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Native vs Hatchery catch ratio

623 Views 8 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  golfman65
I've only been fishing for steelies for 10 yrs this fall. That may seem like a long time to some, but for a lot of you - I'm just now begining to learn.

That being said, the first seven/eight years I caught mostly hatchery fish early in the season and natives later on. I fish the same waters, most of the time the same ratio swing vs bounch buggers, but was always catching the hatchery fish first.

The past few years it's been just the opposite. I'm now catching the natives first (early in the season) and the hatchery brats later.

I was on the Metow this last weekend, got into a couple of natives, and the guy just upstream from me tagged one too. In fact, most of the fish caught were natives that day.

Has anyone else experienced this? :hmmm:
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I used to believe that unmarked fish were caught with higher incidence than their clipped counterparts, based on the ratio found in the river at any one time. In other words, wild fish were more aggressive and more readily caught by sportfishers. While I still think there is some truth to that statement, it may not be as high as I used to think. When you consider the number of non-marked hatchery fish into the equation, it certainly tilts balance more equally but that is a whole 'nuther issue.

As far as hatchery vs. wild return timing, there are a lot of factors to consider. Generally, I believe wild fish are more varied in their returns. Wild fish usually return earlier with the exception of perhaps a stock that has been managed or adapted to return earlier (e.g., Skamania). As far as winter fish, yes, hatchery fish, mostly using the Chambers stock, have been selected to return earlier than wild stocks so that the spatial and temporal overlap is minimized. However, there were earlier returning wild fish on many streams decades ago but they were overfished and have essentially been replaced with early returning hatchery stocks.

Another factor to consider is your three-fish sample size...hardly large enough to make any statistical analysis.

Another question I have often wondered is if certain techniques are more likley to catch a certain origin or even gender. For example, does nymph fishing tend to catch more hatchery fish than wild fish or are wild fish more likley to be caught swinging flies, or are large bucks more likely to be caught on spoons..or rather is it the water being fished more likely to hold certain gender types and/or hatchery or wild origin fish (e.g., hatchery fish are more prone to be holding in pools (nymphing) whereas wild fish are likely to be found in riffles and therefore susceptible to swinging)?

People say they can tell whether it is a wild or hatchery fish by the fight. I am suspect of such logic. I have caught wild fish that were less than spectacular and have caught the exceptional hatchery fish. Who knows the circumstances of each individual fish? Perhaps a fish was just recently caught and released (a guy I was with last week swore he caught the same fish I did 20 minutes after I released mine), or did an individual fish just travel a long distance without resting before it took your fly? These questions are what keep me excited about steelhead fishing in general.
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