Sky Steelhead

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
WFF Supporter
Estuary projects primarily benefit Chinook, chum, and pink salmon. Steelhead smolts blow through the estuaries rapidly as they head toward the ocean.
 

kamishak steve

Active Member
I'd bet every dollar I have in the bank and every dollar I have yet to earn there were more than 178 spawners. While the run was undoubtedly bad, even relative to recent years, that number is implausibly low, and if anything, is a testament to the utter incompetence in wild population monitoring that is on full display in some parts of this state.
I would be curious to know what informs your skepticism about the figure.
 

Smalma

Active Member
Jakob -
The wild escapement goal for the Snohomish basin wild winter steelhead of 6,500 was established inn 1984. For the period 1984 to 1989 the average escapement was 7,174 wild spawners (Skykomish average was 3,719) and the total wild run size for that period was 8,961 fish.

During the 1990s even with reduced wild exploitation the average escapement fell to 6,627 and during the early 2000s (through 2005) escapements fell to 3,469.

Curt
 

bhudda

heffe'
Shouldn’t the large estuary projects going on now have a positive impact at some point
And to what extent?
28D62DBB-01F3-4BE3-94F5-D1DB41D134FD.jpeg

This farm no longer exists because the county reclaimed it and is building a new off ramp to State st., ..... our horses have been here short of a couple decades...it sure as hell better make things improve! All the horses have been moved since October and the new boat ramp....oh did I say boat ramp? ...did you know there was a boat ramp built? Probably not...well there is one and only the county has access to it btw
 

BDD

Active Member
Shouldn’t the large estuary projects going on now have a positive impact at some point
And to what extent?
I often wonder, with all the habitat restoration that is ongoing, both estuary and inland, if we are even keeping up with the ongoing degradation, let alone having a positive net impact on future returns.
 

Smalma

Active Member
Jamie/bhudda/BBD-

Yes there has been lots of activity on the habitat restoration front and the fish are telling us how successful those efforts have been. In spite of those efforts and significant gains in the harvest and hatchery areas the focus species; steelhead and Chinook are continuing to decline.

For decades the Skykomish/Snohomish wild steelhead were one of the Puget Sound stalwarts and represented a major hope for the future of the species in the region. PS steelhead are victims of a double whammy. With their extend freshwater rearing history (generally two years) they are highly dependent on the freshwater habitat to provide a variety of complex niches to produce smolts. Any compromise in those complex habitat needs translates to fewer smolts. With their extended freshwater rearing steelhead have always been sensitive and limited by the quality of their freshwater habitats. However their overall survival (egg to spawning adult) was balanced with increased marine survival due the large smolt size. That strategy now has taken a major high; essential Puget Sound itself has become lethal for steelhead. The longer a steelhead smolt spends in Puget Sound the more likely it will die.

The nuances of these issues have been discussed at length in other threads on this site and don't know if there is value in re-visiting them here.

Curt
 

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
WFF Supporter
A further remark regarding habitat restoration projects in the Puget Sound region particularly: Restoration projects really kicked off in 1998 with the proposed ESA listing of Puget Sound Chinook salmon. Since that time, the ratio has remained fairly steady, that for every habitat improvement or restoration project that is undertaken, local, state, and federal agencies approve 9 or 10 habitat "degradation" projects. Of course, that's not what they are called, but when one examines the thousands of permit applications that come through DOE, WDFW, NMFS, and the Corps of Engineers every year, that's what those projects do. In smaller to larger measures, nearly every project requiring a permit degrades anadromous fish habitat to some extent. With a 9:1 degradation to improvement ratio, nearly anyone can see that salmon and steelhead recovery is a decidedly uphill struggle that the fish are not winning.
 

JayB

Active Member
Jamie/bhudda/BBD-

Yes there has been lots of activity on the habitat restoration front and the fish are telling us how successful those efforts have been. In spite of those efforts and significant gains in the harvest and hatchery areas the focus species; steelhead and Chinook are continuing to decline.

For decades the Skykomish/Snohomish wild steelhead were one of the Puget Sound stalwarts and represented a major hope for the future of the species in the region. PS steelhead are victims of a double whammy. With their extend freshwater rearing history (generally two years) they are highly dependent on the freshwater habitat to provide a variety of complex niches to produce smolts. Any compromise in those complex habitat needs translates to fewer smolts. With their extended freshwater rearing steelhead have always been sensitive and limited by the quality of their freshwater habitats. However their overall survival (egg to spawning adult) was balanced with increased marine survival due the large smolt size. That strategy now has taken a major high; essential Puget Sound itself has become lethal for steelhead. The longer a steelhead smolt spends in Puget Sound the more likely it will die.

The nuances of these issues have been discussed at length in other threads on this site and don't know if there is value in re-visiting them here.

Curt

Is there any actual data on what's killing off the smolts? If I had to take a stab at an explanation, it's that they're being eaten by seals, birds, or other fish. Is there data to the contrary? I'm also curious there's any seasonal variation to the mortality trends or all smolt are equally likely to die just as rapidly no matter when they're migrating through the sound.

I know in Hood Canal the leading hypothesis is that the Hood Canal bridge is a barrier to migration, and a significant percentage of outmigrating smolts are dying there - but I don't recall if they've established whether
they're being eaten (seems most likely by far) or they are dying for some other reason.

It's probably not feasible for some reason, but I can't help but think that establishing a "positive control" data set consisting of smolts that migrate directly into the open ocean or the western half of the strait would serve as a useful basis for comparison relative to PS smolts.
 

Smalma

Active Member
Jay -
There are serious issues with the Puget Sound ecosystem; it looks to be moving towards collapse. It is believed that harbor seals are the major predation vector thought that is compounded by dramatic changes in the seals forage base. Historically hake, pollock, and true cod were major forage fish (with a variety of other forage such as herring). The true cod have essentially disappeared and there have been major population changes in the hake, pollock and herring populations. The older fish in those populations have essentially disappear (for example the natural mortality rates for PS herring have doubled in recent decades resulting in few fish living beyond age 5 (historically live to age 8/9 - the horse herring of years gone by). Both the hake and pollock are maturing as much smaller sizes with few fish living beyond that first spawning. The result is a likely reduction in forage biomass that consist all most entirely of fish are similar to or smaller in size as the steelhead smolts. It is hard to know whether the steelhead smolts are being targeted or being taken incidentally. Some research indicates it may the later but it really doesn't make any difference.

Hisotrically (say in the 1980s) Puget Sound survived at about 1/2 of the rate of those on the coast. Today it is much worst. The coho situation may also be of interest; some 40 years ago Puget Sound was a haven for coho with ocean survivals that often were 4t o 5 times higher than those on the coast. Recently the survivals between the coast and PS are about equal - the PS have declined much more sharply than the coastal fish. With both the steelhead and coho Puget Sound survivals first declined in the deep south sound and over time spread north.

Curt
 

Old Man

A very Old Man
WFF Supporter
Many years ago on the N/F Stilly. They released a shit pot of Smolts in the river up around Fortson ponds. They were all about 6" to 10" in length. They were fun to catch for a while but after about 2 to 3 weeks in the River that all started to just die off. Since Salmo_g or Smalma used to do samples on that river, I thought that he/they would know the reason for them dying off.
 

FinLuver

Active Member
Many years ago on the N/F Stilly. They released a shit pot of Smolts in the river up around Fortson ponds. They were all about 6" to 10" in length. They were fun to catch for a while but after about 2 to 3 weeks in the River that all started to just die off. Since Salmo_g or Smalma used to do samples on that river, I thought that he/they would know the reason for them dying off.
Take away the welfare system and few things will begin to die off.;)
 

JayB

Active Member
Jay -
There are serious issues with the Puget Sound ecosystem; it looks to be moving towards collapse. It is believed that harbor seals are the major predation vector thought that is compounded by dramatic changes in the seals forage base. Historically hake, pollock, and true cod were major forage fish (with a variety of other forage such as herring). The true cod have essentially disappeared and there have been major population changes in the hake, pollock and herring populations. The older fish in those populations have essentially disappear (for example the natural mortality rates for PS herring have doubled in recent decades resulting in few fish living beyond age 5 (historically live to age 8/9 - the horse herring of years gone by). Both the hake and pollock are maturing as much smaller sizes with few fish living beyond that first spawning. The result is a likely reduction in forage biomass that consist all most entirely of fish are similar to or smaller in size as the steelhead smolts. It is hard to know whether the steelhead smolts are being targeted or being taken incidentally. Some research indicates it may the later but it really doesn't make any difference.

Hisotrically (say in the 1980s) Puget Sound survived at about 1/2 of the rate of those on the coast. Today it is much worst. The coho situation may also be of interest; some 40 years ago Puget Sound was a haven for coho with ocean survivals that often were 4t o 5 times higher than those on the coast. Recently the survivals between the coast and PS are about equal - the PS have declined much more sharply than the coastal fish. With both the steelhead and coho Puget Sound survivals first declined in the deep south sound and over time spread north.

Curt
Correlation isn't causation, but if you did a least squares regression plotting the collapse of the forage fish vs the seal/sea-lion population I suspect that you'd get a reasonably tight fit. You could probably also plot cubic yards of beauty bark or cases of disposable diapers sold in Washington state and get an equally tight fit, but I can't help but wonder if the pinniped population rising to levels that probably equal or exceed those existing at the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition isn't having a significant impact on anything that's edible in the Puget Sound.

It's not a popular idea, but in keeping with the idea that desperate times require desperate measures, I wonder if restoring a tribal cull/hunt of seals and sea-lions to reduce their population in the sound and especially in migratory choke-points in the Columbia system is an example of one area where sport, commercial, and tribal interests naturally overlap.

I'm not sure that the tribes are particularly anxious to resume hunting seals and sea-lions, because they'll be the last ones to feel the impact of any additional fishing restrictions, and being observed killing these animals would potentially do much more costly damage to their politically valuable image as stewards of the ecosystem living in perfect harmony with nature than any additional catch would be worth - but they're the only group that has the political standing required to do such a thing.
 

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
WFF Supporter
JayB,

Harbor seals do appear to be the number one smolt predator in PS based on acoustic tag studies of the last few years. Sea lions and other marine mammals are predators as well, but the harbor seal population in PS has grown from about 6,000 in the 1970s to over 60,000 at present.

Based on limited work by WDFW regarding Chinook salmon smolt predation by harbor seals, it would require a population reduction of 50% of the seals to really make a meaningful difference in PS Chinook smolt to adult survival. I imagine it would take the same for steelhead. The reason is that salmonids are a very small part of harbor seal diet, but with so many seals preying on salmonids, that small percentage adds up to a significant percent of the smolt poplations, especially from south PS.
 

Charles Sullivan

ignoring Rob Allen and Generic
JayB,

Harbor seals do appear to be the number one smolt predator in PS based on acoustic tag studies of the last few years. Sea lions and other marine mammals are predators as well, but the harbor seal population in PS has grown from about 6,000 in the 1970s to over 60,000 at present.

Based on limited work by WDFW regarding Chinook salmon smolt predation by harbor seals, it would require a population reduction of 50% of the seals to really make a meaningful difference in PS Chinook smolt to adult survival. I imagine it would take the same for steelhead. The reason is that salmonids are a very small part of harbor seal diet, but with so many seals preying on salmonids, that small percentage adds up to a significant percent of the smolt poplations, especially from south PS.
I've always been curious if the returns in the 70s and 80s were due to seal numbers and hid other issues.

Go sox,
Cds
 

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