Puget Sound Steelhead Petition

In the latest rule change proposal cycle, WDFW has taken further steps to reduce wild steelhead angling opportunity in Puget Sound. With populations at very low levels, reductions in angler opportunity may be justified, however reducing angling will not lead to recovery. As anglers we need to demand that the state take far more substantial action to recover wild steelhead including but not limited to eliminating hatchery programs in systems where populations are deemed too fragile to support C&R angling. We have started a petition, please take a second to sign it today. More information at the blog.



still an authority on nothing
fyi all. The idea of selective commercial harvest (the end of gillnets) is gaining some momentum...I have hope, as the evidence builds and the logic is refined, that gillnets will be gone by our old age.


Active Member
Ospreysteelhead -

Before I sign on I need a lot more information and frankly unless folks know more about this situation than I do I'm surprised folks are so willing to sign. I can understand folks frustration with the current status of steelhead but to me this seems as a knee jerl reaction that is likely to have little to no influence in improving that status of our beloved steelhead.

What sort of action are you looking for? Just the end of all hatchery planting?

The State's statewide steelhead management plan is pretty clear - if there is not enough wild fish to meet a river's escapement there will not be recreational fishing targeting wild steelhead which of course includes CnR fishing on the wild fish. Do you really have a problem with that?

However where hatchery fish are available selective fishing for those fish would be allowed. To insure that such fishing has minimal impacts on the wild population in recent years the State has limited their hatchery steelhead egg takes to those fish that spawn prior to the end of January. Without hatchery plants in the various Puget Sound basins recreational steelhead fishing will end.

Your blog mentioned the hatchery plants on the Skagit. In the last 5 years there have been significant changes in steelhead management in the basin. In addition to the earlier ending date to hatchery steelhead spawning ( The end of January is 5 to 6 weeks prior to the onset of wild winter spawning in the basin) there has been a triming of the number of hatchery steelhead planted by 1/2 and major portions of the basin (the Skagit above the mouth of the Cascade, most of the Cascade and all of the Sauk) have been set aside as wild salmonid management areas - no planting of hatchery fish, CnR for all species except for clipped hatchery steelhead and selective gear rules. All of which I would consider significant movement towards more enlighted management. I would think a more productive course of action would be to encourage more such actions rather than some sort of knee jerk reaction against hatchery fish.

Of course that is just me. Other than a couple of research projects I have only target steelhead (hatchery or wild) a couple of times in the last decade but that is my decision. Not sure that every one else is ready to give up their local steelhead fishing howver I very interested to hear folks thoughts and ideas. It always has been through those discussions that we all learn which poistions us to make informed decisions.

Tight lines

The petition is actually pretty clear. Hatchery plants should be either substantially reduced or completely eliminated in watersheds where wild populations are deemed incapable of supporting catch and release fishing. Period.

Hatcheries have a much greater impact on populations productivity than sport fishing through both ecological and reproductive interactions. We simply want to see changes in management that will actually result in recovery.

Its easy for state biologists with alot invested in the status quo to throw their hands up and say, "we don't know whats happening, marine survival is tanking. Its not our fault" but thats total bs. As things stand we're dumping literally millions of hatchery smolts of all species into puget sound. Can you honestly tell me that you don't think current levels of hatchery supplementation aren't adversely impacting early marine survival?
If early marine survival is limiting adult returns then then why not try to make changes that might actually have a chance of increasing early marine survival. For all we invest in "recovery" hatcheries sure are doing alot to limit productivity meaning we see a very limited return on our investment.



Active Member
Osprey -
Thanks for the clarification. I thought that was the direction you were heading but needed to make sure.

Since the State uses WSR and CnR differently the logical place to start with the implication of your petition would be the ending of the all summer steelhead in Puget Sound. There are no CnR summer steelhead fisheries in Puget Sound. Actually makes some pretty good sense given the origin of those fish and that would certianly reduce the number of smolts being planted.

In regard to the winter steelhead since only the Skagit/Sauk has had a CnR season in the last decade it would follow that you would be expecting the State to eliminate or significantly reduce the winter plants in the rest of the basins in Puget Sound. Given the escapement of wild steelhead in the Skagit basin this spring (42% of its goal) the near future of even that CnR has to be in question.

Tight lines

Charles Sullivan

ignoring Rob Allen and Generic

I'm not going to reiterate Will's points about the ecological impacts of hatchery fish on wild fish. He did that quite well. I would like to discuss some other points that this thread brings up.

More restrictions on sport anglers is unlikely to have any positive effect. Quite frankly, I think the constant focus on incidental mortality is possibly the largest red herring ever. We just don't kill the amount of fish that is reported. I don't believe for a second that we hit 5% mortality on hooked fish. I'd truly be surprised if it was over 1.5%. I've heard of one study recently where 32 of 32 recorded C&R fish lived to spawn. The fish live through nets for Christ's sake. I've caught them with big gashes on them.

Winter hatchery fish are damn near useless to flyfishermen. They provide me, personally, with no real oppertunity. They don't bite worth a lick and certainly don't help in recovery of the wild fish. Why in the hell should I support hatcheries?

Without C&R wild fish seasons, I don't believe the fish will have the amount of people supporting them that they need. We need people who depend on wild fish to stick up for them. By and large that is flyfishermen. Not because we're ethically superior or better but because wild fish bite. They take a swung fly. Without wild fish there is no reason for me to fish for winter steelhead. We need seasons when we can get them for this purpose more than any other.

Go Red Sox,
We're no advocating for catch and release fisheries on depressed populations. However closing fishing is a reactionary measure, not one which will allow for recovery of wild steelhead.

The other thing to ask ourselves given the weight of the scientific evidence that suggests that robust wild populations are fundamentally incompatible with large scale hatchery supplementation is...are we willing to sacrifice 4 months of catch and release fishing on wild stocks for a 2 month (tops) terminal fishery for hatchery fish. I don't know about the rest of the steelhead fly anglers on the board but I have no intention of ever fishing at Reiter.


Active Member
cds -
Let's be very clear I'm not advocating the elimination of the WSR and CnR seasons. It is my opinion that Ospreysteelhead and those signing his petition in combination with exisiting State steelhead policies that advocating that position. By the way we all had a chance to comment on those policies.

I do not disagree with most of what you have to say about CnR type fisheries. In fact most that have examined the steelhead situation in Puget Sound would also agree that the steelhead seasons we have seen over the last 10 or 15 years are not the problem or determining limiting factor with the current status of our steelhead. Though given the recent effort by a couple Puget Sound tribes to harvest up to 10% of the wild winter steelhead runs not sure that will continue to be the case - but that is a topic for another discussion.

BTW I'm very familar with the hooking mortality study you alluded to. Whether that is reprsentative or not I continue to support using hooking mortalities for such fisheries in that 5 to 10% range. Why? Because as has often been the case in the management of Puget Sound wild steelhead it assures that the managers and the recreational fishers are erring on the side of the wild fish.

I'm not so sure that the case for some of these ecosystem interactions is as clear cut as some would like. In basins where steelhead plants have ended (Cedar and Nisqually for example) the status of their steelhead is no better than elsewhere in Puget Sound. In the last couple of years the state has stopped planting a number of major tributaries to our river systems and if that is to make a difference we should seen increases in steelehad numbers in those unplanted tribs compared to the areas planted.

Ospreysteelhead did refer to the increase numbers of smolts in our river basins due to excessive hatchery programs. While I may well agree with the assessment that some (most?) of those programs are excessive I don't think that the belief "that there are more smolts in our rivers than every before is supportable". For most Puget Sound basins it has been estimated that the wild Chinook numbers are only typically only 10 to 20% of historic numbers. EVen with the hatchery production tha total numbers of smolts are likely below what was seen a couple hundred years ago. If that was indeed the case I wonder where the heck all those pinks we saw this year came from. Fianlly there are those in steelhead conservation circles that are confide that historically wild steelhead numbers were much higher than what most think. The example commonly cited is the Stillaguamish where commercial catches were alledgedly as large as 90,000 adults . Assuming that represents the entire run (no escapement) and those fish were seeing well above average smolt to adult survival (I'll use 20% for this example) it is likely that the number of wild steelhead leaving the Stillaguamish was 450,000 or more smolts or roughly twice what the current combined hatchery and wild numbers are. If the ecosystem can not support those numbers of smolts it would be another idication that the system is not what it once was.

However once again I must repeat that reason that I raise these questions is to foster these types of discussion so that we all can make informed decisions. I'm comfortable with my own decisions and if after considering the available information you or others opt for something different I can respect those decisions.

Tight lines
The situation on the Cedar is unlike any system in the state and it really isn't very valuable for comparisons sake. With a giant lake in the system, and a predictable supply of hatchery sockeye fry to feed resident rainbows why would fish smolt and risk high mortality in the sound? Other systems simply cannot support anywhere near these numbers of resident fish.

The southsound is completely hosed. Even the HSRG expressed concerns that the numbers of hatchery fish in the southsound exceed the ecosystems capacity. Given the history of overharvest and the continued ecological effects of huge numbers of hatchery fish in the southsound it is not surprising the fish haven't recovered. Lets look at another example, the wind river. Hatchery fish were discontinued and wild fish have recovered. Certainly ending outplanting can't hurt (on the Sauk for example) but outmigrant sauk smolts still interact with half a million hatchery steelhead smolts, and probably at least as many coho and chinook.
Great thread ! I will sign that in a heartbeat !This has been bothering me for a long time. To the point where I wanted to get some people together on this too, go to Olympia and start stirring the pot. The constant re-regulating the sport fisher is a joke not to mention a distraction from the real problems. This state has had it screwed up for a long time. I am 41 yrs old now and half if not more than half of the places I have to fish locally are off limits now. OH, But they sure want me to still run and buy a license every year don't they ! They have played politics too long at the expense of the people who really just enjoy the time outdoors to fish. I really miss fishing at different times of the year at will. Now you have to rush just to get some fishing in and when the fishing is actually good it is shut down. A totally JOKE !! I won't name the rivers, but there are 3 rivers in particular that I loved to fish, now I can't because they close in August and September. They used to be open until Jan,. 31 . And if you really dig back in time they used to be open until march. It is quite obvious that all of these strict regs have done nothing to improve fishing, ZERO !! At least not at the rivers I go to anyway. Why do you think everybody races to all of the hatchery rivers now. Like the Quilcene on the Canal or the Grande Ronde for steelhead. They pump these systems full of fish. They spent way to much time pumping the Hood canal rivers full of chum. That is all there is now. Chum. Don;t you think that is bad for the rest of the species fighting for food supply. Imagine a river full of millions of chum fry.....Good lord it does not take a Biologist to figure out that this can not be good. Years ago I expressed my concerns about our completely CNR cutthroat fishery. I know people are going to cry and wine about what I am saying. But common sense tells you you don't overprotect one species for a long period of time. The cutthroat catch and kill ban has been around I believe since the early nineties now.......way too long. For those of you that don't get it........Cutthroat eat tons of fry !!!!!! Both salmon and steelhead fry included !!!!!!!! Now I can't even use a barbed hook if I wanted too. Not good. Trust me this is not good.