Methow River steelhead

I've been writing about angling and fish-conservation issues professionally since 1995.

(Full disclosure dept, which perhaps should have come sooner, considering many of my earlier posts on similar topics: I have a professional relationship with Washington Trout, an organization which takes a similar position to the one I'm attempting to articulate here. However, I am not attempting to speak for WT, but rather express my own opinion, albeit one obviously influenced by my association with them.)

In my capacity as a professional writer on these subjects, I have had oportunity to do a lot of research and meet and talk to many scientists and resource managers working in these areas. As some members on this board have been kind enouogh to point out in some previous threads (and I have copped to) I do not have any technical background myself. But I do consider myself well immersed in the subject, and particularly some of the regulatory intracacies of the ESA.

The Methow has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time, and so I've made it my business to learn a fair amount about it. This partly comes out of a sort of philosophical position of mine about the angling/conservation nexus, that I have written about from time to time (including on this board). Simply put, conservation begins at home. As anglers we do a lot of valuable finger pointing at (and fighting against) other groups hosing the environment generally and our fishing specifically. Good for us. But we're not so good at looking at ourselves and the adverse impacts we might be imposing on the resource we say we love. I have said here before, claiming the moral high-ground often requires a little climbing.

I'm against any fishing on the Methow. I was against opening the summer c&r "trout" fishery. I am against the winter whitefish fishery. And I am against this steelhead fishery. The Methow gathers two runs of federaly listed ENDAGERED fish, summer steelhead and spring chinook. These two incredibly valuable, incredibly beautiful resources should be preserved and recovered, and not just for my entertainment. They should be protected, as far as is practicable, from every impact that might impede their recovery, including bad logging practices, bad hydro practices, bad agricultural practices, and yes, fishing, even c&r fishing (agan, a little climbing, folks).

I don't need to argue what the mortatlity from a c&r fishery might be. If the total impact of the entire fishery was ONE fish, I believe that's more than the resource should be asked to give up at this point. The point about the Deer Creek and other depressed and/or recovering fish is well taken, and I understand I'm presenting a sticky and/or slippery position. But as someone else pointed out, at least the Deer Creek fish aren't listed. As I asked before, are there no fish we should just let be? Not even the Endangered ones, the ones facing imminent extinction?

I love to fish; I love to fish for steelhead. I suppose I would love to fish for steehead on the Methow some day. Unfortunatley, I believe that if I did it now, I might actually be contributing to precluding that future.

I understand that I can come across as a bit of a scold and a boor; my style may a little too dry for the internet. So I very much appreciate the comments of support, particularly from folks who admit to not agreeing with me 100%.
Re: protecting hatchery steelhead under the ESA

Some hatchery fish fall under ESA protection because the brood stock used came from a wild, endangered run. I suppose this implies that the hatchery fish are now an extension of a wild run? I don't have time to dig in and find out if this is the case on the Methow but I would venture it to be a good guess.

Not to change the subject, but I'll be fishing there tomorrow. Maybe I'll see some of you there. I'll be in a silver minivan (I know, I know, it's not a MANLY car, but at least I can get the wife to let me use it.)

Tight lines to all.


Active Member
Just a quick comment on the level of discourse on this issue. I've learned a lot about perspectives on this fishery (I have never been on the Methow). Tip o' the hat for the respect and high level of discussion.
I'm surprised that my initial question resulted in such a vigorous debate, but I agree that it's an interesting and valuable discussion. Like Ray, I value wild fish greatly. However, I'm not convinced that staying away from the Methow completely is the best answer.

First of all, until I fished there (and didn't catch any) a few weeks ago, the Methow was of only peripheral interest to me. I barely knew where it was, and knew nothing about the steelhead run there. Now, as a direct result of fishing there, I do know, and I care about it.

Next, I believe that C&R fly fishing can have only a minimal impact on the fish. Native runs of fish in Washington State have been severely impacted by logging, dams, commercial fishing. I'm not aware of any run that has been decimated by C&R fly fishing.

As one of the earlier posts indicated, fisherman can be a real economic benefit to a small town like Pateros, and this can only lead to a greater appreciation (and protection) of the fishery both by visitors and the locals.

I'd say, go there, fish there (and if you're lucky enough to catch one release it carefully), and when public hearings are held (like the recent Bonneville Power Administration hearing in Seattle and elsewhere), go to them (as I did) and make your views known.

This is kind of what I was talking about when I referred to my tone above. I certainly don't mean to imply that I think I "care more" about wild fish than someone who choses to fish legally on the Methow. I have a strong opinion about it (which I recognize is somewhat outside the mainstream), and I tend to have a somewhat pedantic and proslytizing streak (which some of you may have noticed :AA ).

I was just trying to make my case, and since I recognized going in that it would be somewhat "out there," I felt a little compelled to go into some detail (like I need an excuse :AA ). I certainly hoped to at least provoke some thought, and maybe even change some minds, but I apologize if I inadvertantly insulted anyone. (I'm not really holier than thou, I just play one on the internet.)

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