Quicksilver portfolio

Charles Sullivan

ignoring Rob Allen and Generic

Seems like a real attempt at change. I am impressed that a group with such varied interests could come up with compromise to change the current management paradigm. Good Job. I am impressed.

Go Sox,
cds
 

Josh

dead in the water
WFF Moderator
Nice to see an attempt at something new. Curious to see where this goes.
 

Smalma

Active Member
Other members of PSSAG not mentioned in the article include:
Gary Butrim -tackle manufacturer
Derek Day - native fish society
Jamie Glasgow - WFC
Curt Wilson - Wildcat Steelhead club
David Yamashita - Wildcat Steelhead club

It would be hard to find a dozen or so individuals that would provide any more of diverse view of the steelhead world. In addition the group met more than 20 times (each meeting were full days), read a couple thousand pages of background information, listened to more than 40 presentations from a variety of steelhead experts. Yet some how over nearly 3 years of work they were able to bring together their collective interests and knowledge to produce the QuickSilver Portofolio as an approach for the future of steelhead fishing and the fish themselves in the Puget Sound region.

Curt
 

Bryce Levin

Active Member
Other members of PSSAG not mentioned in the article include:
Gary Butrim -tackle manufacturer
Derek Day - native fish society
Jamie Glasgow - WFC
Curt Wilson - Wildcat Steelhead club
David Yamashita - Wildcat Steelhead club

It would be hard to find a dozen or so individuals that would provide any more of diverse view of the steelhead world. In addition the group met more than 20 times (each meeting were full days), read a couple thousand pages of background information, listened to more than 40 presentations from a variety of steelhead experts. Yet some how over nearly 3 years of work they were able to bring together their collective interests and knowledge to produce the QuickSilver Portofolio as an approach for the future of steelhead fishing and the fish themselves in the Puget Sound region.

Curt
Thank you for your hard work behind the scenes on this, Curt.
 

matchu865

Active Member
WFF Supporter
The paper is worth a read. Link from the article. Thanks for the hard work Curt and other members of the committee!
 

SUSteelie

Active Member
Definitely worth the read and thank you to everyone involved for your hard work and time!

As someone who grew up in the SF Bay Area and got into steelhead fishing on the American River (the closest option, 2 hours away), I always dreamed of moving north to what I thought of as "Steelhead Country."

I moved to Seattle to go to school at Seattle U in the fall of 2012, and I distinctly remember the preceding spring talking to some folks at spey-o-rama about how stoked I was to move to Seattle and how many incredible steelhead rivers were around. The Sno and Sky were going to be my home rivers, close enough to fish in between morning and evening classes. I dreamed about swinging up dry line summer steelhead on the Green. And if I was really seeking some wild fishing, I would head out to the fabled rivers of the OP.

Those guys at spey-o-rama made some kind of dismissive comment, more reflective of reality than my naive expectations, and I watched it fly right over my head. But since arriving in Seattle eight years ago, I've honestly largely felt nothing but convolution and hopelessness, and experienced nothing but conflict about the steelhead fishing in Washington. The more I dove into the archives of this steelhead forum the stronger those feelings and experiences grew. And though I am not a born and bred Washingtonian, over the years my roots have grown in Washington some, and with that growing pride of living in Washington has honestly come a kind of embarrassment about the state of our steelhead. I always kind of felt like our neighbors to the north in BC or neighbors to the south in Oregon kind of looked at Washington and Puget Sound espeically and said "god what a shit show." Of course they have their own problems but you get my point.

As most participants know about steelhead fishing, it's all about fishing with confidence. Relatively speaking steelhead really are one of the less technical fish to seek. But whether you're drifting beads, floating jigs, swinging wakers, intruders, or spoons, if you're not fishing with confidence you're not going to find fish. Period. But ooooh all of sudden something weird happens - your bobber just got pulled down, but in a fishy way not in a snaggy way; your fingers just felt a quick tug in the running line, maybe you have a player on your hands - then all of a sudden you've got that feeling. Your eyes turn into a hawk's, the hair on your forearms stand up, the anticipation just got dialed up to 110 and you know the next drift along that seam or swing through the sweet spot could be the one.

And maybe it is, but probably it's not. But that's ok, the feeling sticks, and whether or not you end up finding a fish throughout the rest of the day, it's so much more enjoyable fishing with some hope or confidence or really just direction that you're doing something that reasonably could possibly lead to a fish. It's a better feeling and more productive approach than floundering around, switching spots, changing gear, and thinking there's no chance.

This spring, for the first time in my relationship with Washington steelhead (and I know that it is much shorter than most on this forum), I have a little sense of hope and direction that at least we're doing what we can do or trying to do what we can do to right the ship. Some hope out of the Elwha,
some hope out of a diverse group of people who care about fish and rivers in one way, shape or form coming together with a reasonable plan in Quicksilver, some hope that is something other than hoping the next time I am born it's in the 60s or 40s or 1800s or whenever we had a true baseline of fish populations and decent fishing gear.

No doubt there is a long and uncertain path ahead of us. The conflict is not over, the set backs lurking in the years ahead, and I am not setting any personal expectations. Everyone knows the best days of fishing come out of a reasonable plan and low expectations.

But for the first time I'm excited to a part of the future of Washington steelhead.

Ryder
 

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
WFF Supporter
I just got this on Tuesday also, and then side tracked all day yesterday. It's been difficult tracking the workings of the advisory group from the outside, and I've been very interested that the "diverse" group could continue meeting together over such a long time. From wild fish whack-'em-and-stack-'em to the religious ferver wild steelhead CNR zealots, it must have made for some exciting meetings. I think it's incredible that such a group has been brought together, and worked together long enough to produce a report. That said, the contents of the report need to be examined and evaluated. So I made a start.

The process included 40 or more expert presentations to the group, and that intrigues me even more with respect to some of the issues that have to be addressed head on in order to make any changes in the Puget Sound steelhead fishery. I think there a few basic ecological concepts, and management and financial prerogatives that should be looked at. My immediate thought was to call Smalma, but now that Quicksilver has been posted here, maybe he will share his thoughts with us. Not really trying to put you on the spot Curt, but you were there through this, so you're the logical go to person.

The report mentions recovery, rebuilding, and restoring wild steelhead populations several times. This is important because it implies that we can rebuild current steelhead populations to some higher level of abundance. However, we've been hammered with the concept that abundance is determined and limited by the 4 "Hs", habitat, harvest, hatcheries, and hydro for two decades now. OK, but in PS river systems, harvest has been restricted to less than 4%, so harvest should be able to be rules out as a limiting factor. Hatcheries have all but been eliminated for steelhead in PS, so another H is ruled out as a limiting factor. And hydro hasn't really been that extensive in PS, but has been addressed through license terms and conditions wherever it occurs (Nooksack, Skagit, Snohomish, Lake WA, Puyallup, Nisqually, Skokomish, and the Elwha dams are gone). While there are lingering effects from hydro on the Skok and Elwha, it would be a stretch to say that hydro is a significant "H" affecting steelhead abundance in PS.

So that leaves habitat, the remaining H. And sure enough, freshwater habitat is degraded and destroyed in the range of 80 to 90%. What isn't being said, or else I missed it, is that most or all of the degraded habitat is not coming back. Sure, we have better stream flows where hydro projects are concerned, but overall that's really just a couple drops in the steelhead freshwater bucket, so we shouldn't be expecting much more there.

That leaves the marine habitat, where the report does mention pinniped predation as an issue and recommends looking into it. Unfortunately, looking won't change a damned thing. Anything short of direct action that significantly reduces the predation is going to be about as effective as pissing up a rope.

That is why I found it very interesting that recommendations include the Skokomish River in southern Hood Canal (HC) as a focal point for restoration of steelhead fishing. We have just recently learned, and not unexpectedly, that predation at the HC bridge results in nearly a 50% loss of outmigrating smolts. I don't oppose spending Tacoma Power's money on Skok steelhead research, but I'm reluctant to spend any of my license or tax dollars on anything HC related without first getting the go-ahead to seriously suppress predation.

Predation falls in the habitat "H". Adding large woody debris and off channel refugia in rivers isn't going to do a hill of beans for ultimate adult abundance numbers of this predation isn't changed downward. Bigly.

Steelhead spawning escapement goals are referenced in the report. For river systems other than the Skagit, the escapement goals are the same as were established by WDG in 1984 using a pretty good habitat based method. That was 36 years ago, and we've learned since then that many PS steelhead populations cannot sustain themselves at those escapement goal levels, or even replace themselves many years, under current habitat and environmental conditions. I think escapement goals should be re-evaluated using empirical spawner-recruit data acquired over this time period. Wild steelhead harvest has been pretty well regulated in that time frame, so S-R data informs us of what the populations are actually capable of in the existing environment and not what we think or wish they could do. That exercise would establish an honest and realistic benchmark of where we are, something we need to acknowledge before venturing off toward where we want to be.

In that thought, looking at the mention of steelhead recovery, rebuilding, and restoration tends to suggest that populations are presently somewhere below their habitat's carrying capacity. Given what I presented above, where harvest is incredibly low, hydro is well addressed, and hatchery production is massively reduced, I'd allege that PS steelhead are at the carrying capacity of their present-day habitat. I see references all the time that habitat and anadromous fish productivity in the PS area has been reduced by 80 to 90%. Therefore, the only way to "recover" populations abundance in the direction of the ESA PS steelhead recovery plan numbers is to reclaim a rather signficant portion of that lost productivity and capacity. (This is a point I made in comments on the draft recovery plan. Not having seen the final, I don't know if or how it was addressed.)

Realistically, (and Quicksilver proposes a common sense approach) just how much of that lost productivity and capacity is reclaimable, now that WA's human population is apparently closing in on 8 million? I agree and accept that the footprint per capita of increasing human population is declining. However, the human population is increasing ever faster it seems. So the total human footprint on the environment continues to increase, not decrease. Under such circumstances, how in the hell is lost habitat productivity and capacity going to be reclaimed?

I'm composing this from my stream of consciousness notes, so I apologize for poor organization. Next, we have Quicksilver recommendations for wild broodstock hatchery programs. The one for the Nooksack is to "rebuild" to the recovery abundance level. However, if the wild steelhead population is already at its carrying capacity as I allege, then it's impossible for the broodstock program to increase actual adult steelhead abundance once the hatchery production is terminated. So all the program can do is produce a temporary increase in adult population abundance resulting from the influx of hatchery smolts. Worse yet, is the increased abundance resulting from the hatchery effort is almost certainly going to cause harvest by treaty tribes. And that harvest would indiscriminately take both wild and hatchery fish that share the same return timing, most likely resulting in a net loss to wild steelhead abundance and productivity.

But wait! Salmo's on a roll! Quicksilver wants to look at a wild broodstock hatchery plan for the Skagit too. It would likely result in the same negative effect as I just described for the Nooksack. Further, the plan would produce 200k hatchery smolts, cost $208,024, and produce a maximum sport harvest of 400 adult steelhead. Note, that is the higher estimate, resulting from a smolt to adult harvest rate of 0.002 or two-tenths of one percent, which BTW is abysmally low. This is a cost of $520 per steelhead caught. That money comes from our license and tax dollars. Don't get me wrong; I like to catch steelhead, even hatchery steelhead. But at some point I gotta' ask, "Where does the lunacy end?"

This is relevant because the plan wishes to secure funding resources for its implementation. Funding is money. Money comes from license and tax revenue from you and me. The plan suggests an early timed hatchery winter steelhead program to feed our collective harvest desires. Well that timing selection is sure a good thing. Those steelhead (also at 0.002 return rate I presume) would be available for during December and January, part of the short window of the year that the Stilly is open to sport fishing. Remember, the Stilly is presently closed to sport fishing from February 1 or 15, depending on river section, through September 15 each year. And because of the condition of Stillaguamish Chinook salmon, this is the likely scenario for the next 100 years or more if the Chinook don't actually go extinct. And WDFW is completely complicit in this situation and outcome. I, for one, don't want to give WDFW and goddamn dime for repeatedly biting the hand that feeds it and stabbing sport fishermen in the back. But that's just my personal feeling.
 

ChrisC

Active Member
Curt, thanks for your and rest of the PSSAG's hard work on developing this plan. Notably absent on the list proposed wild C&R fisheries is the Skykomish river - are return numbers too low on the Skokomish to warrant consideration? Thanks.
 

Smalma

Active Member
Chris -
The current wild steelhead abundances on the Skykomish and the Snohomish are far below the levels at which managers would be comfortable in considering even the CnR Skykomish season. The Skykomish situation is perhaps a good example of some of the things that Salmo g. discussed in his previous post.

For the 1983/84 season a wild steelhead escapement goal was established for the Snohomish basin with fishery changes made to increase the wild escapement. That basin escapement goal was 6,500; a significant increase from the previous escapements. Over the next five years (1985 to 1989) the average wild steelhead escapement was estimated to have been 7,322 fish with an additional annual harvest of 2,131 wild steelhead. The late 1980s were undoubtedly the "good ole days" for the Skykomish CnR fishery. Since that point there was been a gradual decline in the wild steelhead abundances which has continued in spite of reductions in fishing impacts and changes in the hatchery programs.

Last year with a minimal recreational season and a wild steelhead impacts likely less than few dozen fish the basin escapement was less than 1,000 fish (965); the lowest in any of our lifetimes. The most recent 5 year average escapement (2015 to 2019) has been 2,038 fish ( largest in the period was 3,070). As discussed in the QuickSilver portfolio until those numbers turn around and increase substantially it is premature to discuss restarting that popular fishery.

Curt
 
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Smalma

Active Member
Salmo g
I have little disagreement with what have had to say in your post. Without a doubt a future with robust steelhead fisheries will require a significant improvements in the habitat (freshwater and marine waters) across the region.

The group was tasked with developing that portfolio identifying potential future fisheries and what would be required to establish those fisheries. By the very nature of the current situation the majority of those opportunities are aspirational. That said there a small handful of potential fisheries that could be started up fairly quickly (as soon as federal paper work is completed). A couple examples that come to mind would include a CnR season on the Samish and start-up of an early hatchery winter program for a harvest fishery on the Sammamish Slough.

The "portfolio" does have some discussion on the needs to address the various habitat components that are limiting PS steelhead. The PSSAG group is mainly a collection of steelhead anglers that lack the expertise to delving to those arenas in great depth. That said the "QuickSilver portfolio" approach might serve as a template for broader approach to the development recovery strategies. A collection of folks representing the interests of Tribes, anglers, timber, hydro, agiculture, counties, cities exploring and suggesting a portfolio of diverse recovery strategies to fit the individual needs of discrete basins.

Getting such a group to agree would make the QuickSilver effort look like a walk in the park. Any volunteers?

Curt
 

bk paige

Wishin I was on the Sauk
Curt, with the low abundance of wild NF Skykomish summer runs, is it worth taking those fish to start a broodstock program. If there is less than 400(350 last I heard) seems like a risk not worth taking. Is this still on the agenda, there was a blurb in the artical?
 

Smalma

Active Member
bk-
At this point there are not plans for a conservation rescue hatchery program using wild brood for the NF Sky summer-runs. In the discussions about developing a replace brood stock for the Reiter program (replace the Skamania fish) the NF Sky, SF Sky and Tolt populations were considered for sources for brood fish with the decision made that the SF Sky was the best option.

Unfortunately if the long term trends of decline steelhead abundance continue across Puget Sound we are likely to see additional consideration about use and development of conservation rescue types of hatchery programs using wild brood stock. Those programs could potentially vary from the capture of wild fish for brood to pumping identified redds for eggs (ala the Hood Canal efforts).

Curt
 

Jakob B

Washington Native and college age angler
the decision made that the SF Sky was the best option.
Curt, shouldn't we call into question how "wild" those SF Skykomish summer run fish are? I recall a study, can't remember the name of it at the moment but I know it has been shared in this forum before in which there was as much as 25%-50% gene introgression of skamania strain steelhead into the "native" south fork system? I say native with quotes because didn't WDFW essentially create their own stock of fish by trucking fish above the falls to increase angling activity and biomass to un otherwise starved south fork Skykomish? By trucking wild fish and hatchery fish over the years it seems pretty clear how quickly this could've happened, an population increase in SF Sky native summer runs that otherwise would be very small or non existent due to no access to spawning area above sunset until the WDFW began trucking. AND an increasing rate of skamania genes in those native SF fish as observed. Given this do you believe this swayed their opinion on which source for broodstock fish granted it already had noticeable gene introgression among nearly all SF fish (I believe this is the case, I haven't read the study in a year or two). And what are we to make of this given this is the state of the "native" SF fish.

Jakob
 

davew

Active Member
How much are steelhead escapements affected by the overall numbers of other fish returning? It seems that there is a network effect, where the productivity of a system is increased by increasing the biomass of other fish returning and decomposing in the river. With the number of fish returning dropping over time, it seems like we're in a death spiral unless we figure out a way to add nutrients to the river systems.
 

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