You May be Killing Steelhead and Not Know It

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Steve Call, Nov 25, 2013.

  1. Steve Call

    Steve Call Active Member

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    I found this really interesting. We all need to do whatever is necessary to minimize steelhead mortality - except for hatchery brats.

    You May Be Killing Steelhead And Not Even Know It

    50 comments / Posted on November 18, 2013 / by Louis Cahill
    [​IMG]
    Photo by Louis Cahill
    Steelheaders are generally pretty serious about catch-and-release, but it’s likely that many are mortally wounding fish without ever knowing it.

    There are few species of fish as vulnerable as wild steelhead. These fish are beset on all sides by threats both natural and man-made. With their numbers dwindling, it’s safe to say, every steelhead counts. It’s vital that those of us who fish for them practice the best catch-and-release practices.
    However, common landing practices can kill fish without the angler ever knowing. A team of biologists studying steelhead in British Columbia discovered this problem, quite by accident. These scientists were tagging steelhead with GPS trackers. They determined that the least intrusive way to capture the fish was, well, the same way we do it. With a fly rod. They landed the fish, tagged them with the GPS device and released them. When they went to their computer to track the fish’s progress they discovered something alarming.
    Within two hours many of the fish they had tagged, and released in good health, were dead. They collected the fish and performed autopsies to determine what had gone wrong. In every case the cause of death was head trauma. It turns out that ‘steelhead’ is a misnomer. The fish’s head is, in fact, its most vulnerable spot.
    When landing the fish the researchers had played them into shallow water where they would be easy to tail. As the fish came into the shallows they were on longer, fully submerged. Without the resistance of the water surrounding them, their powerful thrashing was able to generate momentum that is not possible underwater. The flopping fish simply hit their heads on a rock.
    The fish appeared fine when released, but their injured brains began to swell and soon they were dead. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. Fish have evolved in an environment where hitting their head on anything with enough force to cause damage is almost impossible. Their brains lack the natural protection enjoyed by terrestrial species.
    Luckily, this unfortunate outcome is easily avoided. The angler has a couple of good options. Landing fish by hand in knee deep water is a little tougher but much safer for the fish. You can grab the leader to control the fish long enough to tail it. After a fish or two it will feel very natural. When possible, it’s best to use a good catch-and-release net. This is safest for the fish and easiest for the angler. A net helps you seal the deal while the fish is still fresh and requires little reviving.
    Always control your fish once he’s landed. Keep his gills wet and support his head in case he makes a sudden attempt to escape. Keeping him, dorsal fin up, will keep his range of motion side-to-side, making it harder for him to injure himself. When possible keep him in deeper water. Never beach a fish when landing him and never lay him on the bank for a photo. It’s just not worth it.
    Wild steelhead are a precious resource. Those of us who come to the river looking for them must lead by example and do our best to to be good stewards of these remarkable fish. Their future is, literally in our hands.
    Come fish with us in the Bahamas!
    Louis Cahill
    Gink & Gasoline
    www.ginkandgasoline.com
    hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
     
  2. PT

    PT Physhicist

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  3. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

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    it does our side no good to post pseudoscience to improve fish management.

    50 comments on the blog post, many requesting the actual study ... the study seems to be as real as unicorns.
     
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  4. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    ". . . A team of biologists studying steelhead in British Columbia discovered this problem, quite by accident. These scientists were tagging steelhead with GPS trackers. . . ."

    What's the name of the study? Who are the biologists who performed the study? Where can I find a copy of the study? I'm aware of tagging fish with radio tags and acoustic tags, but have never heard of GPS tags for fish studies. Where is there more detailed information about the use of GPS tags for fisheries studies? Is this study even real, or is the whole blog post bogus?

    Sg
     
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  5. triploidjunkie

    triploidjunkie Active Member

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    I would love to see the study also... but it makes perfect sense that a fish flopping around in the rocks may sustain mortal injuries. It also makes perfect sense that a rubber mesh net decreases the odds of fish mortality significantly.
     
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  6. FinLuver

    FinLuver Active Member

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    I wonder how many survive after jumping falls after falls only to spawn successfully??

    Now there's a "real" study in head bangin' for you.

    ROCK ON!!

    :cool:
     
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  7. sleestak240

    sleestak240 Active Member

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    I seem to recall a program that went on for several years on the Bulkley where they were capturing steelhead near Moricetown Falls and tagging them. I don't think they were fishing for them though. Many of the tagged steelhead getting above Moricetown were showing severe damage from mishandling and from smashing their heads against a walkway that had been placed across one of the smaller side channels up the falls. Maybe this is the study he's thinking of and somehow it got spun around along the way into an interesting tale.

    For the record, there is a widely published and cited report from the Vedder River in BC about steelhead C&R mortality that showed very low mortality from anglers catching steelhead.
     
  8. KerryS

    KerryS Ignored Member

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    I think I will do a study on trolling for steelheaders....
     
  9. Bob Triggs

    Bob Triggs Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!

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    It is not too hard to see that fish banging on the rocks could be damaging or fatal. One thing that I see every year are a good many people overplaying the fish instead of getting down and dirty with them and getting them in and off of the hook in a brief amount of time. I like to keep them in knee deep water when possible.
     
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  10. Randall Clark

    Randall Clark Active Member

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    ditto...it seems like many folks are just afraid to stick the wood to them...get them on the butt and you'll get them in in no time. I see a fair number of folks fighting them with the tip of their rod. not good for either the fish or the rod.
     
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  11. Steve Call

    Steve Call Active Member

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    Louis Cahill who wrote the piece on the Gink and Gasoline website has responded that there apparently was no study. Obviously a poorly worded reference. Regardless, the point is don't play fish into water so shallow that they'll bang themselves on rocks, etc. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that can't be good. Walk out to knee deep water and net or tail them. Respect the fish.
     
  12. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

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    maybe i'll suggest a study that states that any air exposure for tarpon/bonefish/carp (pick your fish) results in instant death from the bends and when proven wrong i can just say at least i educated people about proper fish handling.

    mistruths always hurt your credibility. there's a long time conservation group who i no longer support because they massaged catch data to support more restrictive regulations in the saltwater. i agreed with the rule change but had to oppose them because they were dishonest in their reasoning.

    fucking "head trauma"... anyone who has actually killed a steelhead knows the kind of force it takes to make them go cross-eyed... and flopping in the rocks (although bad) aint gonna swell their brains. we're all for gentle release and care with fish we do not retain but i also think we go a bit overboard. we do kill fish regardless of how pure of heart we are or how gentle our rubber nets are. if you cannot deal with the fact that the fish you release has a chance of dying you should stop fishing for them. geez, vegans are less sensitive ;) .
     
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  13. rustybee

    rustybee Active Member

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    As said, I for one would error on the safe side and will try this method of landing fish from now on.
     
  14. Joe Goodfellow

    Joe Goodfellow Active Member

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    Maybe that's why there aren't that many left. You killed them all...c'mon who kills steelhead are you that Nate guy
     
  15. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

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    Most conservation based anglers knock hatchery steelhead "cross-eyed" to remove them from the rivers.
     
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