Steelhead hatcheries: good or bad?


Active Member
I guess in some sense they will always last with habitat, but the fishable numbers part is to what i was refering.
A sad state of affairs.


Active Member
As Salmo g. pointed out hatchery steelhead do effect wild fish though the question of how much of a impact various hatchery programs have on wide populations vary considerably from basin to basin.

Hatchery steelhead generally have lower productivity when spawning in the wild than naturally produced fish (in some cases as suggested earlier that productivity can approach zero). That can have significant impacts on wild production when either the hatchery and wild fish spawn together (the hatchery/wild crosses are less productivity than wild/wild matings) or when those hatchery fish are relied on to achieve natural escapement objectives.

In addition wild brood stock programs have the affect of "mining" the wild population to support the hatchery brood stock needs.

As also pointed out in much of the State there would very little fishing if it were not for hatchery fish. The decision of whether a hatchery program is having an adverse impact on the wild population often comes down to a risk assessment question - are the benefits of the hatchery program (fishing or rescue program for a depressed population) worth the risks that the program presents to wild production? The answer typically comes down to ones comfort with the various risks and it would be safe to say that each of us probably have some different comfort levels with those risks.

The Tokul Creel winter steelhead hatchery program which seems to be the focus of the referenced article has been a long term program and as current structured presents less risk to wild populations than many other hatchery programs in the State. The Tokul Creek winter steelhead brood stock (as well as most other Puget Sound basins) is a Chamber's Creek fish. This brood stock is an early spawning population. In the last decade or so the spawning of the hatchery fish is completed prior to the end of February and in the last couple of years prior to the end of January. This greatly reduces the potential of any of the hatchery fish spawning with the wild winter fish of the Snoqualmie. Those wild winter fish begin spawning in early March with most fish spawning in the latter half of April and first half of May with some spawning extending into the summer. This creates a temporal separation between the hatchery and wild fish that more than meets the current guidelines for genetic interactions between a segregation hatchery program and widl fish.

Of course that genetic interactions is only part of the story of how hatchery and wild fish may interact. There are several ecological interactions that are often brought up as potential concerns. This include rearing/feeding competition between the hatchery smolts/residuals and wild parr and smolts, juvenile competition between wild fish and any successful hatchery spawning, and fishing impacts on wild fish from fisheries targeting hatchery fish. Currently that later may be represent the largest impact/risk.

Regarding the question about the future of the various wild populations. Without a doubt the current depressed populations (at least compared a couple decades ago is being dictated by a shift in marine survivals. It has become obvious that marine survival of most of our anadromous salmonids go through wild oscillations of survival with periods of generally good and bad survivals. We are currently in a period of very poor survival and if that improves we can expect to see significant more wild fish (however if the current poor survival in driven by global warming than things will be more bleak). That poor survival couple with degraded and decling habitat accounts for most of the reduction in wild fish abundances. Both hatchery and harvest impacts are minor players when compared to those two factors.

In short it looks like the State is considering closing one of its more successful (is that the right term?) Puget Sound steelhead hatcheries which with that closing may have only marginal benefits to the wild populations. That leaves us to each decide whether that those wild benefits are worth the lost of recreational opportunities.

Tight lines


New Member
We are just not that smart! Or not even, that unsmart?..... I would hold on to our nates. Maybe some day we will relize that we are just Unsmart?..

David Loy

Senior Moment
Sg - Yes, that's the fatal flaw that came to mind. Pity though that we can't ineffectualize them with out destroying their primal urge to return and procreate.


New Member
Just say it, GENETICS!!!!... A catastroghic event?.. I will put my money on our nates.
Hell we have done every thing in our power to kill them off and they are still hangin in. By a thread....


Active Member
Curt and Salmo G,

As usual, your posts are a welcome anecdote to the ban all hatcheries that is becoming all too familiar. You two always provide good factual information, which all who read this forum ought to pay attention to.

Like you Curt, I wonder why the Tokul hatchery is on the chopping block when there is virtually no chance of spawning interaction with wild winter runs.
First, one problem not being addressed by anyone. There is a lot of money involved in the harvest of hatchery fish. If we do away with hatcheries will the tribes stop netting or will they turn thier attention to the native runs?

Seond, if hatcheries are so bad how do you explain the rebound of our hatchery raised Salmon? Any thoughts of closing down Salmon hatcheries? If hatcheris are bad for Stealhead they also have to be bad for slamon.


Proud to Be Alaskan

Hatchery steelhead technically are steelhead, but that's about it. The summer runs eat well fortunately.

It can't be that bad can it? I can hardly tell the difference between a hatchery salmon and a wild salmon, same with trout stocked as fingerling (stocked as catchables... well yea...)

I think the more steelhead the better, even if they are hatchery fish, especially in the land of dams where we can stop every hatchery fish from spawning...
Why are the use of nets by native tribes not a bigger issue? Is it taboo to talk about? I know its there right, but come on this is 2008 not 1888. I am pretty sure slot machines were not part of their rituals, oh wait, I did see a mural on a rock once of something that looked like a slot machine. Its a bunch of BS, IMHO. For every one wild fish they keep what are the possibilities of that one fish? HUGE!!! What about the nets that sink to the bottom of the Columbia, full of all fish that can help the system. I haven't been down to the Columbia closer to the mouth in a long time, but I have been to the Columbia from Bigges to Portland and there are little white floats every where. How many get taken before they even get to the first dam? Are there fish counts before Bonneville? Its late hope this makes sense. Its just my take on it, which my knowledge of this is pretty small.
It can't be that bad can it? I can hardly tell the difference between a hatchery salmon and a wild salmon, same with trout stocked as fingerling (stocked as catchables... well yea...)
I am sure your hatchery programs are of a higher quality up there compared to some of ours.

Another thing that sucks about hatchery fish is they always come in together, head up river really fast, and congregate in the several holes directly downstream of the hatchery where they get pummeled by anglers.

I fish a river a lot that has a hatchery for salmon and it never amazes me how the lower river can be good around the salt and right near the hatchery can be good but the miles and miles between them will have ZERO fish. I have walked the river the entire way and tried to spook fish out of the middle section with nothing when tons of fish were at the hatchery and in the estuary. They just aren't using that middle stretch at all and it looks like amazing habitat.

I think from a sports fishing standpoint, spreading the fish out to take advantage of all those areas would be a good idea. It would mean a higher quality experience to all. Every access point would have fish rather than the one that everybody and their grandma knows about.

The way it is now on this river and others, miles and miles of natural spawning areas are going to waste, and where the fish are is a total zoo.

I would much prefer fewer hookups, but more fishing space, and more river miles to explore without it being an utter waste of time.

I think a lot of rivers suffer from this. Think of hatcheries as taking all the fish potential of a river and focusing it in the 1/2 mile of water below the hatchery because that is basically what they do.

I don't typically fish for spawning salmon but I do fish the steelhead, srcs, and dollies around them and they also suffer at those zoo holes when they are accidental catches by people who don't know or don't care how special they are. They are only there because that is where their forage is, if there was forage in many different areas they may be doing better as well.
Maybe this will help the topic:


Fish propagated in a Hatchery system from native or non native stocks

Wild Fish
Gravel born of Hatchery decent

A cross breed from Hatchery and native stock or a transplanted stock

Genetically pure from that water shed and has evolved to survive there

My thoughts are the only good hatchery system collects native eggs propgates them to the eyed stage then returns them to there natal gravel via a Whitlock box type sytem just to give them a jump start :thumb:

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