What's the deal with the west coast fisheries?

It seems like everyday I get new Google alert about west coast anadromous fisheries and I was wondering what the deal was from your perspective.

On the east coast our fisheries are in shambles, salters are a whisper, Atlantic Salmon are a myth, and the only successful fishery restoration on the east coast, Striped Bass, is flirting with another population crash in the next 4-5 years. Our watersheds are dam after dam. A small state like New Hampshire has close to 5,000 dams. The larger states have many more.

I'm working with a grassroots angler group to address low head dam obstructions in the hopes that if the only obstructions remaining in a watershed are a few large dams, that the larger dams will get funding for functional by pass structures. But we are like blind mice. It seems you guys have already addressed your demons and are well on the road to recovery. Can you guys give us any advice?

Talk to you soon,


dead in the water
It seems you guys have already addressed your demons and are well on the road to recovery. Can you guys give us any advice?
I know nothing of East coast fisheries. But if you think we are on the "road to recovery" around here, you need to do some more research.
The decimation of wild salmon stocks goes back to the ninth century in England; then the east coast of the United States; and now the Pacific Coast. This has been recorded chapter and verse going back into the 1930s. Habitat degradation and overharvest are two of the primary reasons. If we do mange to get wheels under our recovery plans on the Pacific Coast it will be a long arduous trip to ever see anything near historic wild stocks of salmon or steelhead again.
Les Johnson


Active Member
over harvest and mis-management of the resources are the foundation pieces for the collapse in anadramous fisheries. certainly habitat degredation enters into the picture but the first two trumph all else. the notion in the PNW is keep killing fish and blame someone/something else.

oregon and california have collapsed to the point of closing harvest, oh, except for 'incidental' catch by the ground trawlers! washington state does not have the political will to follow suit and close it down. run after run of fish are already extinct, never to return.

this borders on criminal neglect of a resource that is supposed to be managed for all citizens. unfortunately ALL decision making is in the hands of commercial interests, native american and not. lots of saber rattlin' by the newly constituted WA CCA, but no action, so the fish continue to disappear.
I've fished in Maine and here. Obviously we don't have steelhead back in Maine, but the Atlantic Salmon fish count at Veazie dam on the Penobscot this year was the best it has been in many many years. I actually heard of people catching fish. Now for the downside.....the "great" numbers I'm talking about, were somewhere in the neighborhod of 1600 fish.......not a lot, but nonetheless, a dramatic improvement over previous years, which gives me hope for a modest rebound that I didn't think was at all possible. A few dams have been removed in Maine over the past five or so years, and I beleive more are slated to come down soon. As for a striper collapse, that is not anywhere near the information I have.........where did you get your information for that???

Here in the PNW, the fisheries are declining. I am not an expert, or even what I would consider well informed, on the issue here. I do know that the biggest culprit in the mix are the dams. The powers at be spend some 16 billion dollars a year in the guise of fish recovery/stabilization, a better name for the plan would be "Save our dams". Industry here is unwilling to part with its cheap electricity, and I certainly don't pretend to know a solution that can be win-win. I know many cite the Humboldt(sp.) decision as another major contributor to the collapse of some of the wild stocks, but the information I have seen lays the majority of the problem at the feet of the dams.(no pun) I have recently looked up the history of the Elwha River on the OP, and what a depressing story that is. The giant strain of King salmon that once inhabited that river is gone forever, replaced by a hatchery strain that reaches about 1/4 to 1/3 the size, and of course is not self sustaining. The dams on the Elwha are slated for removal, but when? I have heard 2009, and also 2012. When, and If they come down it wil be interesting to see what happens to a river that used to sustain large populations of what, six is it, specis of andronamous fish. There dosen't seem to be any answers here yet, only theories and questions.
Having just moved to western WA from mid-Atlantic/Chesapeake Bay, the problems here seem quite familiar. One note about CCA, though--I've seen a number of comments in which folks express disappointment that CCA hasn't waved a magic wand and made everything better. That's not the way it works. I'm not a spokesmodel for them, but if the CCA-Maryland experience is representative, then you'll see heightened political awareness of CCA out here in 5-7 years, and some legislative and regulatory progress in 10-12 years. You have to move cautiously and deliberately as a new player in the area, so be patient and be supportive and things may just get better ...
For all of you that need a bit of history, the major fisheries in the PNW were crushed at the turn of the century. There were 19 (19!!!!!) full blown canaries at Astoria in 1894 at the mouth of the Columbia. The historical Washington fish numbers have rebounded at times, but never to what they were. The rivers that escaped commercial pounding have enough headwaters logging, development, cattle grazing, chemical spills ect ect ect ect to kick their ass also. So, with all due respect I think we need to remember that the so called decline of our fisheries is not a modern problem in any way. We often try to date ourselves and talk about the good old days (myself included) when they were gone 100 years ago. And the giant steelhead returns of the 60s were massive hatchery operations with good ocean survival and half of the region's population we have now(maybe less) We have just made things worse trying to either fix things with human touch or by population growth (and all the things that come with it) punished the environment even worse. We had a little spurt of returns in the mid 80s, but ocean survival seemed to smile on us again. What I am saying in my usual long winded boring assed way is things have been shot to shit for a good while. Duffer
PS The real question is (and and some brilliant people on this site are working on our behalf) how we bust ass and fix this mess. TOGETHER!


still an authority on nothing
there are fisheries of all kinds collapsing worldwide right now, even some remote Russian rivers, so it's not just the salmonids that are in trouble. I think the whole ecosystem is hitting a wall due to multiple pressures. Brace yourself for a wild ride
Well...that sucks.:hmmm:

It sounds like you guys are fortunate to at least have remnant fisheries.

Our Salmon are nearly nonexistent with the exception of a small fishery in a few rivers in northern Maine. NH has a program that they release old brood stock Land Lock Atlantic Salmon each year, and the Connecticut River gets one or two returning stocked fish each year. But that is it. Kaputski.:beathead: Like yourselves, we all have a lot of theories and the wisdom in charge dismisses the most plausible theories to waste their 20 years worth of funding on token fishing days.

Our Salters (searun brookies) are gone south of NH with the exception of 2 streams on Cape Cod and one or two recently discovered streams in RI. The Cape Cod populations are heritage populations with distinct DNA markers not only from the stockers in the region but also from each other. The RI populations have not been tested yet.

As for stripers, It depends on who you talk to. The guys down south think the fishery is in great shape. Up north we have had 2-3 lousy years and the old timers say that the population dynamics are the way they were just before the last crash.

The fishery indexes (depicted in Pounds of fish) show the population as healthy, however when you review the data it shows that the YOY populations are as low as ever while the majority of the population is larger fish that are targeted by commercial guys. So if the YOY percentage does not go up in a hurry, the daily or annual commercial and recreational harvest will quickly deplete the population. Just like the crash in the 80's.:hmmm: that's not rocket science.

On a good note we have had two major dams in Maine come down or in the process of coming down. The Halifax dam that is in the process of coming down now, is part of a package that will restore river access to a combined 1000 miles of the second largest river in Maine and its tributaries.


Active Member
interesting take on the east coast CCA. i would guess that in 5-12 years, west coast CCA will have nothing to talk about as the fish populations probably won't survive that long.


still an authority on nothing
I lived in Florida right around the time the net bans went into effect and commercial fishing was shut off for the most part. That was mid-80s I guess.
watching the net ban in WA fail several years ago was awful, after seeing such beneficial effects elsewhere, and I can't help but think this discussion could have been much different.
'course, getting the Canucks on board with a net ban too would've been a challenge too, eh.
No offense intended.;)

hey coach, what's a full-blown canary look like? Good post, I'm just playin'. Actually, some kickass posts all the way round on this one.
S2ary got us all looking at the big pitcher, and it's scary.
In regards to the salmon fishery in Maine, I did a litle more research to see if the information I was hearing was correct. Below is a link to a news story regarding his years increased salmon run. I consider myself a pesimist, but this is interesting. Being from Maine, aside from the two years Ive been here, and living less than a mile from the ocean my whole life, I can't concur about the stripers. I've had some 100+ fish days in the last four years with schoolies(juveniles between 15-26") in the rivers on my 5 wt.


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