WDFW Needs Help Concerning Resident Silver Fisheries

Andy Appleby, a fisheries biologist with the WDFW is conducting a research project in an attempt to improve the resident silver fisheries in Puget Sound. He has been involved in this fisheries for over 20 years. He is a gear guy but don't hold that against him since he has a passion for this fisheries. I told him that I will make a pitch for individuals on this forum to help provide fishing data to him.

The information presented below is from conversations with Andy and from his proposed research paper to enhance the resident silver fisheries. It shows significant declines in this fisheries over the last decade, what the WDFW is attempting to do about this decline, and how fishermen who enjoy that fisheries can help Andy in his quest to improve it.


For over 30 years the WDFW has implemented a delayed released silver smolt program to enhance to resident silver fisheries in Puget Sound. In the past, four sites have been used to rear these fish: Voights Cr.(Carbon R. trib.), Minter Cr.(Carr Inlet), Fox Island net pens, and Squaxin Island net pens. Delayed release of silver smolt were discontinued in the early 1990's at the first two sites and continues at the Squaxin Island site while the Fox Island site was discontinued 1 year ago.

The Squaxin Island pen nets are a cooperative program run by the Squaxin Tribe/WDFW and delay releases approximately 2 million silver smolt annually. Before the early 1990's these fish were normally release between early-June to mid-June since there has been a shift to earlier release dates(early-May to mid-May)due to fish health concerns. The Squaxin Tribe/WDFW are committed long term to their net pens.

During the 1970's through early 1990's approximately 20,000 to 30,000(1983 approx. 66,000) resident silvers were caught in inner Puget Sound. From 1992 to present there has been a significant drop in the catch rates to approx. 5,000 or less annually(1999 approx. 1,000). WDFW believes this decrease has been contributed to by loss of three delayed release sites and earlier release dates of silver smolt for the Squaxin Island net pens.


Two years ago, WDFW started a radio telemetry implant program to monitor the movement of the silver smolt upon their release. This year 290,000 fish were delay released in late-June to early-July from Minter Cr. and Squaxin Island net pens. All fish had their adipose fin clipped and about 40,000 have coded-wire tags.

To help with this research Andy Appleby would appreciate fishermen to report any sightings or encounters with these fish. Andy can be reached at (360) 902-2663 or [email protected]. Information that he needs: (1) date,(2) location, (3) size of fish, and (4) numbers of fish encountered(ex. few, small schools, big schools). Information given to Andy is for internal use by DWFW. I am providing Andy with data from my fishing diary over the last 11 years. I'll tell my fishing buddies specific locations but there is a concern that a person's fishing spots could be compromised. So what I am doing is giving Andy general locations(ex. Balch Passage, Budd Inlet, etc.) and sending him the data with a four month or more delay.

Hope that some of you other saltchuck fishermen who enjoy the resident silver fisheries will step foreward and help Andy so that changes can be made to this fisheries to revive it.
They just need to cough up some more money and raise and release more fish like they used to. Problem solved.

Alot of people I know have a problem with giving wdfw information because all the state has ever done with it is use it against sport fisherman. Point in case, Crab season is usually opened this time of year in areas 11 and 13 but they closed it down after calling 3000 people with shelfish licences and asking how many crabs they had marked on there catch record card. The state shut down crab season by taking the information from 3000 people and guestimating how many crabs everyone else caught. Anyways they determend that we had caught our quota of crabs and shut it down. There are countless other examples that are to numerous to mention here.

P.S. If I do catch or see any of these fish I will contact Andy, thank you for bringing this to my atention.


Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
WDFW Needs Help Concerning Resident Silver Fisherie...

Something I am wondering about this is what if those "resident" silver salmon are having a negative effect on wild fish, especially smolts. I would not be in favor of enhancing an artificial fishery that may be wiping out another,(wild), fishery. I am not saying that I know this is happening today. Just asking.


Mark Steudel
WDFW Needs Help Concerning Resident Silver Fisherie...

" I am not saying that I know this is happening today. Just asking."

though history has shown that when human's start inteferring we more often screw things up than make things right.

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
WDFW Needs Help Concerning Resident Silver Fisherie...

In my opinion, 3000 is an adequate sample size to "guestimate" the overall take.
Were you among those recreational crabbers at the Game Commission meeting in Port Townsend who demonstrated for the purpose of getting a higher share of the quota? I was impressed by how well organized, friendly, and orderly they were. If you weren't there, then why complain about it now? If you were there, then I heartily support your right to complain.
Write the WDFW a letter and let them know your feelings about this.


P.S. Notice to South Sound SRC fishermen: Check out Chester Allen's piece in the Outdoors section of today's Olympian.
WDFW Needs Help Concerning Resident Silver Fisherie...

I used to catch some resident coho off of "Devils Head" South Puget Sound and nearby estuaries. That was about 4 years ago, and it was from Jan - March. I would see some small schools, sipping on the sirface, bit I would usually catch one here or there. They were usually around 12-16 inches.

Kind of vague info, but maybe it will give you an idea where to look?

WDFW Needs Help Concerning Resident Silver Fisherie...

In "Northwest Angling" 1969 by Enos Bradner, he relates that there were an abundance(6 fish limit) of "trout salmon" or resident silvers available to saltwater anglers during the 1940's and 1950's. These fish were 14-18 inches and were caught in Puget Sound during winter months. They were wild "resident" silvers that for some reason did not outmigrate to the ocean. With the major decline of wild silver runs in Puget Sound, this component of the resident silver is very small.

I guess that the delayed release of silver smolt could be called an "artifical fisheries" since "wild" resident silvers are few in numbers anymore. If it takes some enhance by WDFW to revive this fisheries, I am all for it.
WDFW Needs Help Concerning Resident Silver Fisherie...


You may already have been introduced to his study last year (http://www.washingtonflyfishing.com/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=3&topic_id=20114)

Throwing money into producing more resident coho won't do anything for the fishery. It might result in more yearlings released, but it won't solve the problem of survival or returns.

In response to a query I made in 2002, Jeff Haymes (WDFW Coho Program Manager) replied in part "...In the 1999 return year...marine survival rates for South Sound origin coho had dipped to less than 2%. This is a huge reduction from the 10-25% marine survival rates observed in this region prior to the mid 1990's." This is a piece of the puzzle I think Andy Appleby is trying to figure out.

Impact from the loss of nearshore habitat and estuarine pollution play a significant role in the decline, I'm sure. But something not fully appreciated by most, and which I believe to be a major contributor to declining populations of both herring and salmonids, is predation by pinnipeds.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed in 1972. Since then, the pinniped population of Puget Sound has been increasing exponentially. Two of particular concern to us in Puget Sound are the Harbor Seal and the California sea lion. Harbor seals are year round residents of Puget Sound. California sea lions migrate into the Sound around September of each year and usually migrate out by April.

In a recent article published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, the authors reported that from 1978 to 1999, the Harbor Seal population in Washington State increased from 6,786 to 19,379. (Jeffries, S.J., H. R. Huber, J. Calambokidis, and J.L. Laake. 2003. Trends and status of harbor seals in Washington State: 1978-1999. Journal of Wildlife Management. 67 (1): 208-219.) Estimates are the harbor seal population in the Sound increases at the rate of about 4% annually. Harbor seals live to an average age of 25 years.

So, what do all these seals eat? "...Salmon accounted for 50% and 87% of observed captures of single, large fish in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Predation on schooling fishes involved juvenile sandlance or herring..." (Zamon, J.E. (2001). Seal Predation On Salmon and Forage Fish Schools As A Function of Tidal Currents In The San Juan Islands, Washington, USA, Fisheries Oceanography Volume 10 Issue 4 Page 353 - December 2001)

How much can a pinniped eat? "...In 1996, a single California sea lion was observed to kill 136 coho salmon in 62 hours (2.1 coho per hour.) The highest predation rates observed for this animal were 18 coho salmon over 4.4 hours (4.1 fish per hour). The maximum number of coho observed killed by this sea lion during any one day was 19 coho salmon in 6.9 hours (2.7 fish per hour.)" (National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 1997. Investigation of Scientific Information on the Impacts of California Sea Lions and Pacific Harbor Seals on Salmonids and on the Coastal Ecosystems of Washington, Oregon, and California. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-NWFSC-28, 172 p.)

The 1996 estimate of the number of California sea lions in Puget Sound was over 1,000. Their numbers haven't dwindled. Add to that the increasing number of harbor seals and the combined pinniped eating habits. Assuming all have the same voracious appetite as the sea lion described above, we're talking about putting a major dent in marine survival and forage.

And when its time for lunch, pinnipeds won't discriminate between a hatchery or wild fish.
WDFW Needs Help Concerning Resident Silver Fisherie...

Hey Greg thank you for the excellent information on seals and sea lions. I have noticed a huge increase in there populations also and have had salmon stolen off my line numerous times by seals. I didn't know they ate that many salmon in a day though, thats amazing. It just looks like to me when they shut down 3 of the 4 delayed release pens thats why we have fewer fish. With that said I did hear about the 2% survival rate last year and understand why they don't want to produce more fish if they aren't going to survive. Thank you again for the info.


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