Worst Returns on Record for Puget Sound Winter Steelhead?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Courtesy Flush, Aug 31, 2009.

  1. Chris Johnson

    Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

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    If you go to nativefishsociety.org there is some pretty interesting reading. As for ocean survival, all we can do is reduce our carbon foot print and try to stop polluting the ocean.
     
  2. byrdland

    byrdland New Member

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    Regarding my earlier post about Whole Foods Market. I recently spent a week in Seattle. This was the Whole Foods Market in Seattle that was reported selling wild Steelhead. My main impression from my visit to the Puget Sound area was that it's a very complex environment with lots of interest groups competing for a resource (wild fish). I have been aware of conservation policies in other States, primarily the Gulf Coast. Some states are much better than others. Louisiana is pretty lame. This was the first time I've been in an environment with Wild Salmon. It seems as if each group of fish that goes up a particular river is sort of it's own sub-group or strain. They don't just wander into any river to spawn, Right? Recently, there have been people netting wild fish that are endangered in specific rivers (Hoh?) Once that group of fish collapses, they are gone forever right?. If I were the "Grand Puba" for the fisheries in Washington, I would spend very little time listening to arguments. That has been going on for a long time I would guess. My approach would be lean severly to the preservation of wild game fish. Those people pooping in the Skokomish would be in jail. You can buy farm raised Salmon from Norway. A Puget Sound full of wild fish might increase the property values of all those houses people are trying to sell on Bainbridge Island. Would you rather live in " the home of Wild Salmon and Steelhead" or the fish farm Capitol of The USA? This Forum is really the only resource I found that had up to date, honest information from people that are actually out there daily. I initially came here to try to find some good places to wade fish from the beach. There are intelligent, educated sportsman that frequent this forum with a great deal more information and experience than I that are obviously monitoring the health of the area closely. I find the entire situation distressing. I am boycotting Whole Foods Market. I don't care if they bought the Wild Salmon from Chief Seattle's descendants or from the Russian Black Market. They're not getting any more of my money. A Salmon that has been eaten has a lesser tendency to bite a fly again than one that has been released without being touched. Someone might take some flies and wave them around some of the tourists coming out of Pike's Market to see if they get a rise, but I wouldn't bet any money on it.
     
  3. Bruce Davidson

    Bruce Davidson formerly hatman

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    Curt,
    Regarding your last statement: Is that an open-ended question or do you know, or suspect what those other factors may be? I respect your opinion.
     
  4. Lugan

    Lugan Joe Streamer

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    It's primarily ocean conditions according to my good friend at WDFW who studies this steelhead in our "S" rivers and other Puget Sound waters (he's a fish biologist).

    Of course we in WA State can't immediately impact that primary cause. But his strong personal opinion is that we should alleviate all secondary pressures on these steelhead populations such as shutting down all fishing (sport and commercial) and ceasing all hatchery activity.

    He also thinks a few of the smaller runs of wild fish are now either newly extinct or will be soon. He's very pessimistic about on this point.
     
  5. Runejl

    Runejl Josh

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    What do you guys think about fish farms?

    I don't know the route our salmon and steelhead travel when they leave the river for the salt, but I do know that there are alot of net pen fish farms on the inside of Vancouver Island and the islands that surround it. These fish farms also tend to be tied up in and around kelp beds and bays, where I would think our young fish would be hanging out and feeding.

    Does anyone know how much this industry has grown over the last 15 years?
     
  6. Blood Knot

    Blood Knot Old to the board

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    I have been fishing on the westside for steelhead since 1975. What has happened to steelhead populations is terribly sad. And we thought it was poor in '75, we used to think about what it was in '25 or '45. That would have ruled.

    What has gone on to the steelhead that return to Puget sound is a travesty. From hatcheries which are a major problem, to habitat loss, decreases of food populations in both fresh and salt waters, and storms that ravage the stream bed more and more frequently are all pieces of the puzzle.

    Government is being slow to react and projects are far below what is really needed. Consequently they will be gone in Washington soon. They will probably last in Oregon until the next millenium, as that is a state that protected them, not sold them wholesale to the highest bidder.

    That's why I am way more interested in trout fishing than in steelhead anymore.
     
  7. Bruce Davidson

    Bruce Davidson formerly hatman

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    That's very depressing.
    What "ocean condition(s)" does he feel is/are the primary pressures?

    Given my physical problems, I can no longer chase steelhead. But I still hurt to see their demise.
     
  8. Dorylf

    Dorylf Oregon Member

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    That's about when I started fishing steel, too. Probably landed my first in '81. I feel very fortunate to have fished the seasons I've had, and I'm not ready to switch over to 100% trout. But things are getting tough. Fishing the Penninsula waters last year I had the worst trip up there I can remember. Hooked one.

    I wouldn't hold my breath for Oregon either. There are still some fish around, but between some places where you can still kill a wild and other rivers with this new broodstock program (which is just another way of saying hatchery), I believe ODFW is screwing up.

    At least with the old hatchery program they stocked fish that ran in Nov. and Dec. and segmented themselves, by run timing, from the wild fish. Now they've got the hatchery fish exactly overlapping the wilds. And, worse, they've moved the intensified fishing pressure from the meat fishery into the wild run season. Things are changing fast, and not for the better.

    Back in the 70's and 80's, the last thing I thought I'd grow up to be was an old fart sitting on the porch with cronies talking about the good ol' days. Now it seems likely.

    Or I guess there's always kayaking in order to enjoy river recreation. Dunno.

    Phil
     
  9. Bruce Davidson

    Bruce Davidson formerly hatman

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    I landed my first one in '67.
    I AM an old fart.
     
  10. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

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    i think this news is tragic. while i only fished the skagit a handful of times, and was never fortunate enough to hook one of her steelhead the idea of the skagit river with no wild steelhead is beyond tragic and should fill every fisherman, fly or gear, with a sense of sadness and hopefully anger to fight for proper management to hopefully bring back runs of fish to not only the skagit, but others throughout the state... even those deemed "healthy" but which are at a fraction of historical abundance.

    to me this should be a wake up call to fish managers, both state and tribal that the focus on harvesting hatchery fish early has destroyed the most plentiful wild steelhead stocks. historically for puget sound (when harvests were mostly wild) march and april had the lowest harvest rates of any winter month. hopefully the ocean productivity turns before these fish get to the point (if not already) of no recovery.

    a lot of habitat cannot be used by late-spawning steelhead, which is why we need to work on restoring early returning wild steelhead. i believe there is a way to bring back sustainable runs of wild steelhead, but the answers are hard and won't be liked by most sportfishermen and tribal fishermen... but we've gotta make the hard choices about hatcheries and harvest while continuing to work on improving habitat.

    the skagit with no wild steelhead... NOT ACCEPTABLE

    chris
     
  11. James Mello

    James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

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    Those numbers are official. They came from the mouth of bios and the folks who did field studies and redd counts. They should be published pretty soon, if not already. The *only* thing I heard was they may up the count to 2500 fish total pending some additional dataa.
     
  12. James Mello

    James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

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    It's NOT all bad news.

    Some folks in the know suggest that this is directly related to the Redding decision a few years back where springtime spills were required on CR tribs.... Based on the info I header this may account for the slightly higher percentage of wild versus hatchery fish that appear to be surviving (~29% for ytd versus 25% via spot calculations)....
     
  13. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Bruce -
    Lugan pretty much hit the nail on its head - Most of those that are familar with the population trends of Puget Sound steelhead agree that the dominate factor shpae these recent poor returns are crappy marine survivals. Survivals that are just fraction of what was seen in the mid-1980s.

    I think it is very important to recognize that variable marine survival is natural and these variations have been occurring for eons. More importantly emerging information (over the last couple decades) pretty clearly show that those survival variations happen in cycles with extended periods of both good and poor average survivals. Those periods often last several decades (20 to 30 years). Most of us would not be surprised to learn that global warming maybe playing a role in the poor survival though to what degree is an unknown at this point.

    However the key point here is recognize that such variablility in survival is a normal situation and we and our managers must recognize that fact and include considerations of that variability in over all management schemes/paradigms. A key point to consider once one accepts that such variations are "normal" is that they must have happened in the past and when they do so how did the fish survive to continue the species. A couple thoughts immediately leap to my mind.

    One is that historically the habitat used by steelhead in our river basins were often much more productive - that is in those habitats a pair of spawning steelhead (especially at low abundances) produced a lot more smolts. This is important in two ways: 1) clearly it would take fewer spawners to re-seed the river and just as importantly that increased productivity would allow the population to bounce back much more quickly. A population rebound that historically may have taken a fish generation or two now may take much longer. And 2) we are now learning that while we anglers think of steelhead essentially as its own species the reality is that it is just one life form of O. mykiss. Further we are learning that there is a great deal of interaction between those various life forms - the anadrmous fish producing resident fish and more importantly the resident fish produce smolts. It is pretty easy to see situations where as marine survival came and when that the relative abundances of anadromous and resident fish would also shift over time. In effect the resident life history would become the population safety net for the "steelhead" we all are so passionate about.

    I continue to believe it is critically important that we come to grip with the above and accept the dominate role that marine survival can play in shaping our "steelhead" populations. Rather than becoming side-tracked in harvest and hatchery discussions (as important as they are in of themselves) we can focus on the larger issue. In this case it should be clear that our degraded habitats have compounded our steelhead's problems making them that much worst in these periods of poor survival. Clearly a reasonable plan of action would be to protect as much as the good existing habitat as possible while focusing restoration actions where it is likely to produce the biggest bang in terms of smolt production. We also need to allow a resident population to develop to provide that safety net for over species. On most waters current management actively selects against the resident life history through allowed harvest and the use of bait - we are in more need of a ban on killing juvenile and resident O. mykiss in our rivers than we in banning the kill of adult steelhead.

    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  14. KerryS

    KerryS Ignored Member

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    Push the dikes back a minimum of 100 yards on each side of the river. Regulate stricter flows coming from the dams. Stop the continued human beavering in the lower river all in the name of flood control. Stop the continued dumping of farm/yard/human pollutants into the river i.e. fertilizers, insecticides, human and animal waste. Stop the continued dewatering of the river and its tributaries thru wells and direct pumping. Stop all development along the banks of the lower river and upper river for that matter. Continue projects like the Wiley Slough restoration, but don’t sell out to special interests like Ducks Unlimited as they did with Wiley. Return all blocked off sloughs and historical water ways back to the river. Stop steep slope logging along any tributary of the system. Stop all fishing for steelhead. Eliminate all bait fishing.

    It will never happen.
     
  15. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Kerry -
    I agree that it is an uphill battle but at least in the Skagit basin some head is being made. Will it be enough? Who knows but at least in some areas positive steps are being made (a start). River bottom land is being acquired with the goal of allow the river to do what rivers should do (and in some cases such as the end of the Bryson road on the Sauk rip-rap has even been removed), some wetlands are being re-connected, heck even bait has been banned on the Sauk and its forks, the Skagit above the Cascade, and most of the Cascade. Heck for those whose concern's are harvest and hatcheries the winter steelhead escapement goal has been set at 150% of the best estimate of MSY and hatchery plants have been reduced by 1/2 and eliminated in the Sauk.

    Will we as a society have the political will to keep that ball rolling? I don't know but for our grandkid's sake I hope so. I would dearly love to see that wonderful look of terror/enjoy in the face of one of my grandkids in some future spring as a Sauk steelhead attempts to tear them a new one!

    Tight lines
    Curt