One Possible Alternative Model [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: One Possible Alternative Model

02-12-2004, 09:18 PM
Here is some steelhead guidelines that posted on another site a couple of years ago. I believe that they still are valid and do an adequate job of providing diverse recreational opportunity while address manay of our concerns about current status of the wild resources and some of the hatchery and harvest factors that may be afftect those populations.

Warning - This represents my personal beliefs and clearly reflects my personal biases.

Wild steelhead escapement levels- -

Use MSH as the reference point for management with exploitation rate management for runs above MSH. The exploitation rate would be designed to achieve escapements that would range from a low of MSH to a high of carry capacity. Average escapement would be expected to be between MSH and carrying capacity. Exploitation rates might be in the 10 to 20% range; possibly higher on more productive systems.

For populations expected to return at or below MSH reference point - or in those areas without an established MSH reference point.

1) Wild steelhead release during the period that hatchery steelhead are abundant.
2) If there are no hatchery fish or after the date that the majority of hatchery fish are no longer available (spawn outs not counted) river closed to all fishing.

For population expected to return above MSH reference point-

1) Retention of wild winter steelhead allowed for all or part of the period December through Febraury, (length depending on the exploitation rate).
2) Upper half of basins closed to wild fish retention.
3) State-wide wild fish limit of 1 per year.
4) Traditional spring catch and release season allowed.
5) To fish in the spring (March, April) the angler must have not used his or her wild steelhead punch.

Steelhead hatchery program

1) Mark all fish.
2) Hatchery programs to be designed to provide fish for harvest; no supplementation programs.
3) Plant only smolts and only in May.
4) Number of smolts to be planted limited so that the spawning over-lap (fish spawning at the same time and place) between hatchery and wild steelhead be limited to less than 1%. This will be influenced by spawning times, wild fish abundance, and the harvest rate on the hatchery fish.
5) Limit smolt plants to main stem areas with good angler access.
6) Significant portion of the basin (25%) not planted with hatchery fish.

Additional regulations -

1) During open seasons in the March to November period selective gear rules (artifical lures, single barbless hooks and no bait) in effect.
2) During the March to November period catch and release for all trout and steelhead except for marked hatchery fish.

Tight lines
S malma

02-12-2004, 10:50 PM
This thread by Smalma was split off from the Good News For Wild Steelhead thread as it contains a very thought provoking alternative management model.

02-12-2004, 11:06 PM
I know you have more knowledge on this subject in your little finger then I know in total. I like almost all of what you have written above. The way I read your guidelines for populations exceding the MSH there is only a very short window for the taking of a wild fish and only on a very limited basis if a person chooses to do so, however it is just beyond me why anyone would have a burning desire to bonk a wild fish if there are brats available. Am I missing something here? Take care, MJC

02-13-2004, 12:08 AM
We should enact S Malma's ideas. Pronto! Most everyone could get behind them if presented well.

I agree with Spark's points as well. I'd like to see C&R argued as our sportfishing future, providing us enhanced opportunities with minimum impact (relative). Economic and cultural benefits should have a real place in this argument. My worry with science based lobby is that we confuse and alienate many sportfishers who would and could join the fight. If the argument was framed as- we would like maximum sportfishing opportunity at minimum impact in all cases- and list benefits, would be much easier for most to relate. I don't mean to suggest that we all want maximum opportunity. But many of us do, within reason of course. No doubt there is fear and confusion among many about motives of WSC and WT regarding sportfishing opportunity. We're quick to say we side with the fish, but our power base may be with the sportfishers and evolving thinking as a political force benefiting all and increasing pressure on other "user groups" that impact these fish. I certainly see a possible future where we have given most if not all sportfishing opportunity and the runs continue into extinction due to other pressures. What a tragic outcome.

Not to get off topic but I just wanted to say for the record: this is the most enlighten and composed internet discussion re: WA steelhead mgmt I have ever read.

02-13-2004, 12:23 AM
It is amazing (or maybe it really is not if you think about it as I've always respected your opinions and have always taken your advice, suggestions etc. to heart.) how much we agree on how our steelhead should be managed.

Just some questions, comments and points of contention...

First off, I agree with your decision(s) of what should take place if the escapement is predicted to be below the MSH reference point.

Eventhough your proposed selective fishery regulations on all rivers from March through November, I believe that we may need to look at other impacts that we as sportsmen may have on juvenille steelhead.

Are there other negative impacts that we could be having on juvenille steelhead even if selective fishery regulations are in place. Once, a river's escapement reaches a certain point below MSH, should we not restrict even more practices by sportsmen on the watershed. That may seem very severe and I even believe that maybe going to far but maybe it is an issue that needs to be looked at.

Anyways, onto the areas in which we differ. But like I said, we agree more then we disagree.

First of all, you propose, a wild winter steelhead retention season that begins sometime in December. I believe, that we must seperate the run timings because from what I have seen, early wild winter-steelhead differ from later returning wild winter-steelhead and from what I understand, their spawning sites differ. It is also known that the early component of our wild winter-steelhead populations are fading fast...should those not be given more protection as well?? I always wondered why it seemed as though we allowed harvest on the smaller component of the population (early fish...higher spawners) eventhough we prohibited a harvest on the healtheir component of the population (late-returning, lower spawners).

I believe that just closing the upper portion of a watershed to harvest would not be enough as I know many of those early-wild fish are very aggresive and get picked off in the lower rivers before they can make it into the sanctuary zones.

I would also oppose a one wild steelhead annual limit as I believe it would lead to the culling of the largest fish. Plus, IMHO, the guides on the OP do a Hell of alot more damage and they have new clients everyday (that is the very reason I opposed the 5-fish a year did not effect the guides who do so much of the damage).

I am however, not against the harvest of wild steelhead. I would have a hard time ever killing one just for the simple fact I've grown up in a time of depeleted runs and I truely believe they are a magnificent fish. But as Doublespey asked the group the other night, if we were promised healthy runs forevor, would we ever kill a wild steelhead...I did answer yes.

Anyways, I propose the severity of the exploitation increase as the escapement goal reaches carry capacity.

Ethical and educated(it seems they are becoming too few and far between) flyfishermen have the least impact on a wild steelhead fishery, IMHO. Up to a certain point, say for a population hovering just above escapement, limit the fishery to flyfishing-only catch and release. In the winter flyfishermen catch the least amount of fish and with the use of single-barbless hooks you are facing a very very low hooking mortality on top of just the simple fact not many fish are going to be caught.

As the estimated escapement reaches farther up from the MSH reference point, the severity of the restrictions will be reduced.

After the hatchery fish are all but out of the system, this would be the order that I propose for our late winter/spring fisheries. I also believe that in years of severly depressed wild fish escapements we will need to find another way to minimize the impact of our hatchery stock fisheries.

This would be the order I propose...
1)Flyfishing Only
2)Selective Fishery Regulations-Fishing from a Floating Device Prohibited (the latter is a great conservation tool that needs to be utilized more in this state)
3)Standard Selective Fishery Regulations

At one point, I would not be totally opposed to a very limited kill fishery but at this time, even if a couple rivers were deemed healthy enough (closer to carry capacity then not) to allow for a harvest, I would only mind a kill on those rivers deemed healthy if a certain number of other rivers in the area (say in that given ESU) were consistently above the MSH reference point. According to the WDFW, the Sol Duc, when it comes to the later returning fish is very healthy. My opposition to a kill on this river is because so many of the other rivers in the area are barely exceeding their MSH refernce point, if at all.

I more or less agree with your ideas regarding steelhead hatchery programs and I am intriguied by your last point in which you stated, "6) Significant portion of the basin (25%) not planted with hatchery fish." Any reason specific reason why you chose %25? I believe this follows along the lines of some (John Farrar being one of the more noteables) who propose wild fish only streams where no hatchery fish are planted and the angling techniques and practices are very limited. I think it is an idea that needs to be discussed at greater lenghts.

As you know, I support your belief that our rivers should be under selective fishery regulations in the spring/summer/fall months. And I was very disapointed this past summer when my proposal, which I felt still left for plenty of oppurtunity, that would of limited the Skykomish to Selectiver Fishery Regulations except fishing out of a floating device while under power allowed was not passed onto the Commission for consideration.

We all know about the negative impact the huge bait fishery that takes place on the Skykomish in June and July has on our juvenille salmonids and because of that, I was appauled that it was not passed on eventhough similiar regulations our in effect on the Snoqualmie. We do not allow the harvest of wild steelhead in the winter months but we allow so many juvenille wild steelhead to be caught and killed due to hooking mortality in the summer months. Is just does not make any sense... :confused:

02-13-2004, 12:44 AM
Fly fishing only as a mgmt tool isn't going to go anywhere and will further divide sportfishers. Let's just start with wide ranging selective rules? I, and know at least five others, submitted reg change proposal similar to your Sky proposal, but for the upper Skagit (year round selective rules/C&R). Upper Skagit not only provides more rearing habitat than upper Sky but also sanctuary for large resident rainbow and bull trout. There is no justification for a bait catch and kill on upper Skagit when it is already closed for salmon and limited season for steelhead. We have many drainage specific steps to take that will have a very real impact before blanket divisive rule change. Let's see how this WSR reg goes and learn from it. We may indeed learn that a different tack is appropriate. WA is hardly the most progressive state and we need to move forward with clear ideas that sportfishers understand and support to get the traction we need IMHO. Seeing WSR as a done deal and pushing even more aggro fly specific rules is not a smart path. We need to understand and deal with backlash and evolve thinking as a broad user group.

02-13-2004, 01:52 AM
I like it!

I think there ~are~ debatable reasons, tho few, for wanting to keep a wild fish. Maybe your son's first steelhead is a big wild buck. Or maybe you've got a possible state/world record. For many, just the possibility to legally keep such a fish legally is very important.

And I really like the selective right to participate in the C&R season only if you haven't punched wild steelhead during the open kill season.

This is the first steelhead management plan I've seen that allowed for the killing of wild steelhead that I believe is workable. We're all forced to deal with compramises, and I think this does the best job of appeasing all user groups while still at its core doing a reasonable job of protecting wild fish.

The real question is how far (as a fishing society) we are toward accepting C&R as a legit management tool. I think most of us on this board know support for wild steelhead release is growing, but is it strong enough to survive the backlash from other pro-kill groups now that we've got our 2 year moratorium? This ruling by the Commission caught many by suprise - now we'll find out who has the money and #s to push the hardest.

But, whether or not we're able to make wild steelhead release permanent, reading Smalma's proposal gives me hope that there are workable compramises I could live with.



02-13-2004, 03:00 AM
i beleive that allowing any intentional kill of wild steelies is a compromise to the integrity of my personal sporting ethic.
I would choose not to kill a single fish, even if guarranteed healthy runs 4 ever.

If your kid caught a big buck and/or a near record fish- would you really want to teach him it was OK to kill it? get real.

here's the slippery slope....killing fish is analogous to the the junkie or alcoholic who wants just one...he can't.

stay off my river.

02-13-2004, 03:49 AM
Smalma, I think it's a great plan. It's one I was more thinking of (just not as indepth and REALLY scares me that I am thinking on same lines as Sparkey too :hehe: ;) ). But, the limited kill in December has actually been used on some river systems in the past. My home river, the Puyallup, had regulations exactly like that in the early 90's, until it went complete no kill on wild steelhead. But those months are when the big brute nates would start coming in too.

Do like the plan. But I do think (and this goes with steelhead out of the water thing too) that all you need is a tape measurement and a good photo if you have a trophy of a lifetime. I have a few over 20's I'd like to get mounts made of. Still have pics and measurements. Only thing it cost the fish was literally a few seconds out of the water (if I'm releasing, the cameraboy is ready with camera BEFORE the fish is brought in for fast pics and one pic only). I've had my kids release a few nice steelhead that they've caught on plugs. Didn't have camera, and still had them release, eventhough I was in Native Keep area. But I explained why and my kids were ok with it (and my daughter was only about 7 at time). Could've kept for her to get a picture of (was only a 15#, but her first steelhead nonetheless), but opted to release. Now, I have a minolta waterproof camera that's always in the boats. LOL.

I think it's a well thought out plan. I do think that maybe a no kill unless it's shown that the river has a healthy yield. And then must be a constant, not just an "assumed" bounty coming in.

Here's a question for those who really study the hatchery systems and the likes. This is legit, since I'm not a hatchery expert, I volunteer at one, but by no means know a damned thing about them. LOL. But would having, say the Quinaults, run our hatchery systems be a good thing? Possibly have those tribes that net the rivers become the stewards and run the hatcheries on them. The Quinaults have done an excellent job. No netting on those rivers, and have top notch runs of fish. Would be a great way of getting the two groups together as one. Maybe even making all of us come together slowly but surely. Not sure how that would work, but if could come to agreement where the whole hatchery system was done by one group (not a mixture of WDFW and Tribal like on some rivers) could be an asset. Say, make agreement that they run the hatchery to Quinault standards, and instead of nets they can run clients to catch the fish (give them incentive by no guide license fees to the Native Guides). A possibility. Just one I had pondered. But not sure on how all the hatchery systems work. Have only visited the Quinault hatchery a few times, and the one I volunteer at is a salmon hatchery.

02-13-2004, 08:57 AM
Thanks for posting your ideas Smalma. I believe they are healthy ideas and hopefully the State will look into this and similar ideas over the next 2 years.

I like the idea of one wild fish killed your done for the year steelhead fishing on a river proved healthy. Sort of like Elk season. I also see a problem with the guides on the OP rivers.

Another idea a bit more radical would be one wild fish caught and released and you are done for the day. Something similar to some of Europes Salmon management plans. I see no need to continue fishing after having the privilege of hooking, fighting and releasing a wild steelhead. We should be doing more of this on our own.

We also must get back to the release punch card. I know the State had problems with getting fishermen to use them but a little education might go a long way on getting some good information out of them.

I hope the day comes that taking a wild Steelhead home for the family Easter dinner, a special day a sacred feast indeed will not have serious implications on the future of their survival.

02-13-2004, 09:01 AM
There are some great ideas posted here. I especially like the idea of letting the Tribes run the hatcheries and having them guide instead of netting the rivers. I believe this would be a boon to all the runs in all the rivers.

Carry capacity, Never in our lives will any of the rivers of the PNW reach this. We could flood them with hatcherise, never kill a wild fish and never come close.

Never try to go to fly fishing only!!!! All it will do is devide the sport fishers. We need every sport fisher on the side of wild steelhead. The idea of killing them will slowly fade away. It wont happen in a day, month or year but it will happen. Those of you that are old (like me) have seen the changes already. Years ago all the pictures were of dead fish. Now most are of fish that are returned.

02-13-2004, 09:34 PM
No surprise that this crowd would have concern about wild kill.

However would any of you take a wild fish if it was mortally wounded if it were legal to do so?

I particularly like the no fishing in the spring if the wild punch has been used. It means that the angler has to decided whether taking that fish is worth giving up the spring fishery. It becomes the angler's own choice rather than the state or some special interest group telling he may or may not take that fish. Such an approach is likely un-American! If we are all right in that anglers will grow to like CnR fishing this approach will likely wean many to this type of opportunity - not unlike the first CnR season did for the then almost totally Bonk em crowd of 25 years.

Tight lines
S malma

02-13-2004, 10:04 PM
Originally posted by Smalma
No surprise that this crowd would have concern about wild kill.

But I think you should be surprised that most of us would not mind a kill fishery...the conditions for which we would not mind a kill fishery are more conservative then your's, however. I am especially fond of my idea that:

I would only mind a kill on those rivers deemed healthy(closer to carry capacity then the MSH reference point) if a certain number of other rivers in the area (say in that given ESU) were consistently above the MSH reference point.

However would any of you take a wild fish if it was mortally wounded if it were legal to do so?

If I knew that fish would not survive, I think I could take that fish home, but I have to admit a certain selfishness (and maybe this makes me a hyporctire), I would not punch the fish if it (kill it) if it prohibited me from fishing in March and April.

With that said, the only wild fish I have landed that I know for a fact was mortally wounded, I caught in the wild steelhead release water on the Hoh. I did not fish for the rest of the day.

I particularly like the no fishing in the spring if the wild punch has been used. It means that the angler has to decided whether taking that fish is worth giving up the spring fishery. It becomes the angler's own choice rather than the state or some special interest group telling he may or may not take that fish. Such an approach is likely un-American! If we are all right in that anglers will grow to like CnR fishing this approach will likely wean many to this type of opportunity - not unlike the first CnR season did for the then almost totally Bonk em crowd of 25 years.

I can grow to like that idea as long as the punch is only allowed on very healthy rivers and only if there are a substantial number of very healthy rivers around. I do not see the good in allowing a wild fish kill on only one or two rivers.

02-13-2004, 10:29 PM
Ryan -
I could only support fly-fishing as a mangement option only if it were limited to single handed rods of 7 weight or less!!

Jumbo -
By allowing some hooking mortality aren't you all ready on the slippery slope of negative fishing impacts on the resource - Once we decide to fish we all have stepped on the that slope. That is unless you fish without a hook point; which I often do becaue of my poor casting technique.

They fish don't really care whether they die from being bonked or hooking mortality associated from CnR.

Skilly -
Regarding carry capacity - If you are speaking of the historic capacity you are certainly correct. However the unfortunate state of affairs is that through habitat degradation we have so depleted the habitat on some of our rivers that carry capacity is easily achieved. In some cases (upper Columbia for example) the carrying capacity has been so lowered that the survival of the species is nearly completely dependent on the continued planting of hatchery fish.

The classic definition of carrying capactiy is that any escapements above a certain point doesn't result in large returns. Or if on the average an given escapement can't relace itself that escapement level is above carrying capacity. That value is a moving target that is constantly changing with survival conditions. For example here in Puget Sound for the last 5 years parent escapements of wild winter steelhead on the Snohomish system was in the 6,000 to 7,000 range but they only produced a return (before any fishing) of about 3,000. This means that at currently survival conditions carrying capacity is likely less than 3,000. WDFW's inability to maintain the Snohomish population at or above the 6,500 escapement is not from management failure but rather the worsting of survival conditions. At best no harvest would only prolong the time it would take the population to stablize under the new conditions.

Tight lines
S malma

02-14-2004, 08:49 AM
For a depleted river, the Salmon had an interesting year for fall steelhead. It was averaging 20 minutes a fish for one census.

The dams have a big negative imact on the Columbia and Snake. In spite of that 2000 was a record return. The ocean and snowpack also have a lot to do with survival. We often try to get too simple about complex issues.

The Columbia must have been something to fish with an estimated 20 million salmonids returning prior to netting and canneries and dams and deforestation and dewatering.

I'm all for more C&R and since I fish mostly in Eastern Washington and Oregon I have not killed a wild steelhead in 20 + years.

02-14-2004, 09:03 AM
I believe that the most damage to Columia River fish and to the majority of the other rivers in the PNW is from the thousands of nets they have to avoid, not habitat degradation. Saying that the damage to the habitat is so severe that it has damaged the runs to the point they are now is just plane crap. Sometimes we all dance around the real problems for fear of being politicaly incorrect. Or from the frustration of knowing there is nothing we can do about it. Simply put, if they dont get there they cant spawn.

Oh I beleive in historic capacity,or the physical capacity of the the river to support fish, not contrived capacity.

Forgive me , sometimes I get wound up, because I am old enough to have seen what it was before nets. The Puyallup and the Green were great rivers. The Puyallup used to be second only to the Cowlitz.

02-15-2004, 12:04 AM

I like your ideas. They would stop the elitist cries that are happening now, would protect the fish, and cause a person to think about whether bonking his 1 wild fish is worth giving up the March/April C&R fishing.


I don't think a fly fishing only regulation is needed, selective gear rules would be sufficient. We all know there is no need for a treble hook and that spoons and plugs and yarn work very well on with single, barbless hooks.

02-15-2004, 10:36 PM
Thought this thread would have generated more discussion; perhaps everyone was out on the water. I got out for the first time since before the New Year and if you got out hope you had as enjoyable day(s) on the water as I did.

Ryan –
I left a couple of your questions unanswered.

I don’t see that much additional protection would be needed for the steelhead parr. What were your concerns? While the guidelines were for steelhead I feel that it should be integrated to include other species as well as the resident rainbows.

Regarding the early returning wild fish. While the closure of the upper half of the basin to the retention of wild steelhead may not be perfect I believe it is a giant step in the right direction. Most feel that the early fish typically spawn in the upper basin so once they reach that point they would be more or less home free. When coupled to the 1 fish limit it would be likely that overall exploitation on the wild fish would be significantly reduced. With low harvest rates the “bonking” would be spread across most of the run timing rather than just the early portion.

Regarding putting aside 25% of the basin that would not receive hatchery plants. This idea of hatchery free zones has been around for sometime. Most recently the Hatchery Scientific Review Group recommend that each basin have a wild steelhead management zone. My idea would extend that to a wild fish management zone. Using the Skagit as an example my idea would be to set aside the Sauk as a wild fish management zone. The Sauk would not be planted with any hatchery steelhead. In addition it would be managed as CnR river (selective gear restrictions) for all game fish species (all ready closed to salmon). This would be for the full season – in this case from June 1 to the end of the following April. The advantage of such a system is probably clear to all readers of this forum – it would protect the wild steelhead (both summers and winters; adults and juveniles), allow the resident rainbows to flourish to their potential, and remove some of the harvest pressure from the bull trout. While doing this it would provide what could only be termed a world class angling opportunity; especially when coupled with the rest of the ideas in the guidelines.

While I’m not so naïve to think the my half baked ideas would be the end out to steelhead management I think it does illustrate would might be possible with some integrated thinking on our parts. I think that just a few years we would create more converts to wild fish management than the current blanket approach. I liken it to what occurred with the early CnR steelhead season nearly 25 years ago and how folks learned that there are differences between wild and hatchery steelhead and that they don’t all die when released.

Tight lines
S malma

02-16-2004, 04:09 PM
Smalma, I like your ideas, I am still not quite to a point of warm and fuzzy on targeting harvest on the early component of the run due to genetic diversity concerns and potential to target only the "trophy" fish.

Maybe this "cease fire" will be a wake up to get better management ideas to the table that can actually provide better conservation for wild steelhead while still providing opportunity. Without this wake up call it would still remain business as usual.

A good project manager once shared with me and I think it applys- "change will only happen when the status quo becomes unbearable"

02-17-2004, 12:32 AM
Smalma, I'm especially pleased to see how you lay out a comprehensive package of regs that address hatchery operations, protecting resident fish populations and rearing juvenile steelhead, as well as the harvest of wild fish.

Like some of the others that posted here, I have a question about the choice of limiting a 1 fish harvest to Dec-February. If a stock is expected to have a run-size sufficiently above the escapement goal, why not allow that 1-fish to be taken during the period of peak returns (March-April)? I guess one angle on that is, coupled with the "one-punch and your season is over" rule, it would likely get a few more anglers off the river by spring. But do you think there are sound biological reasons for targeting a harvest fishery on the early returning fish rather than those coming in March-April?

My second question has to do with hatchery practices. The recent report commissioned by Trout Unlimited ("A landscape perspective on hatchery reform") argued for treating hatcheries as satellite or tributary populations within larger river basins. They basically argue that hatchery smolts ought to be produced in ways (total numbers released as well as life history traits) that mimic a wild population from that tributary stream. What are your reasons for limiting smolt plants only in the mainstems? If, for example, the Reiter Hatchery project were replaced with a new project on the Sultan below Spada Lake, do you think that might have some positive impacts on the mainstem Skykomish wild steelhead populations?

A final nagging issue for me is the use of pre-season run-size forecasts. It's clear that some kind of forecast is necessary for setting seasons for the coming year, but it's also clear that forecasting fish returns is very difficult. Wouldn't it make more sense to require pre-season run-size forecasts to include a +/- error so that managers incorporated more formal risk assessments with a projected high-low range of expected escapements for the coming year?

Thanks for sharing your recommendations here, I hope this is the direction WDFW goes as they revise the state's Steelhead Management Plan. I also hope that the people reading and writing on this BB get involved in that revision process.

02-17-2004, 10:53 PM
Remember that the guidelines that I proposed are just mime. As such they reflect my comfort with them and their ability to provide adequate protection for the wild steelhead resource. Each of the readers needs to make their own assessment of them based on their own comfort in accepting the risks that are inherent in them. It is important to balance those risks with the potential benefits of recreation and the support of passionate users and supports of that resource.

Regarding your first question on whether the guidelines provide adequate protection for the early portion of the run and why not limit harvest to the March/April period. For me closure of the upper half of the basin to the harvest of wild fish is a huge step in the conservation of the resource including the early returning wild fish. The frequency of high waters during the early winter coupled with the limit of a 1 fish annual limit would be expected to pass most of the early fish upstream to the “safe water”.

With anglers having to choose when and which wild fish to harvest it is my expectation is that wild harvest rates would fall dramatically. In addition by limiting the anglers to harvesting prior to March/April and requiring that anglers fishing the late season to have an used wild fish punch should cause anglers to think about their impacts on the wild fish and the value of those fish to each individual angler. The question for them to wrestle with is harvesting an individual wild fish worth giving up the ticket to the late season. My guess is that just as with the CnR seasons of 20 years ago such a management scheme will continue to convert more anglers to the CnR ethic and the value of the wild resource for something other than a few pounds of protein.

In addition am for one am not sure that the decline of the early wild winters is as great as many seem to believe; at least here in North Puget Sound. The earliest punch card catch summary (uncorrected for punch card bias) that I have access is from the 1953/54 season. Looking at the Skagit information it shows that the total winter catch was 5,181 (Skagit and Sauk from December through March). The Skagit at that time was receiving hatchery fish with the smolts planted beginning in 1950 being large enough and planted at the right time in the spring so it is likely that at least some fish were contributing to the catches. In addition with the season ending at the end of March (mid-March for the Sauk and Skagit above Marblemount closed) it is reasonable that only a portion of the run entered the river during an open season. With those seasons and limited gear and angler effort of the time it is unlikely that the anglers caught ½ of the run and perhaps only a 1/3 of the run. The December catch was 354 fish or about 10% of the catch and 5% of the run if the anglers caught ½ and only a little over 2% if they caught a 1/3 of the run.

A similar exercise for the Stillaguamish where hatchery fish were not yet planted yields slightly lower values. This matches well with the anecdotal information from those that had fished prior to WW II. It should also be noted that by the mid-1950s there were substantial returning hatchery fish in the most systems that colors the experience of most of fishing today. While it is my belief that the a small portion of the wild run returned in December in Puget Sound that may not have been the case on the Olympic Peninsula where the steelhead spawning earlier than in the North Sound thus they likely had an earlier return timing.

Regarding my suggestion of the planting of the hatchery fish in the main stem areas. My reasoning was pretty simple. With the returning fish concentrated in the more accessible main stem the harvest rates would be higher yield a higher return to the angler and fewer fish to interact with the wild fish. In addition with less trucking of the smolts to adult survival of the fish planted would likely be higher again yield higher returns to the anglers. I’m not sure that I buy that a hatchery program that mimic the wild fish life histories is necessarily the best thing. Fish returning with the same run timing as the wild fish would unnecessarily complicate harvest management putting additional pressure on the wild fish – for example how would the gill nets be able to target the returning hatchery fish w/o catching too many wild fish.

Regarding the likely errors in the forecast methods. Typically the way the runs could be (and have been) managed is to take the managers best shot at forecasting the runs size and place a conservative management plan for the fishery and them monitor the escapements. If the escapement is above the targets great, if not then the manager tweaks the forecasting and management methods in a more conservative direction. The goal would be for the long term being at or above the management targets. When the targets have some bias on the conservative side the result is a management scheme that has built adjustments for the uncertainty or error factors with the risks primarily placed on the fishers rather than the fish. While such an approach is far from perfect and may not met your own risk comfort it is in my opinion a responsible approach.

Once again I have been way too long winded- however this helps to provide some clarification.

Tight lines
S malma