thompson to close [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: thompson to close

10-27-2003, 05:38 PM
The Thompson river is expected to close on November 1. If anybody had planned to fish the river in November, it's time to change them.

10-27-2003, 09:46 PM

I'm curious what's driving talk of a November closure (besides the Albion test fishery). I typically steer clear of other fishermen on the T so I have no other reference points besides my own for providing good or bad October reports.

However, if pressed for CPUE info I would be compelled to provide glowing reports for the short time I spent there just before the bump. Why the quick jump to conclusion when there is still no quantifiable evidence about what came in on that bump (and what certainly can only add to what was already there?)

It would not be the first time that good fishing on the T trumped the Albion counts. I saw the same thing up towards Rupert this year: lots of doom and gloom, lots of long faces and way too much fuel being burned in the jet boats coming and going from important places.

But if you scratched gently beneath the surface while walking quietly from shore, plenty of fish, more then I thought I deserved. It's true, however, that they weren't necessarily acting like we'd want them to act or hiding in the places we'd like to see them hide. Same on the T. Maybe the "double P" factor: pinks and pressure.

Any background info driving this closure would be appreciated.

10-27-2003, 10:39 PM
The Albion counts plus consultation with various user groups is driving this decision. A big concern is likely the "high time" about to happen on the river. Traditionally the last week of October and the first few weeks of November see the biggest push of fish...and fishers. A small number of fish and a ton of anglers = lots of hassled and repeatedly hooked fish, which isn't good for the run. I think that the managers are pretty courageous to take this step in the face of the bellowing they're about to hear from some in the angling community. Certainly the Albion counts can be seen as a "best guess" scenario, but they are the best tool we have to measure the strength of the run, and I am inclined to err on the side of caution when it comes to these great fish.

Apart from the fish themselves, a significant concern that I have is the impact this will have on the people of Spences Bridge, many of whom rely on the income generated from the steelhead fishery to see them through the winter. For better or worse, Thompson steelhead are a significant economic resource, and a sudden closure will be tough on the town. Travelling anglers too will be impacted, as some folks travelling from abroad to visit the Thompson will have little or no time to make other arrangements and stand to lose airfares etc.

In the interests of protecting the river and its great fish, and with an eye toward ensuring everyone likely to be effected is "in the loop", I'd like to see some sort of "alert" system in place on the Thompson. Since 800 fish based on the Albion counts seems to be the cut-off point that managers have identified as critical, something like the following could be implemented:

1500+ fish at mid-October estimate: river open to all angling
1200 - 1499: conservation concern announced. anglers asked to voluntarily restrict effectiveness/catch rate (this could include such things as a voluntary bait ban and a 2 fish per day limit)
<1200: conservation alert announced. bait ban, mandatory 2 fish limit
<1000 fish: potential closure, to be determined by Albion estimates for remainder of month
800: closure.

This sort of system, while flawed, would give people a sense of what's happening on the river and what might be coming. It would allow anglers to make educated decisions about their approach to the river and impose reasonable restrictions on all anglers if necessary.

10-27-2003, 10:49 PM

Please note I have never fished the T so some of my assumptions may be incorrect but....

It seems your problems are the use of bait and a 2 fish limit!

That seems insane for the pressure the river gets and the low, low,low returns you guys have.

I have read you lose thousands of fish from the gill net fishery and then they let you bonk 2 fish and use bait.

I thought the BC fisheries were much more enlightened than that.


10-27-2003, 10:55 PM
sorry sean, I was assuming things, and you know what that does...:)

yes bait is legal on the T, but it is a catch and release fishery. When I say "2 fish limit" I mean "2 fish released." Sure, people can play around with that idea, but each of us would have to live with his (or her) conscience. To most "2 fish limit" in this sense would probably mean "2 fish landed, then released." To me "2 fish" means "2 fish hooked that I know are steelhead" (there are a few strong trout in that river that will fool you for a second or two).

Bait is a divisive issue, and has been "debaited" here and elsewhere. The "Thompson Bait Ban" is one of the things that led to the serious weakening of the Steelhead Society because the proposal was seen as a thinly veiled attempt to make the river fly only. I'm not interested in debating bait. My proposal allows for both bait and a bait ban, depending on run strength.

Again, a flawed system, but something to consider.

10-27-2003, 11:52 PM
The first thing to appreciate is that 1500 fish in the Thompson is an alarmingly low number of fish to start with. Don't make the mistake of thinking that it is an acceptable target figure. If you take Trey Combs numbers he said that 10,000 fish is more reasonable!

Also understand that the step to implement the closure is extraordinary and is not the Province's first choice, in fact the decision was made in close consultation with stakeholder groups. It seems that the push for closure came from the user group representatives not the government.

A real consideration must be given to the bigger political picture. With the bizarre "dual control" of BC's anadromous fisheries, the Provincial Fisheries Branch and the Federal DFO, it is always complicated. While the Branch is concerned with the health of the steelhead, the DFO continues to provide opportunities for commercial fishermen to target chum salmon in the Lower Fraser - as the steelhead pass through! Throw into this twisted mess the constitutional rights of Native groups and the practicality of a closure makes sense.

The Province drawing a line in the sand does a few things. Establishing that the numbers of fish estimated in the Thompson (24th worst out of the last 25 years) is not sufficient to justify even one fish being lost to catch and release mortality, this subsequently allows the Province to try to pressure the DFO into ending all chum openings. It will also help to restrict the number of fish that Natives take for Ceremonial purposes. If the river were to be left open or restricted to fly-only - for the sake of reduced efficiency - the Natives would certainly still take "theirs" and the DFO (who barely listens to the Province at best) would likely take no heed either.

Personally, this closure is a bitter, bitter pill to swallow - I fish it about 25 days a year - but I think it is time.

10-28-2003, 12:02 AM
agree that 1500 isn't reasonable at all--probably the river should be closed at 1500! But we have been running at these sorts of numbers for years.

10-28-2003, 12:31 AM
Suggesting a new management regime based on the Albion counts is admirable. But my heart goes out to the Spences Bridge small businessman who is left to twist in the wind waiting for the test fishery results each year. 801 fish and the Circle J makes it through another winter?

I think the December 31 closure was a step in the right direction. Of course that didn't appease the locals who argued (and rightly so) that such a closure represented a significant foregone angling opportunity. It's no secret that there is (or was?) a strong February and March T run. The best fishing I ever had was after the New Year when you could do that sort of thing. My presumption is those fish never showed up in the Albion counts because the nets were in the storage lockers by that time.

Intuitively one would think that redd counts and weir counts for downstream smolts in Deadman, Bonaparte and the Nick should be used to temper whatever management regime is finally settled on for the following year. Only this data would truly capture what made it into the system and what progeny might come of it.

I for one would hate to see a bait-ban despite knowing full well that the T is the last of the hold-outs. I always felt quite comfortable fishing with those guys-- they are a class act, probably the coolest bunch of steelheaders I've ever met (even Rick Olmstead, may he rest in peace). They’ve always respected and understood “fly water” and for the most past, gave it a wide berth. I have not necessarily seen that sentiment reciprocated by the flip side over the last few years and shiver in my cleats every time I think of that river going 100 % fly.

Voluntarily leaving the river after two fish? Lofty sentiments. Can’t we just fish a dry fly with no hook? I was once in a hole for way longer then I’d meant to. The river was so crowded I lost all heart to try another spot. And my friend below me had never held a fly rod in his hand before so it was a “learning” day.

I watched him hook-up to a veritable smoker in water we’d already fished. Ah hah, moving fish I said to myself. Next cast, I hook-up. I get the hook out, steady my hands, re-tie, another cast, another fish. Same thing for four more fish. My friend was ecstatic. I was taking laps around the rosary beads-- a pod had moved past and we just happened to be there when it happened and it sure was fun while it lasted. Like obeying a speed limit in Texas.

But your point is well taken.

10-28-2003, 12:38 AM

Your point about the reliability of the Albion counts is also well taken. However, over the past 25 years the differences between the Albion count and the redd counts/counting fence numbers have been well correlated. They are fairly confident that this year's run will be at the the very bottom end of the scale. Damn I hope they are wrong, but I won't hold my breath.

10-28-2003, 12:46 AM
at best I think Albion will only ever indicate a trend. the trend this year is pretty alarming, and we have to go with that. now if the fish show up next week at Albion they can always re-open the river--I think they run the test fishery until the end of November.

10-28-2003, 09:51 AM
here are a few interesting other thingsa about the Thompson fishery.
The explotaion rate in the 80's was close to 80%, this year will be around 15%. The fisheries that kill most of the Thompson steelhead are happening in Johnstone straits, Juan De Fuce strait , U.S.A. first nations fishing at PT.Roberts,the one commercial gillnet opening yesterday in the Fraser and our Fraser river first nations.
The Albion test fishery has been wrong in the past, look at 1997, fishing in October was very poor and was excellent in November, I think the run size ended up being 1500 fish that year (going off of memory, may be wrong). The estimated carrying capacity of the Thompson is somewhere between 3000 and 40,000 fish and we have been nowhere near this number for the last 18+ years. Should the river be closed? Most likely. Does it suck that it is now thias bad? You bet! The biggest problem is trying to get some sort of recovery plan to help out these fish.
Also look for closures for other interior steelhead streams like the Chilcotin, because Albion also shows what is returning to places like the Nahatalatch, Cayoose,Stein and others upstream of Hope.

10-28-2003, 09:52 AM
One other thing about Albion is it now shows this year being #25 out of 25. I doubt it can get much worse than this.

10-28-2003, 10:06 AM
Anyone know where we can find out more info on the bi-catch of American gill netters on steelhead around the strait and PT Roberts? We have so few gill netters left around here and seeing that they won't allow inspection of bi-catch do we really know for sure that they have an effect on steelhead? Have a friend who use to commercial fish those waters many years ago. He is anti commercial fishing now but said that they rarely ever had a steelhead in the nets because steelhead swim so close to shore on their migration. He did say that in the 70's that some tribes did target those fish for the dog food industry.

10-28-2003, 10:17 AM

your reminder about 1997 further underscores the need for the Ministry to develop a comprehensive and creative plan for the Thompson. We exist in new times and old-style thinking--such as an all or nothing mentality--simply isn't realisitic anymore. The problem with this of course is that steelhead managers have to ultimately answer to us, and as long as anglers continue to engage in such old style thinking, we cannot expect anything else from the Ministry.

I don't like the fact that the river is closing, but I'm darned proud of the people in Kamloops for making this decision. I hope that this situation will serve as a wake up call to us all. Maybe now we can really put the old differences behind us and start to look for ways to protect Thompson fish so that we can continue to enjoy them.

10-28-2003, 06:17 PM

I can't believe the actual grief I'm experiencing as a result of this wake-up call/decline/closure of a fishery that's been a big part of my life for over 30 years. I'm totally depressed..

Fishing author Trey Combs once wrote that the Thompson River was the best anadromous stream fishery in the world in the month of November. Now, for the first time ever, the world-famous Thompson river catch-and-release steelhead fishery faces an emrgency closure because this fall's run is predicted to be the worst in 25 years. The main reasons for the steelhead decline include commercial salmon fishing by-catch and damaged habitat and lack of water due to irrigation in important steelhead rearing tributaries: Nicola, Coldwater, Bonaparte and Deadman Rivers.

The fishing closure is a huge blow to the tourism-based community of Spences Bridge, but will also impact BC's reputation as a world-class angling destination.

How did it come to this and what will we do?

One of the Campbell government's first and worst actions was to end the Watershed Restoration and Fisheries Renewal programs. Provincial fisheries and habitat protection budgets have been cut to the bone. The federal government has failed to effectively protect steelhead from commercial fishing impacts. There seems to be no political will or budget to deal with the very real problems effecting Thompson steelhead. With great sadness, I suspect that the only "recovery plan" proposed by government involves little more than closing the sport fishery and hoping things will magically improve on their own.


10-28-2003, 06:38 PM
The closure of the North Sound C&R Steelhead Season was the catalyst for forming the Wild Steelhead Coalition. Steelhead Summit 3 is planned for November 8 if any of the BC Friends would like to attend and participate.

10-28-2003, 10:29 PM

I think you've raised the most important issues, but in my conversations with many anglers over the past day, as well as my sampling of the chatter on other websites (, it is apparent that yet again the big issues are being overshadowed by one: the bait ban. Perhaps this is simply because the issues you raise seem so far from our control that we need to focus on one that makes us feel powerful.

Thanks for keeping the light shining where it should.

On the bait issue, I think the question regarding the Thompson is this: Can we limit angler effectiveness without limiting angling opportunity?

The answer is simple and clear. But only if we can step away from the "fly vs gear" nonsense.

10-28-2003, 10:51 PM
...what about all of the anglers currently fishing the Thompson knowing about the situation or rushing up there to fish before the closure?

10-28-2003, 11:05 PM
right now there is nothing but suspicion and fragmentation in the BC angling community when it comes to the Thompson.

perhaps we need to form the Thompson Steelhead Coalition.

10-28-2003, 11:46 PM
I think I will make the drive to Spences Bridge on the morrow just to feel the cold wind, and the warmth of the hospitality of the fine folks that reside there. Hell I might even fish a few spots!
I will do so knowing full well that I have been there when the runs were projected t be worse and like then hope they will get better over time.

10-29-2003, 12:26 AM
I won’t make that drive up there before the closure. But I’ll take a drive.

Years ago before I knew any better I wrote an article for a fishing magazine arguing that stone and water could carry genetic information much like carboniferous cellular matter.

I made a case that the wind-sculpted hoodoos and sandstone gothic spires that stand watch on the cliffs overlooking a river called the Thompson seemed to echo the pyramids of Ghiza and the great columns of Luxor and that without too big a stretch one could make a case that water from the Nile over eons and eons of time evaporated and was carried off on a hot wind to other lands where eventually it condensed, maybe one day wrung from a cloud hanging low over Kamloops Lake, and the genetic stuff carried in that Nile water eventually made it downstream where it comingled with and ultimately seeded its genetic stuff into the cliffs standing watch over Basque and Bighorn.

The editor politely told me he required something a bit more “nuts and bolts” for publication. Didn’t I have a destination river I could write about, maybe with a map of the hot spots and detailed driving directions? I ruminated on “nuts and bolts” for a bit. I then put my article aside and drew a picture instead. I hoped at the very least to somehow evoke the germ of the article that lay unwanted and sulking on my writing desk.

I worked on this picture in my camper for several months. I fished every day on the river then worked on the picture at night. I was even invited to bring the picture in to the Spences Bridge elementary school. Would I be willing to discuss its implications with a group of fourth and fifth graders? Of course I would.

We ended up talking about particle physics. I told the children that when I was on that wonderful river that bisected their town I felt like I was standing in an immense vibrant energy field that clicked and buzzed and crackled with potent vigor. Then I shared a secret with them. I told them that with bits of feathers tied to a hook, I could gently tease aside the lid covering this energy field and with this small inconsequential thing I called a fly I was able to manifest severe perturbations in the warp and weft of the grid.

It was so powerful I could make bits of water and splinters of light explode like a bomb had been detonated beneath the surface. Sometimes it would explode over and over and a silver rocket shaped thing would catapult out of the water stuck to that fly. Then the water would smooth back out like nothing had happened and the energy grid would get quiet and potent again and just shimmer there as it passed through the town.

I tried to explain what atoms were all about to this group of wide-eyed children. I tried to explain what I was thinking and what I was trying to say when I planned out my picture. Suddenly a voice piped up from the back of the room. Adam? he asked. I’m an Adam! And I know all about Adams because when me Dad and me Mum made me that’s what they decided to call me-- Adam!

And so I dedicate this picture to Adam of Spences Bridge.

10-29-2003, 01:01 AM
marketic: WOW!

10-29-2003, 12:05 PM
where can I get one?

10-29-2003, 12:35 PM

Absolutely! Indeed we need to get away from the fly vs gear crap. There is probably nothing as divisive as this when it comes to getting fishermen united to support regulations that conserve the resource.

10-29-2003, 01:09 PM
Indeed the hole gear VS. fly arument is BS. Dana i agree with the idia of a Thompson Steelhead Coalition forming i think that that would be benifisial to the Thompsons steelhead as well as every one who fishes the river. The closeure is in my mind a good thing for the fish, but the people of spences bridge are the ones that are realy going to feel it never mind the people that i have talked to that r complaining that they arnt going to get to fish the river and it isnt fair for the river to be closed to angling. As for me I'm heading up to Spencis Bridge this afternoon to spend time on the big T because to me just spending time on the river is enough fishing is just a added bonous.

10-29-2003, 06:06 PM
the meeting has happened and due to both political pressure and DFO unwillingness to change , the Thompson will stay open at least until nov.17 and maybe nov.30. But now here is the downside. Next season it will close sept. 1 and will not open until it is felt that there are enough steelhead in the system to allow a fishery. This descion will not be able to be made until sometime in early october (first test fishery report was sept. 29 and was down graded every time after that) so anybody traveling from any great distances will not be able to have any knowledge if the river will be open and most people will not be able to plan holidays.

10-29-2003, 07:29 PM
I have tears behind my eyes. I am stunned and sickened - but now I am starting to get angry... Please excuse the vitriol that is bound to follow.

This is another case of the sportfishery taking it in the hoop. We have gross mismanagement of a public resource by a Federal bureaucracy more concerned with "big dollar" commercial fishing interests. Just look at the chum openings on the Lower Fraser in the midst of a steelhead crisis - sure, shut us down - but by all means provide some "commercial fishing days" - so some part-timers can collect Employment Insurance. DFO already knew that the Thompson Steelhead were at a critically low level - yet the opening occurred anyway. The chum themselves have almost zero market value. The steelhead fishery it seems, has no value at all - hell, even the TEST FISHERY at Albion kills the steelhead it counts.

We have a Provincial government slashing habitat restoration progams and enforcement funds in the name of political ideology - at the expense of the fish. The hay farmers of the Nicola Valley can pump all the water they want onto their fields - damn the steelhead fry and smolts... after all - it is business. Then, when after they have ignored all the pleas of the sportsfisherman to take care - and the fishery is on the verge collapse - what do they do? They shut us down! Bullshit.

We are the only ones who care - so it seems only we pay the price. We may never get to fish for the ultimate example of their species again. I am now very, very angry. WE may not fish next season, but will the commercial nets go into the water - without question. Will the farmers of the Nicola water their hayfields and let their cattle muddy the the spawning tributaries - absolutely. Will the Natives demand their Constitutionally guaranteed Ceremonial fish - you bet. So what remediation do the fish managers have? Nothing - that is what.

Yes Dana, the time for The Thompson River Steelhead Coalition has come. Count me in - do you want a President? A Vice-President? A Secretary? How about a leg-breaker? I think our dinner meeting in November should become the birth of some kind of action by the only ones who seem to care - the sportsmen who love the Thompson.

10-29-2003, 08:58 PM
Count me in, anything I can do... website work, evangelism, brochures, working contacts, anything. I've had the honor of fishing this great river and the waters run through my veins as it does for all who visit. I vow that I can and will contribute to this worthy cause!

10-29-2003, 09:21 PM
Count me in, Sgt At Arms, hit man, what have you--I'll be there.

10-29-2003, 09:23 PM
Well, count me in for whatever assistance I can provide.

It appears that one of the largest impacts that we can demonstrate is with our $$$. If all that government recognizes is $$ so they receive more revenue. Perhaps the time to look for the methods to gather the $$ spent by sport fishers targeting Thompson Steelhead.

gas, resturants, hotels, cabs, pubs.....


10-29-2003, 09:44 PM
What else can one say?

When the Wild Steelhead Coalition was formed, it was because many of us had reached this level - the final frustration and rage at having our fishing opportunities squandered to just such indiscriminate interests. We knew of the mismangement, but as long as there were still fishable numbers we only griped about it amongst our fishing friends.

Sure, some of us donated money and attended management meetings, but the sense of urgency (the prospect of perhaps NEVER being able to fish a river / run of Steelhead that defines a large part of your angling life) wasn't there.

There is much talk about the evolved management of BC. Way ahead of us on Catch and Release of wild Steelhead, that's for sure. And, certainly, some of the finest Steelhead runs return to their rivers.

So I think this came as an especially rude awakening to me that NOTHING is safe. They can declare all the C&R regulations they want. Dana's right - the Bait vs Fly argument is as stupid as arguing whos farts smell worst!!! People who care about these magnificent Steelhead need to band together to impress on the Provincial authorities that, as desparate as economic times may be, these fish need protection Right Now! I can only imagine how many steelhead that Chum fishery accidentally "harvested". :mad:

I hope you guys start a Thompson River Coalition - I'll be happy to be a charter member. One thing the WSC has learned is that #s impress the politicians. Letters/Emails from around the World expressing outrage at the arbitrary and irresponsible management of this fishery might begin be a place to start.

Sad and Angry,


10-29-2003, 09:57 PM
the current flip-flop is what concerns me the most. we start the week with emails and posts that the river will close, then we hear that it won't, well, maybe, um, let's wait and it remains open through the busiest part of the season in a year when there is supposed to be a weak return (obviously WLAP questions their data) but closed in the future? Am I missing something here...?

of course this is a political decision rather than a conservation-based decision, so this means that an organized voice is likely to have an impact on the decision-making process. If we can start the week with "closure" and end it with "no closure" we can certainly end October with "Closure Sept 2004" and end the year with "some form of effective management strategy rather than knee-jerks to questionable data and short-term alarmist political pressure."

By training and experience I'm a counsellor and mediator. As such I get nervous about any extremes--I'm always looking for a middle ground, a balanced approach. I think there is one to be found, we just aren't looking hard enough.

WLAP has given us their solution. It seems reasonable if we have nothing else to offer. So I return us to my earlier post:

In the interests of protecting the river and its great fish, and with an eye toward ensuring everyone likely to be effected is "in the loop", I'd like to see some sort of "alert" system in place on the Thompson. Since 800 fish based on the Albion counts seems to be the cut-off point that managers have identified as critical, something like the following could be implemented:

1500+ fish at mid-October estimate: river open to all angling
1200 - 1499: conservation concern announced. anglers asked to voluntarily restrict effectiveness/catch rate (this could include such things as a voluntary bait ban and a 2 fish per day limit)
<1200: conservation alert announced. bait ban, mandatory 2 fish limit
<1000 fish: potential closure, to be determined by Albion estimates for remainder of month
800: closure.

This sort of system, while flawed, would give people a sense of what's happening on the river and what might be coming. It would allow anglers to make educated decisions about their approach to the river and impose reasonable restrictions on all anglers if necessary.

I would adjust the numbers on this--if the biologists have determined that 1000 fish is the magic number, lets make the closure 1000, but let's still consider a series of steps leading to closure, rather than the current plan, which is closure and then maybe we'll see.

I am not married to this idea--indeed, I would like to see a better one proposed--but I hope that we can channel all of this energy into finding a proposal that addresses the fish and the concerns of anglers. The current solution, which ignores angling impact issues and is based soley on data the Ministry itself admits is greatly lacking in precision, makes me uncomfortable.

10-29-2003, 10:37 PM
I have never fished the river (eventhough every year I say I will) but you can count me in!! I know you guys (the Canadians) will be there for us when the Wild Steelhead Coaltion needs help so I will turn around do the same for you!

10-30-2003, 07:07 AM
Being an "outsider", I would say "Good Thinking, Guys (Gals, too)".

We all face the same problems all over the continent.

We waste more time arguing Fly, Bait, Gear and dividing into factions.

What we've gotta do is remember that we are all fisherman, and think of the good of the fish, not bureaucratic or partisan interests. The real fishermen will step forward and help, the rest will disappear into the cracks to let others do the job.

Just a few words, based on experience......


10-30-2003, 05:49 PM
I now have verbal and written confirmation from WLAP that the Thompson will close November 17th at midnight (2400 hrs).

10-30-2003, 06:04 PM
Judging by the wording of the document Dana, it may never open again. If we let things rest there, no level of government will spend the money required to restore the fishery. It's time we organized to combat the decline of BC steelhead stocks.

11-03-2003, 11:19 AM
Originally posted by Doublespey
What else can one say?

There is much talk about the evolved management of BC. Way ahead of us on Catch and Release of wild Steelhead, that's for sure. And, certainly, some of the finest Steelhead runs return to their rivers.

our "evolved steelhead management" here in BC has helped have the east coast of vancouver island closed for 6-7 years, the Bella coola river closed for what seems like ever and now the Thompson closed for what could be forever. I don't really think we manage bc steelhead "better" than south of the border, just different. If we really closed all our streams with poor returns, there would be less than 4 river systems in the southern part of bc to still fish (gold,stamp/somass, cowichan and vedder/chillawack) The true state of steelhead stocks in the southern part of BC is really dismal. You may have lots of anglers and crowded hatchery conditions, but at least you still have something to fish for. I travel for many hours or days to fish on steelhead runs that are less than 200 fish.
There are 2 different expriences to be had with crowds and hatcheries vs wild, C & R fishing and no other people, but somewhere in the mix it would be nice to have the chance to still fish in a river with steelhead.

11-04-2003, 01:47 AM

Different strokes for different folks... or is it the grass is always greener on the other side.

I for one think the BC emphasis on a quality C&R fishery on wild fish, albeit fewer of them, is the way to go. The US emphasis on hatchery production to artificially buoy up the true returns has hurt our fisheries over the long haul. That type of management only spawns more crowds and encourages the meat market mentality near the more popular hatcheries. If you really are interested in standing shoulder to shoulder in the mob for the opportunity to line one of these non-biting hatchery mutants, have at it. No thanks! I'd much rather visit your neck of the woods for some real steelheading.

11-04-2003, 11:37 AM
our "quality, catch & release" theme is something I like very much. I will travel 4 hours each way for a single days worth of fishing to get away from people and crowds. I very rarely ever go to our few hatchery steelhead streams (once in the last 2 years). It is just starting to really hit home when all of vancouver island has only 3 systems with decent numbers of steelhead. On the lower mainland near 50% of the population in BC, there is really only 1 stream that you can fish on a regular basis with steelhead in it. Anywhere with wild only stocks have runs so small they really should be closed to fishing. the squamish system just north of vancouver, used to have 3,000+ steelhead in it and now would be lucky to have 400 fish divided between the 5 streams that make up the system. On one of the tributaries, the swim counts for the last 5 years are always under 100 fish and have been under 50 fish 2 or 3 times. I am not saying the way we do business is better or worse, just we have a big "no fish any longer" problem in the southern half of our province and it does not seem to be getting any better in the last 5 years ( squamish may be an exception the run may have gone from 100 fish to 120 fish). There have been big efforts to try and make some of it better and hopefully in the next few years we will see something of a difference.

11-04-2003, 10:54 PM
Many of us fall into the trap of expecting steelhead populations to remain relatively constant - especially at the levels of the "good of old days". The truth of the matter is that steelhead populations like all anadromous grow and shrink with survial conditions. This has gone on for 1000s of years and will continue. Our expectations of the popualtion abundances and manage of that resource needs to keep this in mind.

An example - Monitoring on the Koegh River on Northern Vancouver River found that the smolt to adult survial of wild winter steelhead varied from as little as 3% to as high as 25%. It should also be noted that there appear to be periods of low and high survival. What that means is that a hypothetical steelhead population that had an annual out migration of 100,000 smolts and only the marine survival varying would be expected have adult returns that range from as little as 3,000 to 25,000 fish.

When habitat degradation, mis-management, etc is superposed over this variability the picture can get really ugly. In the management arena catch and release is not a magic bullet to solve this dynamic population swings in abundance; such management will not assure constant populations. The real measure of management schemes is can they response to changes in population abundances timely and appropriately. Because the population abundance to follow trends a closely monitored population (escapements trends measured annually and against some objective). At the high end of the population swings extended CnR fishing or even a kill fishery may be reasonable, while at mid-range limited CnR may be compatible, and at low levels complete fishing closures may be called for.

It has become abundantly clear that throughout the Georgia Basin region (Lower BC and Puget Sound) that our steelhead populations are in period of very low marine survival. The only way out that I see is to try to limit our impacts from all sources to as little as possible while we ride out the bad times.

Something to consider.

Tight lines

11-13-2003, 06:35 PM
Heard a rumor the closure is off as they say they found more fish. What is the word from up there on this?

11-13-2003, 08:32 PM

11-14-2003, 09:30 AM
3, yes 3 steelhead have been caught in the test fishery and this has changed the expected run size from less than 800 to more than 1000, I was told yesterday 1100 actually. I can't see how 13 steelhead in the test fishery equal less than 800 and 16 equal 1100 but I guess this is how it is done.

11-14-2003, 12:05 PM
The following gives some sense of how the test fishery at Albion is carried out, and why, perhaps, that it may not always be an accurate indicator of steelhead run strength. It was posted by the biologist that runs the program, and I have his permission to repost it here. It was originally found on the Fish BC forum.

......Steelhead now. I'm not too sure about how they avoid nets or the way it works. Some days the fish just move in different areas of the river. When I worked for the Salmon Commission, yes I've done their Whonnock tests too, we tried to draw conclusions about why Albion caught more Sockeye at certain times or why Whonnock did. The only thing we could come up with is that it's apples and oranges. The only thing I know is that on the Skeena gillnetters use a sunken net to avoid steelhead that are generally travelling at the surface. For me to come out and say that there is some way that the numbers have been underestimated would be wrong, especially if that information was passed around as gospel. Steelhead while one of my interests isn't in the scope of my current duties. I do find it interesting that in the press release I read they said that Albion test numbers were used to help determine the low returns It is a chinook and chum testfishery not a steelhead, coho, or pink testfishery. Any catch statistics on other species would be merely anecdotal in my mind. The guys on the boat have been doing this for 22 years and they have noticed fewer steelhead this year. The nets are surprisingly catch specific. Spring nets leave the sockeye alone pretty much and only catch the big male chums, pinks and cohos. The chum net would likely catch more steelhead as it catches more of the smaller size fish. I think I mentioned before that the spring net is 8 inch knot to knot mesh size and the chum net is 6-3/4 inch knot to knot.

Water clarity affects the catch rate of all species of fish. Generally, clear water decreases catch rates and turbidity increases catch rates.

All this info as I've said is generalizations, exceptions are often the rule. You guys know fish, sometimes they go against all the things we know, have learnt or seen. I'm just the field biologist on this one so I'm not dealing with numbers and estimations so I can't say how or what they are doing on that end. One difference I've noticed is when I was with the Commission, sockeye scales and DNA were read the day after catch, so inseason decisions could be made. My chinook DNA samples for this year haven't been taken off the boat. We've sent in a lot of heads and some scales have left. I really haven't seen much in season stuff going on. That said I believe that our info is valuable and I hope is being used to the best of FOC's abilities. My boss at FOC is a good egg and they do have lots on their plate.

Hope this answers your questions, any more and I'll promptly answer. Although I'm finally getting some much needed days off and I'm headed to Port Renfrew to fish the San Juan and tribs for coho this weekend. If anybody has any report of current conditions it would be appreciated. Thanks


11-19-2003, 11:33 AM
Though I agree that the test fishery at Albion probably
isn't that accurate, it certainly is a correlated indicator
with the size of the run. Poor numbers at Albion *most
likely* indicate a poor run...

But I know a much better Thompson indicator -- the fishing results
of Dana and Tyler in October. These two spey-gods should
be known as the human gill-net. If they aren't catching fish,
they're just not around...conversely when there are fish they
will catch some. Sadly, the results for this season were very
very poor. When I heard from them I gave up any hope of
fishing the big T this year...

There is something going wrong with steelhead survival up in
BC...our trip this summer to the Dean was was the
worst I'd seen in the past 10 years. I was also told in Bella Coola
that the spring run (winter steelhead) into the Bella Coola / Atnarko was estimated to be only 100 fish! For those that don't know, this was once a fine river with a large run.

On the Dean, there didn't seem to be a consensus as to what was wrong. Hot and dry summers? Commercial gill nets? Parasites (bad sea lice) from salmon farms?

Down here in Oregon, things seem better. Salmon runs (both
wild and hatchery) have been very strong and wild winter steelhead (spring runs) seem to be ok in most coastal systems.
The wild summer steelhead counts up the Columbia this year
also aren't bad (yes, wild fish are counted separately from hatchery fish). So, it's this person's impression that marine productivity is ok down here while it clearly isn't up in BC...

I say this only in the interests of trying to promote the understanding of what is going on.