-fishing waters void of fish is, well, casting practice.
     
  3. Charles Sullivan

    Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

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    As is west side winter fisheries dominated by hatchery fish.

    Given the abject failure of PS hatchery winter fish I have a hard time imagining how hatchery suplimentation will lead to a "reasonable chance of catch by anglers." I fish the Skagit in the hatchery steelhead season. There is the cascade hatchery clusterfuck (fail to see any anglers there) and there is us knotheads fishing for the few early wilds with a smaller chance of an odd hatchery fish down below. Quite simply, there is nothing to lose by cutting PS winter steelhead releases.

    The possible exception to this rule could be the Sky.

    Go Sox,
    cds
     
  4. stilly stalker

    stilly stalker Tuna sniffer

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    I disagree about the harvestable fish mentality in regards to steelhead, bulltrout and SRC's . Yes, plenty of people would love to bonk what they catch and take it home, but look at Idaho and Montana where native trout get a lot more protection because the fish are a HELL OF A LOT MORE VALUABLE when you can catch them more than once. A sport fish is fished for sport, not the table. Let people keep a few salmon, AGREED 100%, but not steelhead or other trout. They are too valuable, and in all honestly, if the runs would be allowed to bounce back a bit ala no netting etc people would come from all around the world to places like the Hoh or Sol Duc knowing full well theyd never beallowed to keep anything
     
  5. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

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    Agreed, but how long has and will the no netting debate rage on?
     
  6. stilly stalker

    stilly stalker Tuna sniffer

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    as long as the tribes are allowed to commercially harvest ESA listed fish. Or until there are no fish left
     
  7. Chris DeLeone

    Chris DeLeone Active Member

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    I think we need to just let people fish - Canada lets people fish the Thompson with less than a 1000 fish coming back. If you allowed guys to pay a few hundred dollars (maybe $500) to fish Feb, March and April, no fishing out of a boat, no Bait/barbless hooks and be able to fish the entire system - spread the anglers out - you would have a world class fishing opportunity, you wouldn't hurt the runs and people who choose fishing for Steelhead in that time of year could do so.

    We have seen Skagit Wild Steelhead returns up over the past three years - this past season the returns were 6,185 (approx) - 2009 was a very poor year for returning numbers approx 2125 - we fished in 08 & 09 (returns in 08 were 4800) and if we get a good return this season - that is one very good element of proof that CnR angling doesn't hurt returns.
     
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  8. Charles Sullivan

    Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

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    I wasn't aware Jerry Garcia was a steelheader.

    Go Sox,
    cds
     
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  9. Chris Johnson

    Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

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    Could Chambers Creek fish be predisposed to spawn in tribs? And could this have a negative affect on early fish?
     
  10. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

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    fixed it for ya ;)
     
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  11. Chris Johnson

    Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

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    "100,000 tons of steel, out of control
    she's more a rollercoaster than a train I used to know"
     
  12. stilly stalker

    stilly stalker Tuna sniffer

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    That is likely, as I know of several locations where hatchery fish are found spawning in tributaries. I know of several other areas where they are spawning "mainstem" but so high up it might as well be a trib. Others spawn in small creeks just off the main stem, still considered a trib.
     
  13. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Chris -
    You asked -

    "Could Chambers Creek fish be predisposed to spawn in tribs? And could this have a negative affect on early fish? "

    A couple great questions. Taking the first one first.

    I think most folks that have spend time monitoring steelhead escapements would agree that Chambers Creek winter steelhead like all steelhead are prediposed to spawn where they have been reared. The tendency is to see hatchery fish clustering in and around the release sites with the longer the pre-smolts/smolts held in an area prior to release the more likely it is that any uncaught returning hatchery fish will spawn near that release site assuming that there is suitable gravels.

    Some examples from the North Puget Sound area for Chamber winters -
    At Tokul Creek were the smolts are released in a pretty good sized creek the majority of the fish spawn in the creek itself with some pretty densities at times.

    At Reiter Ponds were the smolts are released more or less direrctly into the river only a small portion the fish spawn in the creek itself. With limited spawning gravels in the main Skykomish in and around the hatchery site one sees the adults spawning in a number of areas. One sees the fish attempting to use the patch gravelsin the main stem up and down stream of the hatchery as well as nearby creeks as the fish seek out suitable spawning areas.

    At Barnaby Slough on the Skagit (while smolts are no longer released here the fact that they were released there for nearly 40 years I thoughtsince we are talking about Skagit steelhead makes it an good example) the fish are released in a slough with little gravel that enters the main river a short distance downstream. With the abundant gravels in the river near the mouth of the Slough it should not be a surprise that lots of spawning hatchery fish or their redds were seen in the main river.

    So the answer as often the case with steelhead depends on the specifics of the situation but the short answer is that no they are not predisposed to spawn in tribs.

    BTW -
    Even thought the uncaught hatchery fish tended to spawn near the release site the managers always assumed that those fish shot-gunned through the river system with a spawning distribution similar to the wild fish. Why? Because that would be the worst case situation (one where the impacts on the wild population would be the largest). This kind of attempt to make sure that any management assumption made were erring on the side of the wild resource while good for the resource has not been so great for the angler or the managers creditability.

    Curt
     
  14. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Chris to your seocnd question.

    Again staying with the Skagit example - Stilly Stalker stated that the early returning wild winters were the fish that tend to spawn i head water areas; somethng that seems to be commonly held by lots of anglers. The thinking goes that to reach those areas the fish need the time to migrate the distance required to reach those areas as well as to get past some significant migration obstacles. Assuming that is the case the areas in the Skagit basin where we are most likely to find such habitats would be in areas like the upper South Fork of the Sauk where the wild winter steelhead spawn 110 or more miles from the salt water at an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet and above a pretty narly set of cascades (immediatley below Monte Cristo Lake); hard to imagine a situation that would be more likely to select for an early returing adult. Other locations that might be used by those early fish would be the upper portions of the Suiattle and Whitechuck basins.

    Curt
     
  15. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Chris -
    As I attempt to post my response to our questions I keep getting an error message so I"m trying to answer your questions piece meal.

    Some additional info on the upper South Fork Sauk. 3 different springs during the 1990s that reach was monitored for steelhead spawning with redd counts and adult sampling . Only wild winter steelhead were found and the earliest redd was dug in late April with the vast majority of the redds being dug in May. Given the timing of the spawning , the distance from the hatchery and the fact that only wild winters were found I'm comfortable saying that no or at worst minimal interaction between hatchery and wild fish is occuring in that reach of the river (between Barlow Pass and the town site of Monte Cristo.

    All things considered unless a hatchery is located or the smolts are being released in a reach of river that is used for spawning by those early wild winters it is hard to imagine much hatchery/wild interactions occur between the spawning adults or with the early rearing juveniles. Off the top of my head the situation that comes to mind where those kinds of interactions may be happening would be on the Green.

    Curt