Methow Shutdown

BBD/Freestone-
While there is little doubt that there are significant benefits from having lots of salmon carcasses in our rivers the sad reality is that given the current habitat and hydrograph conditions of those rivers the benefits of those carcasses to anadromous fish is much less than expected. Most of our waters with the simplification of their habitat and volatile hydrographs have lost the ability to retain those carcasses and the potential nutrients that they represent.

Given the spawn timing (and post spawn death) of many of our salmon that unless the nutrients from those carcasses are incorporated into the aquatic food web quickly it is not available to most juvenile anadromous salmonids. Most of those juvenile fish do not have access to those nutrients until the following year. Fish like chum, pinks and Chinook fry are not in the river until the next spring while juvenile steelhead and coho behaviors are such (for example moving into the substrate to overwinter with dropping temperatures) have little access to those nutrients in the fall/winter and again must access those nutrients the following spring.

That is not the case for some of the larger fish (resident adult rainbows, whitefish, bull trout, etc) which are actively feeding year round and thus can take immediate advantage of loose eggs and deteriorating carcasses. For those that spend time on our rivers in the next few months think about how often you encounter or see juvenile fish behind the spawning salmon?

If having a significantly higher bio mass of carcasses was the answer to rivers producing more juvenile steelhead then rivers like the Snohomish and Green would not have the steelhead problems they currently are experiencing. In the last dozen years the Green has several thousand tons of pink carcasses added to the system every other year that did not exist in any meaningful numbers in the previous 50 years. Since the Spring CnR steelhead fishery was closed in 2001 on the Skykomish the annual biomass of salmon carcasses has been in the 2 to 8 million pound range compared to an average of less than 1 million pounds for the 20 years before 2001. Yet somehow in both systems the wild steelhead population remains depressed with carrying capacity much less that seen in the 1970s and 80s.

Hope the meeting on the 17th is productive for you.

Curt
Isn't it more that the carcasses help increase the biomass of microbes, insects, bugs, etc. that the salmon fry eventually eat? I never understood it as the juvenile salmon feeding on the carcasses directly.
 

Smalma

Active Member
Evan -
Yes for those nutrients to become available to the juveniles it would have to be converted into the food web and be available the next spring. My point is that most of those carcasses are washed out to the salt with are fall floods before that can happen. That has always been a significant factor here in the PNW that has been compounded by simplification of our river system's and the over lost of complex habitat features.

On the Skagit for example once in the last 30 years (2001) have a significant portion of the chum carcasses persisted in the aquatic system for a prolong period. 2001 was year without floods and exceptionally low flows. It was during that season that fish like bull trout were feeding on carcass pieces through at least the end of February (the river closed then).

Curt
 
Evan -
Yes for those nutrients to become available to the juveniles it would have to be converted into the food web and be available the next spring. My point is that most of those carcasses are washed out to the salt with are fall floods before that can happen. That has always been a significant factor here in the PNW that has been compounded by simplification of our river system's and the over lost of complex habitat features.

Curt
I doubt that would be as much the case in E. Wa as those rivers typically don't raise up in flows at all in the winter. I've seen salmon carcasses on the Methow in March that had been there since the previous November.
 

Smalma

Active Member
Evan -
An excellent point regarding the flow patterns on those upper Columbia tributaries, in that regard they are more like Alaskan streams than those on the coast. As such there would be a much better chance to incorporate those nutrients into the food web. The irony of course is that we can get significant numbers fish (pinks, chums, coho) back to the coastal streams but it is much more difficult on those upper Columbia streams that are now mostly Chinook and steelhead systems.

With that in mind Priest Rapid carcass would help contribute to the productivity of those system they were added to. With the unbelievable returns of fall Chinook to the mid/upper Columbia this year is an opportunity missed. For the last decade the average total returns to the Priest Rapid dam has been less than the 40,000 collected at the hatchery this year - the count to the dam this is at 230,000 and continuing. If something close to the astounding record run seen this year were to become the norm there would be an opportunity for some NE, but even then with the needed to spread the fish out between the Wentachee, Entiat, Methow and Okanogan the contribution to each system would not be as great as one would hope.

Curt
 

BDD

Active Member
Curt, I agree with everything you are saying and my point was specifically for east side streams since that is where I live and fish (mostly). The return to PRH is certainly an anomaly this year but on any given year, there are still several thousand carcasses that would be available for NE. I still maintain that from a fisheries perspective, those carcasses would be better off being turned in to analogs and returned to the streams for NE rather than converted into pet food. Again, I have no qualms about providing the food grade surplus for human consumption but when it comes down to feeding fish or domestic pets, well that is a no brainer.
 

Stonefish

Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater
Besides helping the fish, those carcasses help the entire ecosystem regardless of being on the east or westside.
Wildlife eat them, vegetation gets nutrients from them. Hell even crabs get in on the feast.
I'm with BDD. I'd rather see them in the rivers then in a cat food plant.
SF
 
As for enforcement, I saw a rig drive by floating the Wenatchee last Saturday. We seem to see an enforcement officer almost every trip. He doesnt usually check us as we're always there and legal. The presence is there.
 
Geez!

7 pages on the Methow since Wednesday! No wonder you west side guys are having problems catching steelies.

Got to love the interwebs!
In the past 2wks, I've caught many, many steelies on both sides of the mountains in 3 different rivers and have managed to contribute jibber jabber to this thread. There goes that theory :cool:
 
Checked by a creel survey worker on Saturday. He was saying he saw only one keeper all day off the Wenatchee, lots of people seeing fish, not a lot of catching. We tagged a sucker.
 
Checked by a creel survey worker on Saturday. He was saying he saw only one keeper all day off the Wenatchee, lots of people seeing fish, not a lot of catching. We tagged a sucker.
I have two friends that fished the Methow Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun, and between the two of them, only one wild fish landed. Sounds like pressure has been very above average.
 

Chris Bellows

Your Preferred WFF Poster
As for enforcement, I saw a rig drive by floating the Wenatchee last Saturday. We seem to see an enforcement officer almost every trip. He doesnt usually check us as we're always there and legal. The presence is there.
enforcement is being checked, not driving around. one of my pet peeves of wdfw enforcement. i see them in their trucks and boats, and sometimes at launches.... but never on the river.

maybe shoe polish is really expensive.
 

PT

Physhicist
I've fished the Methow and Wenatchee more than a few times each and have never talked to a fish cop. Last time I was checked on a westside river was '92 or so. Over the past 20 years I've averaged 100 days or so on a river somewhere.