Hatcheries, Native vs. Wild, and other Intertwined topics [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Hatcheries, Native vs. Wild, and other Intertwined topics

01-11-2002, 03:10 PM
As a result of an annual contest for a Spey line going to the first "native" fish of the year on a fly, the following discussion arose (subsequent messages below)

I moved it out of the contest announcement thread with a more suitable title cuz' it is an important topic and has some great views to consider...

01-11-2002, 03:32 PM
I would say there must be a case for stripping wild fish where the native population is at risk of disappearing completely. That would be preferable to introducing a strain from another area. The problem for me with this issue is that were talking about symptoms (i.e. low / unsustainable resident populations ) rather than root causes - loss of spawning habitat, polution, poaching, irresponsible commercial practices etc.
Dealing with one without a corresponding battle plan to deal with the other would tend to end up with an artificial fishery. Better than nothing but much better avoided if possible.

I enjoy reading the PNW threads because there is a passion for conservation up there and I know that many of the folks on this board are actively involved in tackling root cause problems. Kudos to you all!


01-12-2002, 01:49 AM
After reading the posts about BC's hatchery system, I have to bring up one point about a hatchery system in the states that is as close to BC as Scott has explained.

The North Umpqua has been using river specific wild broodstock for many, many years. The Rock Creek hatchery does not recycle hatch fish, as well they try to secure brood stock through out the run to keep the genetics as spread out as possible.

I would like to see hard quantifiable results that these operations are IMPROVING the North Umpqua's native summer run. Are there any? I highly doubt it.

The North Umpqua is one river in the USA that could kiss its hatchery good bye and not miss it a bit. In recent years the wild run has numbered the 30 or 40 year historical count.

My anecdotal results are, over the last 10 years, 80% wild to hatchery, and I fish the river from deadline to above steamboat. On some of those years the hatchery run has been as high as 65% of the total. So, does this mean that even these "wild" brood hatchery fish exhibit similar angling traits to hatch fish that are many generations removed from the wild or their native river basins? I think if all of the N. Umpqua's anlgers were polled one would find somewhat similar results.

On the other hand, my stance on hatchery fish in general. I do not believe they are akin to the devil. In todays day and age they are a vital component to the Columbia basin, among others. Reform down the lines that Scott is speaking should become standard practice in all river systems. Weed out the outplants and try to build a more river specific gene pool without endless recycling of hatch fish. Fewer but better fish should be our management goal.

When it comes to Snake river drainage fish, I have found there to be little difference between hatch and wild. Especially when compared to coastal runs. They both willingly come to the surface and have similar fighting characteristics. It is possible that this is due to the inbreeding that has been taking place on the redds for many, many generations, who knows.

The day I almost quit fishing for steelhead happened in early october 1998 on the Clearwater. I hooked an absolute missile that put up THE best ariel display, coupled with nearly unstoppable runs, in my angling career. This fish is measured against some great one's on the Dean, Thompson, and Skagit. When I brought her to shore some 15 minutes later, she was perfect in every detail with fully formed fins and an adipose the size of my thumb, as close to a true inland wild fish left in this river. Somehow when this fish slammed the fly, she took it in deep and was hooked in the tonge which severed her gill rakers during the fight, this 34" hen fish bleed to death as I was releasing her. This fish was truly an endangered specie and I had "incidently" killed her.

From that point forward I realized I am partaking in a blood sport that is not without consequences no matter the intentions. Even though the Clearwater is 95% hatchery return (minus the strays), each day out I say a little prayer hoping not to repeat what happened a few years ago. This applies to all wild salmonids. If this had been a hatch fish, I would have shrugged my shoulders wondering why while being irritated at not being able to harvest a dead fish because of the C&R season not ending for another week.

Yes, hatchery fish do have a place nowadays, and if hatchery managers would pull their heads out (politics aside) and realize that a fish is not just a fish, we could help mother nature start to correct the genetic damage that has been done.


01-12-2002, 07:27 AM
Excellent discussion and points on this complex issue by every one.

Here in the Mid west there are two rivers I know of where no steelhead or salmon have been stocked for a number of years which have only wild fish in them. No hatchery plants are made in either. Also most of the rivers here have some wild but are predominately hatchery supported.

Steelhead were introduced to these rivers from west coast strains in 1882. They have been naturally reproducing for 120 years. Both of these rivers have large closed sections in their upper head waters during the prime spawning periods to protect the wild fish.

Question are there any PNW (except BC) rivers left which do not have hatchery plants and have a healthy wild run ? My understanding is that some of the famous BC rivers still have wild runs only, but I could be wrong.

You don't have to name the rivers here, just like to know if there are any left?

Or your could PM me for a sidebar discussion.

Thanks for the great discussion, obviously our conservation departments are behind on addressing this issue, from what I can see BC has been the leader.

:confused: :confused:

Scott K
01-12-2002, 12:32 PM
In BC, the majority of Steelhead streams still have ALL Wild runs (with systems like the Bulkley which is all wild having 30,000 Wild fish returning on some years) with the hatcheries appearing on the streams around Vancouver and on some Vancouver Island Streams for many obvious reasons.

Having said that, my understanding for hatcheries in BC is that they are for a fishery primarily and that if you want to rebuild a run, it is the mandate of the province to take the long run approach which is rebuilding the capacity of the river (IE restoring habitat, nutrient enrichment, etc.) to support wild fish as opposed to using hatcheries for rebuilding runs. Everything that comes out of a hatchery must be clipped for an angler to identify it as a hatchery fish and then he or she can determine if they want to take it home. Having said that, as I iterated before, if some hatchery fish spawn, since they are all native hatchery fish in BC primarily, and they are from wild native parents, it isn't going to hurt the stock as much as say having non native fish spawning and displacing wild native juveniles with the non native juveniles, etc.


01-12-2002, 02:50 PM

Thanks, 30,000 wild fish is a lot for one river. Did not realize that any river in PNW still had this large amount of all wild fish.

Do not understand though why they allow bait fishing on the Thompson for wild fish which must be released ? Thats a dichotomy to me that can be explained rationally, except for local politics not allowing fly fishing only, when the Thompson is open for fishing. My understanding is that some years it is not open due to the low projected return of wild fish.


01-12-2002, 07:13 PM

Including the Bulkley in the PNW is a bit of a stretch at 15hrs and 18 hrs driving time from Vancouver and Seattle it is somewhat of a serious trip!

Your query re baitfishing on the Thompson enters into a major controversy. This arguement resulted in the near death of the BC Steelhead Society! This is politics akin to the Bubbas's wanting the kill fishery on Skagit wild fish. So hot was this debate that a massive split and polarization steelhead anglers occurred in BC. It seems that many gearfishers percieved the desire for a bait ban as the thin edge of the wedge for "fly-only" and though this was certainly not the case some ill-advised elitist comments by some influential flyfishers precipitated a "cold-war" that has critically endangered the incredibly valuable role of the Steelhead Society. The Society is making a valiant effort to recover its position and support and appears to be making some headway.

As for the actual question of bait on the Thompson, it does seem somewhat difficult to justify on a river that is 100% wild and considered to harbour the most powerful steelhead on the planet. The Thompson has never been closed to fishing, though 2 years ago there was some considration to do so but the fish showed up and it remained open. Fisheries managers do continue to have concerns for this fishery and the issue of bait will have to be resolved sooner I think rather than later.

Scott K
01-13-2002, 04:58 AM
PM fly fisher said the following:

"Question are there any PNW (except BC) rivers left which do not have hatchery plants and have a healthy wild run ? My understanding is that some of the famous BC rivers still have wild runs only, but I could be wrong."

I was reassuring him that some of the famous BC Rivers still have wild runs only, which the Bulkley is a prominent symbol of Wild Steelhead because of it's adundant Wild Steelhead Runs. I apoligize if I have a bit of pride in living in BC and still having rivers that have good runs of Wild Steelhead. I'm sure they won't crowd you out Kush....and if they try to the tiger might have to shed his cheetah paint, ahem, cough...

I would like to know why you all of a sudden brought up all this stuff about the Steelhead Society in all honesty? I did state that I was a member of the STeelhead Society at the forefront of one of my speels about native steelhead stocking versus non native steelhead stocking, but I also iterated that It was my PERSONAL opinion when I said I thought there should be a bait ban on the Thompson River in a seperate post in response to Double Spey's post.

It has NOT been the mandate of the Steelhead Society to push one gear method over another Tyler. If you would like some history behind that, I can give it to you:

At the 1995 SSBC AGM there was a question posed of the participants at the AGM. "Are you in favour of a Thompson River Bait Ban?" 84 percent voted yes, 16 percent voted NO.
After the results were revealed to the participants/voters/members, a widespread debate broke out, and the results of this debate were that it was not the mandate of the SSBC to advocate one gear method over another, so the results of this vote were simply just for your information.

The guys who went off on their own tangent (the 16 percenters as some call theM) and formed a certain organization because of fear of losing their gear method and I PERSONALLY think were insecure. The guys who were trying to use the SSBC to push their gear method (IE fly) over another guys were wrong and should have really moved over to their OTHER organizations podium that didn't say SSBC. The Steelhead Society at the start was a group of anglers concerned about the plight of Steelhead (started in 1970). Note in the history, it doesn't say "bait anglers" or "spoon anglers" or "fly anglers," but simply "anglers." I don't give a **** if you use Dynamite, and it's legal, to stun and release your STeelhead, if you care about them and you are interested in seeing them return it would be best you get into this organization. The mandate of the Society is to restore, rehabilitate, advocated for, protect, educate, with regards to Wild Steelhead and their habitat. How this should be done is a bunch of hardcore anglers, because anglers are the principal users of the Steelhead Fishing resource and they most likely care the most about them, getting togther in local branches which comprise the Steelhead Society and working with solving issues that affect/effect the Steelhead in the rivers that are within a range of their branches main location. NO egos. No BS. This is what branches such as the Campbell River, and Bulkley Branch were up to until late 1999 when whatever happened and things all of a sudden went dormant.

01-13-2002, 06:49 AM
Blurb in yesterdays newspaper that the State of Oregon (at least for the winter season) has upped the daily catch limit for Hatchery fish from 2 to 3 per day. State still strongly recommends (and limits) releasing of non-clipped fish. So you could have one 'native' and 2 clipped or 3 clipped fish in the trunk of your car and still be considered a 'good person.'

Hatchery, or not, clipped or not, 99.5% of the fish I hook go back into the river.

01-13-2002, 09:04 AM
Glad to see there is controversey over the bait fishing on the Thompson and they are in the minority. But even if they limit it to arterficial lures only (fly, plugs, spinners) to me the plugs and spinners are also very harmful to the fish at times when they take them deep or into their gills.

Fly fishing, no kill, barbless hook only seems to me the only way to go. My .02 cents. (Remember I grew up on the first no kill fishery in US the Beaverkill fly only no kill which was established in 1966 or 67. Today it still has excellent trout fishing.)

Fred did not realize you could still kill wild steelhead in Oregon, what a shame. Thought they were more advanced. Oh well must be a lot of wild steelhead for me there to catch is my deduction. Save some for me. :chuckle: :chuckle:

01-13-2002, 12:16 PM

I apologize if I touched a nerve - which I obviously did. I brought the debate up as I think that we as fly fishers need to be reminded at times that we are just fisherman, no better or worse than anyone else. Now it may very well be that bait on the Thompson is unjustifiable (I agree - it is not) and that flyfishing for steelhead is the most challenging and therefore most rewarding way to fish, but what we remember is that this is a choice - our choice - and others feel differently.

What happened in the SSBC bait ban proposal resulted in the polarization of steelheaders, which in my mind creates the weakness that will allow users of the resource that are NOT fish friendly (commercial, logging, dam builders, etc.) to gain influence and control over the fish and the water. In the PNW, the power companies and logging interests greatly favour hatchery fish for example, as it allows them to degregate the environment while putting "fish" back into it. To combat these users, who usually have the ear of the legislators steelheaders cannot afford to have their voice split by things as insignificant as arguments over gear types.

My statement alluding to the Drift Fisher's Association was made to emphasize that even though the bait ban proposal had NOTHING to do with "fly-only" proposals it sent a huge red flag up in the minds of many gear fishers who perceived the next step as whole rivers for the "elitists". The near demise of the SSBC was one of the major results. Yes I know about the financial issues that clouded the SSBC, but in my opinion these would have gone away had the membership not been fractured and looking for excuses to break away.

Why did I bring this up? Probably for a couple of reasons, first on the "Snoopy rod" thread a few people were appearing to take themselves and the obviously "fun" post too seriously saying things like this is a flyfishing board - which is fair enough! I would not spend time here myself if this were a general board, as it takes too much energy to wade through the flamers and gear talk on other boards. However, we should be allowed to have some fun and be secure enough in our choices to relax with something like this. As you might be able to tell, my main reason for responding as I did was that I really do believe that all steelheaders must have the resource first in their minds - not some petty argument about choice over gear. The opposing forces out there don't care how we fish they just want our resource!

In conclusion to my diatribe, maybe I kind of ambushed a somewhat innocent question with a whole other issue but it is an important one for all of us to think about. Scott, judging by your response I think you and I are on the same page and took advantage of your question to further explain my position - thank you. Each one of us should try to do our bit on the river, personally I now take a second to say hi to gear guys when I meet them on the river, instead of walking by them as if they were lepers I ask them how it's going, it is a small thing but it is a start.

01-15-2002, 11:15 AM
Even though we flyfishers argue that bait kills and hence should be eliminated from all wild fisheries, the scientific data does not really support this. Let me preface this by saying I am discussing upstream winter fish. The impact of bait on downstream kelts and summer smolts is significant. I also realize that this thread is focusing on the Thompson summer run fish so the data I have may not totally apply.

There is not a lot out here on hooking mortality for steelhead but what there is comes out of BC and suggests that the largest factor is barbed hooks. Two studies, both by Bob Hooton have set total incidental mortality at between 5.1 and 3.6%. When gear type is examined, Barbed/Bait yielded 9.1% mortality while Barbless/Bait only yielded 3.0% mortality. It is interesting to note that Barbless/No Bait was only slightly lower at 2.6%.

The only Thompson specific data I have comes from a Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks unpublished study. It reported that of the 436 steelhead collected from the Thompson for brood stock between 1982-1995, there was a hooking mortality rate of 1.61%. Gear type is not specified but if the MELP used similar catch practices to those used on the Vancouver Island streams, bait and barbed hooks were used. Can't say for sure though.

I don't bring this up to argue for bait or to champion fly only waters. Instead, I bring it up as a warning to not get caught up in the rhetoric and emotion without the data to support the arguments.

There is much work that needs to be done to ensure our wild fish survive and hopefully once again thrive. My personal opinion is that divisive arguments between gear types simply weakens our political power and plays into the hands of those that want to exploit the resource.

One other personal aside if I may. I am a flyfisher and have been solely so for over twenty years. It is just what I do and what I enjoy. For the life of me I can't understand what seems to be a common attitude that flyfishing is the best way to fish and is what all anglers should aspire to. To be honest, there are enough flyfishers (some might even say too many) already. I have no desire to recruit more. :smokin:


01-15-2002, 03:13 PM
As a Wild Steelhead Coalition member I hope we are able to comprehend what happened with the BC Steelhead Society. As the WSC defines its political stances in the coming years this issue that almost destroyed the BCSS will raise its ugly head. Let us worry about unifying all fishermen for a 110% increase in native steelhead in our rivers and not worry about if 10% native fish mortality is due to bait or not. Right or wrong sometimes ya got to give a little.
You must be one of those ultra elitist fly flingers that don't want anyone else but you and your buddies fly fishing! " Boy am I glad I'm one of your enviro fly flinging buddies".

01-15-2002, 03:18 PM
A great fisherman once told me that "all fishermen are a-holes except for those you are fishing with that day". Food for thought huh?


01-15-2002, 04:14 PM
Thanks for the enlightenment Sinktip. But didn't that saying pertain to just one fishing user group? You don't have to answer that.
The new age fly fisherman.

01-15-2002, 04:15 PM
Right ON ST!!! That one is going on my SIG file :devil:

01-15-2002, 04:38 PM
On topic, (although I got a chuckle out of the tomfoolery)...

Although using local brood is an improvement over other strains, what do those who approve of hatcheries say about the impact of the following:

a) natural hatchling elimination due to unfit specimens does not happen in the ideal conditions of the egg tray

b) fish never learn territorialism as they must in the wild

c) feed accelerates growth up to 300% of natural size

d) concrete tank is vulnerable to disease due to unnatural conditions

e) fish are imprinted with a totally unnatural behavior pattern of pellet feeding and actually respond positively to footsteps of humans

f) jumbo concrete-reared specimens are released en masse eating everything in sight as they descend the river, including their own stream born cousins

g) each generation for the rapidly evolving animal that the steelhead is degrades the natural instincts of the native fish that took hundreds of thousands of years to refine

And why do we use hatcheries? To support exploitation. Something just doesn't add up there for me when natives are involved. If the river needs a hatchery, that's one thing. If a river has the chance to sustain a healthy once native / now wild from native strain, why ruin it? Furthermore if a river has a thriving native/native population, don't fix it if it aint' broke cause there is no way mankind can improve upon it except by protecting it from harm.

I don't mean to be in any way offensive here, I know how the written word can obfuscate the sincerity and well-meaning of my point.

IMHO there is no way to combine the words native and hatchery.



Scott K
01-16-2002, 04:11 AM
Although using local brood is an improvement over other strains, what do those who approve of hatcheries say about the impact of the following:

Scott: I don't approve of hatcheries when they aren't neccessary, but I think that if you have responsible hatchery practices which means you use Native Wild Steelhead for broodstock only, and you release their offspring (which must be CLIPPED) into the Lower Rivers below the main Wild Steelhead juvenile areas that they will be less likely to a) Residualize b) compete with Wild Steelhead juveniles because they will move to sea usually fairly quickly, especially if there is a freshet occuring which will displace them downstream into the estuary. Hatcheries are created for a few reasons.
a) to have a meat fishery b) to rebuild runs. I think that in the long run of things, using hatcheries for letter b) is slowly but surely becoming obsolete and less preferred, at least by those biologists/hatchery managers in BC and the long run of rebuilding habitat and the nutrients of the stream is more preferred for many genetic and scientfic reasons.

a) natural hatchling elimination due to unfit specimens does not happen in the ideal conditions of the egg tray

Scott: Increased egg to fry fecundity is a product of raising fish in a hatchery. Instead of 10 percent in the wild in many cases, you can have as much as 90-99 percent survival in some instances in a hatchery.

b) fish never learn territorialism as they must in the wild

Scott: This is very true and probably one of the reasons that hatchery Steelhead don't return in numbers to that of the Wild Steelhead Juveniles (smolts) to adults. At the same time, I personally feel that you will have better survival if you use NATIVE wild broodstock for your hatchery programs instead of nonnative wild or hatchery broodstock for your broodstock/hatchery programs. I will get to why in a coming paragraph.

c) feed accelerates growth up to 300% of natural size

This seems to be a bit of a half-truth in my opinion. Natural size of what compared to what? Steelhead in general have a size range, depending on river, that they must attain before they smolt. Some races of fish require from 1,2,3, and even 4 years before they attain this range size and move out to sea. Variables to consider are nutrients in the stream, quality of the habitat, and the race of fish in attaining this smolting size. In the hatchery, it is often a set limit and the fish are fed to attain a certain size by a certain release date, but the fish don't have a set size, but more of a range. Some Steelhead may smolt at 60 grams, some many not smolt til they're 120 grams. The fish will tell you when, in a hatchery enviroment, when they smolt and the silvery colouration is one of the main markers that hatchery techs look for when determining the exact release date. There are also tests that can be done to determine if the fish is smolted. This is similar in the wild, only the fish will most likely grow slower, or faster, depending on the quality of habitat and the requirements for this race and the specifics of the river. It has been proven that better fed hatchery smolts will outcompete wild parr in the wild because of their larger size, but how is this avoided? Once again, with responsible release locations in the lower rivers of rivers.

d) concrete tank is vulnerable to disease due to unnatural conditions

Scott: Yes this is true in hatcheries. Something to also consider is that every river has parasites in it and that the various races of Steelhead have adapted to these parasites. Also, considering Wild native broostock. When you are transplanting all these out of basin hatchery fish into rivers for hatchery fisheries/releases, you are spreading disease a lot faster (because of shared incubation and rearing water at hatcheries) than using only native fish for broodstock on a native stream with native water as the water source for the hatchery. Good husbandry is also something to consider when look at diseases in hatchery enviroments.

e) fish are imprinted with a totally unnatural behavior pattern of pellet feeding and actually respond positively to footsteps of humans

Scott: This is quite true, and this relates to fish losing their territorial aggression in the wild. Where I volunteer, a hatchery on a Lower Mainland (Vancouver) river it is common practice for the smolts to congregate close to the edge of the pond when they see your shadow because they know they will get fed. AGain, this is also one reason why hatchery smolts don't fair as well as wild smolts.

f) jumbo concrete-reared specimens are released en masse eating everything in sight as they descend the river, including their own stream born cousins

Scott: Again, responsible release practices which take into consideration of wild fish rearing come into play here. Fish are imprinted on two things. 1) Their rearing site. 2) Their release site. The fish will return to whatever is more accomodating in terms of migration as adults, with the rearing site holding more authority. Lets say we have a hatchery located at 25 KM up river, and the fish were released 10 KM up river (from the saltchuck would be 15 km downstream from the hatchery obviously), most of the Steelhead when they return will return to their release site, with some returning to the rearing site (IE the hatchery).
If the release site is upstream of the hatchey, most fish will return to the hatchery (rearing site). If they were released from the hatchery, they will most likely return to the hatchery in most cases. When you have OUt of basin transplanted broodstock or Non Native broodstock sources, the fish will return to either their release site, their rearing site (hatchery) or even their native river where they were originally taken from. This promotes straying of non native hatchery fish. Do we need straying occuring? Yes, in the wild, but with hatchery fish?

g) each generation for the rapidly evolving animal that the steelhead is degrades the natural instincts of the native fish that took hundreds of thousands of years to refine

Scott: This is why you should take Wild Native broodstock for your hatchery programs. The only degradation these fish (fry, parr, smolts from wild native parents) face are that they live 1-3 years (depending on their feeding cycle and when they want to smolt) in the hatchery. They haven't lived through a constant degradation cycle lacking natural selection involving being taken from hatchery broodstock constantly cycle after cycle, thus their survival rates are higher because they come from wild native parents who have undergone both natural selection, and since they are native, they are passing on key survival traits genetically to their offspring from their home river, regardless of their initial stay at the hatchery, they will survive and imprint better on their home river because they are native and you get more bang for your bucks with your hatchery programs with higher returns then with non native hatchery or wild broodstock.

And why do we use hatcheries? To support exploitation. Something just doesn't add up there for me when natives are involved. If the river needs a hatchery, that's one thing. If a river has the chance to sustain a healthy once native / now wild from native strain, why ruin it? Furthermore if a river has a thriving native/native population, don't fix it if it aint' broke cause there is no way mankind can improve upon it except by protecting it from harm.

Scott: I think that your argument doesn't offer a lot of reasons not to use Wild Native broodstock for a hatchery program, but merely attacking hatcheries in general. I think that having a hatchery on a river that uses (hatchery or wild) NON NATIVE broodstock to produce it's smolts and then saying you don't want to take natives for the hatchery broodstock program is a contradiction. The Non native smolts and eventually adult returns will displace the Native Wild Steelhead in the river because their offspring, when they spawn, will displace the native offspring, well not neccessarily, but they will take up a food base, and since these non native fish have undergone cycle after cycle lacking natural selection, it will hur the stock. They will also introgress with the Wild Stock which will destroy it's ability to survive be weakening the native Gene pool. It is VERY unrealistic to expect all Non native hatchery adult returns to be bonked. Many of them spawn, you know it, and I know it. When you take Native Wild Broodstock for your hatchery programs, and these fish eventually return and spawn, at least they have the genetics and adaptions that were passed to them from their wild parents and their offspring, which will survive, won't hurt the stock because they are wild, and it may be said they can actually help the run a bit instead of hurt it which non native Steelhead will.

I don't mean to be in any way offensive here, I know how the written word can obfuscate the sincerity and well-meaning of my point.

Scott: No offense taken, I care about the fish, period. I think that you do too.

IMHO there is no way to combine the words native and hatchery.

Scott: It's the Policy of Steelhead Managers in BC and hatchery managers to only take Wild Native Broodstock for hatchery programs. If you use the Chilliwack/Vedder River as your indicator, it may be said that these actually helped the run. Genetically, this stock has a race that spawns above Chilliwack Lake in the completely unlogged intact Upper Chiliwack River which starts in the Cascades of the USA, and even hatchery fish, with the genetics in them from their wild native parents, have been found through radio tagging studies to bypass their release site and the hatchery (their rearing site) en route in going above the lake which is about 30 km upstream to utilize this habitat for spawning, and eventually the fry, their offspring will rear up here in this intact habitat.

Scott: I want to further add that I am not in support of using hatcheries when not neccessary as I iterated at the start. I think that some rivers in BC have hatcheries, where they don't need hatcheries, but that the increased numbers from the hatcheries have harboured fairly popular take home fisheries that have done a good job in supporting the local economies that surround rivers. This is one reason why, these hatchery programs will probalby be continued (on top of the demand for a hatchery steelhead meat fishery). If we have responsible hatchery programs then, we can "sort of" have the best of both worlds with hatchery releases and operations that minimize competition between hatchery and wild stocks, and at the same time increase the numbers of fish returning which promotes the local fishery.

Scott: Hatcheries may be considered the symbol of a dead river in some instances because if you look at what a hatchery does, it in effect, takes care of the Steelheads freshwater life cycle. It is saying that fish can't live in this river, so they need the hatchery to bypass this part of their lives to get to the sea and then they will return as adults later on. We have to do what it takes, to make sure that hatcheries aren't there to rebuild runs, but only there for fisheries. At the same time, as I am interating again, it is important they are taken from wild native broodstock (as in what we do in BC) so as to minimize the impact and degradation caused by hatchery programs have use out of basin Non native hatchery or wild fish for their hatchery programs to transplant into various rivers.


Scott: Your American 2 cents is worth about 3.5 cents in Canada now, so my 3.5 cents...

01-16-2002, 06:02 AM
Scott -

Thanks for the thorough reply. I agree with you, we both care about steelhead and where hatcheries are necessary it's without a doubt better to use local strains as brood, as I have said repeatedly. But that is an argument that only matters in rivers that have already been adulterated. My argument is where we have strong native populations no hatcheries belong, regardless of brood.

Some may think 90-99 percent hatchling survival in a tray is better than 10% in the wild; I think it is a perfect statistic to indicate our margin of error for natural selection - about 80-90% wrong.

Yes, absolutely, positively I am debating the need for hatcheries in the first place on rivers with thriving native populations, not brood selection. Sorry if I did not make that clear enough. I am contending that there is no need for what they call "meat fisheries" in the first place when it comes to quality native river systems, regardless of the human population demanding it. Meat fishermen can drive to the designated hatchery rivers if they want meat. If they want to experience native steelhead, they should have that choice as well. But it's impossible for the two concepts to be combined, in fact they are opposite concepts. In Washington State these lines have been blurred for decades and the meat fishing mentality has dictated the fate of steelhead at the native strain's expense.

I am not debating the use of local brood where hatcheries are needed on those rivers too far gone to manage as quality native fisheries. As I have stated that this is a definite improvement over non-local brood in these cases.

If I had my way rivers that sustain native populations would have no hatchery activity at all, no meat fisheries, no intervention except to prevent the destruction of the run by mankind's clumsy hand as history has proven over and over. Twice the efforts we now invest in sprinkling pellets and chemically modified pH levels could be focused toward understanding the factors that make a river and it's steelhead survive, to be applied to other rivers needing attention.

There are far too many rivers that are past the point of no return, let these be the hatchery rivers that meat fishermen drive to and completely change the way we manage quality native populations by eliminating hatcheries and adopting quality fishery regulations where native fish cling to their existence.

01-16-2002, 11:57 AM
I don't know that much about Oregon but here in Washington we have two steelhead managers at the top who are in agreement , both of whom the Governor needs to fire immediately.
Crawford and Gibbons. They are the two men who have ben responsible for running our steelhead into oblivion. Sure over harvest before their time as well as habitat factors caused some decline before the, but from the studies done on the Keogh river on Vancouver Island steelhead can and do recover VERY quickly given the right management and habitat restoration. This is true even when the numbers of fish are desperately low.

Washington's Crawford and Gibbons are dead set in their antiquainted ways and refuse to look at alternatives. They believe against , all scientific/ historical facts that, that the best way to manage wild steelhead is to harvest as many as possible until the escapement goal is met. Any steelhead spawning over the escapement goal is considered by them to be waste. Instead of sound conservation they prefer their own mathematical models and theories. These are the same models and theories that have led to a statewide collapse of steelhead runs with the exception of 16 rivers. Every year however at least a few of these rivers have emergency closures because they are not even meeting 80% of their escapement goals.
Crawford and Gibbons also believe that hatcheries are the way to go. There is no scientific evidence that I know of that any type of hatchery program can or has ever been used to restore salmon/ steelhead runs on the west coast. I know of no instance where a hatchery run was able to colonize an area and become a wild run and I know of no instance in which a hatchery run did not cause a decline in the wild population. I have read a lot of studies on the fact.
I have a recent study by Michael Lynch and Martin O' Hely from the University of Oregon Biology Department showing how even in a captive breeding process the transfer of deleterious alleles leads to the extinction of species in 100% of cases.
Likewise the studies done on wild broodstock show that there is genetic drift even in first generation hatchery fish!!
There is NO good way to run a hatchery and protect wild fish at the same time.

Maybe it's time for a sustained letter writing campaign to Washington state legislators, Washington State Governor Gary Locke and the members of the fish and wildlife commission including the director calling for the resignation of Crawford and Gibbons?

Rob Allen

01-16-2002, 05:40 PM

I can't argue with much you have said but would encourage you and others to hold off on any letter writing campaign untill after the Feb. 8th commission meeting. If Gibbons loses that vote, who knows, he may decide to retire on his own.


01-16-2002, 07:13 PM
Sink tip you think it's possible that we could be that lucky?

as a side not of somewhat good news there have been an estimated 5000-10,000 wild chums spawning in the lower columbia and tribs this fall. We haven't seen that many since 1955

01-16-2002, 10:12 PM

I am cautiously optimistic on the first and just hopeful of the second. Either way, MSY and those that champion it are much like the dinosaurs. Times are changing and if not this year, the end will come soon. Hopefully when the clock tolls midnight on their extinction, we will still have some fish left.


"Hatchery fish for the table, wild fish for the future"

01-20-2002, 10:24 PM
The first steelhead that I landed was a planted fish of Chambers Creek stock raised by volunteer efforts at a small (25,000) smolt production rearing site on Salt Creek in Clallam County Washington. The Olympic Outdoor Sportsmen Association (Port Angeles) paid for the feed and rent to the fellow who owned the pond and paid for the electricity for the automatic feeders. A roster of fellows was posted so everyone Knew when he was to refill the Auto feeders.
The smolts were planted in several locations around Port Angeles one of which was Morse Creek, thats the one east of town in the bottom of the big horeshoe ditch with the closed end pointed south. The year was 1960 and I was very pleased. Riding my bicycle back home with two steelhead hanging from the handle bars is an old and distant memory but it is my first regarding planted steelheads.
Since that day I have lived and fished from California to Alaska and Idaho in the East. I'm certain that there are many places I have not fished but I am certain that there is not enough time left to return to all the places I have been fotunate enough to chase our beloved steelheads.
As part of my life was involved with Fisheries Management and Politics re. fish and habitat issues I was (and am) keenly interested in issues of this ilk. I note that several folks are of the opinion that hatchery stocks are needed in the Snake River and its tribs. Personaly I think its time to pull the plug on the hatcherys on the entire Columbia and Snake River Basin's.
Without jumping back to the web site for the Bonneville dam and its fish count I will say that the Coloumbia Snake has well over 100,000 summer steelhead that are wild. This is far greater than any other system and certainly adequate to continue the rebuilding that is under way.
Every year it seems the planted fish require more non traditional angling skills to "make them bite". Whereas the smaller number of Native Steelheads continue to increase in the landed column of those who are fishing with traditional methods (ie. dry line skating fly)! Actualy numerous interviews with Guided Gear fishers last season showed them landing (with bait even) many more Wild Steelhead that the much more numerous hatchery stocks.
One of the most radical of all small scale hatchery operations that I find troublesome is the Snider Creek rearing facility on the Sol Duc River of Olympic Penninsula fame. Taking fish from a wild population that is productive and viable to rear them in raceways at a lower return rate so they can be harvested by virtue of a missing fin is a little bit farther than I am willing to go.
Oh well the time will come I'm sure when the world will be a Perfect place but until then fight the good fight and be honest to your convictions, after all many have given alot for your right to exspress your views.
Peace in the valley.
Captin Jack

01-24-2002, 10:40 PM
Here are some good articles on why hatchery fish are not the solution from former Washington fisheries manager.


01-25-2002, 06:52 PM
As I stated in my earlier post the number of wild steelhead in the Coloumbia and Snake system was I thought well over 100,000, it appears that I was correct. The final count for the 2001 season was 149,734 wild steelhead,the total number of all steelhead was 634,088 over the Bonneville Dam.

01-25-2002, 11:09 PM
While I admire your optomism, I think it is premature to state that Columbia river wild steelhead are rebuilding. One or two good years does not make a comeback. Last year, as you said, about 150K wild steelhead came over Bonneville Dam, but the 10 yr average is well below 100K (at least according to DART). Last years smolt survival was poor and with some arm-waving going on now about another el nino, the future is still grim for Snake R fish.

I would agree that the plug should be pulled on hatcheries if Dworshak, Hells Canyon and other dams were pulled down first. But I don't really think that society will make the sacrifices needed to pull off a long term solution for wild upper Columbia and Snake River fish. So most of the in-river fixes will be hugely expensive efforts to eke out an extra 1/4 percent increase in survival at each dam.

I'm actually straddling the fence on this one. Part of me says that with improved spawning and rearing habitat -- and with the hope that better understanding of estuarine habitat will lead to better survival -- we can bring about a long term solution.

But the other part says that these fixes haven't worked (especially with chinook) and we should throw all the money we're spending on the Columbia River system at the coastal systems, where things aren't quite so bad yet, and pump the upper Columbia full of hatchery fish -- cannon fodder for the angling public. While I'm still not sure that we need that level of triage yet, it may be a more realistic long term goal.

01-25-2002, 11:57 PM
Not to mention the unknown numbers of thoes "wild fish" that are simply unclipped hatchery fish.

I am the eternal pessemist. It's a tough job but someone has to do it. Last years "banner" steelhead runs could not have come at a worse time. That may sound funny comming from a conservationist but it will turn out to be a double edged sword. There are a lot of anglers who have been reontroduced to salmon and steelhead fishing because of the good runs the last couple years. They will be screaming mad at any attempts to change hatchery managment. On top of that you have all the non-fishers who will think that wild fish managment is a waste of time becuase "obviously with so many fish around there is no problem." This is made worse by a number of government and non-government agencies misleading the public when it somes to the genetic differences between hatchery and wild fish.
Regardless of how many unclipped steelhead went over the dams last summer our wild fish are in as much danger of extinction as they have ever been.

01-26-2002, 12:49 AM
just to clarify, the genetic data doesn't lie - and it certainly isn't telling the story that most conservationists want to hear - but that's not to say that the genetic story is the WHOLE story. It ain't. Gotta be careful here, otherwise the people on the other side of the fence use our small mistakes against us.

01-26-2002, 01:47 AM
What data are you referring to? Contrary to what many have been saying, particularly in Oregon there is a genetic difference between hatchery fish and wild fish. There is however a large difference of opinion it is between the scientists who preform the testsing and the managers who interpret that testing. Any biologist actually studying this wil tell you that they can and do tell the difference between hatchery and wild fish genetically. Managers downplay thoes differences because they are afraid their jobs will get harder and they'll have to change their opinions!
Here are some solid facts!
1.. Hatchery fish are genetically distinguishable from wild fish.
even 1st generation hatchery fish(wild broodstock) show a loss of genetic diversity and have reduced survival and reproductive traits. differences that are measureable genetically!

2. Hatchery fish have never been used to establich a wild, self-sustaining run.

3 many groups are spreading false information suggesting that hatchery and wild fish are genetically identical. They have the support if fisheries managers but not the support of the biologists who actually did the studies!

01-26-2002, 06:42 AM
IMHO - No Hatcheries Where there are Native Runs to Maintain or Restore!

Perhaps it's just me but a philosophical tennet that I hold is that the fish come first, the fishing comes only if we deserve it - the fisherman enjoys the privilege (not the right) to pursue them. He enjoys this privilege as long as he and society maintains the fragile foundations needed to something as spectacular as a native steelhead run.

And then there are hatcheries... wherever there is native run to uphold, hatcheries create an undeserved indulgence of something that is much more unique and precious than people give credit anymore. In fact they confuse the issue. They make society believe that if there are <n> adults (clipped or unclipped) then we are doing something right. This surrogate steelhead farming makes the real thing suffer more and more with each infusion of pellet-fed concrete adolescents into the rivers of the system, done only to manufacture an unjustified sport indulgence opportunity in the same waters where real steelhead dwindle under the pressure.

Steelhead are not 'harvest', they are one of the most incredible gamefish on earth. In fact they are not just incredible gamefish, they are a miraculous animal. To be able to swing a fly to raise a native steelhead is truly a privilege in this day and age, and one that I fear will not last.

If you ask me society has lost sight of just how incredible it is to have native steelhead thriving in a percentage of our northwest rivers and we allow hatcheries to exist on these rivers. The indulgence in steelhead has become more important than the steelhead itself.

These two concepts, man's indulgence and nature's will to survive, merge into something we must sadly refer to as "wild" (neither hatchery nor native); state governments declare them as indistinguishable, majority of sportsmen differentiate only in the decision to bonk or not to bonk. How the hell did things ever get this screwed up?

Albeit hatcheries are not all bad...
In regions other than native steelhead country, it's brought a bounty of recurring streamborn steelhead populations from initial plantings. Throughout the Great Lakes pacific salmonids have brought an explosion of angling opportunities and billions in commerce. From an angling and commerce standpoint it's been a huge success; yet even there the native atlantic salmon that once thrived in Lake Ontario are now just an afterthought, virtually extinct but being reintroduced via... hatcheries.

To summarize, IMHO native steelhead rivers in the 21st century are too precious to be risking hatchery activity on, just so anglers and gill netters can exploit them. The impact on natives is just simply not worth it.

Thanks for letting me express my frustration over this matter!

01-26-2002, 10:56 AM
Excellent post Juro as a word smith I am lacking, its always good to see that others share my beleifs and even greater still to see them so well articulated.

01-26-2002, 11:19 AM
Juro, I absolutely agree with you. As a general rule, at least as far as steelhead in wild rivers go,most hatchery programs are the work of the devil. Best to protect and restore habitat whilst promoting angling with the least possible impact(least amount of fish hookings w/proper handling). IMHO the days of harvesting steelhead in rivers with wild populations should be a thing of the past. Competition arguments aside, the crowd that meat fisheries bring out are way too hard on wild populations. That said, perhaps there is a place for hatchery programs like those described by ScottK, especially in extreme instances(ie-12 returning adults). As far as the Steelhead Society of B.C. goes I would like to reiterate that we are in fact alive and well and working hard to protect wild runs as well as working to restore damaged habitat. As many of y'all like to fish our rivers I thought I would mention that we do accept and have members from a variety of countries who recognize the importance of 'wild fish in wild rivers'. Steelhead fishing is supposed to be hard, and should be left in the care of those that value the resource as a whole. Salmon are for eating. Brian Niska :smokin:

02-05-2002, 01:52 PM
How about fly and bait using circle hooks to reduce the damage to wild steelhead from both groups. I'm willing to miss out on a few hookups to avoid killing fish I want to or must release.

02-05-2002, 02:54 PM

The day will come when hatcheries will be gone from our steelhead rivers. They just cost too much to run. That and with bad science all it will take to end the hatchery is an economic down turn a little larger than what we are going through now. I was once a believer in the hatchery system only because it supplied fish to fishermen but it seems like it's only supplying fish to those who call fishing at the hatchery outlet fishing.

By the way Plunker sure likes you, you are quoted again over on steelheader . net. If you come out soon I think you, sinktip and me should take old plunk on a float trip. You know he fly fishes and I bet he knows a lot of the old timers on the Skagit.

Capt. Mel Simpson
02-05-2002, 09:23 PM
Wow! This is such great stuff, you guys, keep it up! I can't tell you how much this means to me, to hear your concerns!

Where were you in the 70's when I said to hell with it and went saltwater fly fishing? I left for the exact reasons you are discussing in these threads; the proliferation of the hatchery mentality. "Put and Take", I hate that term with a passion.

And guess what, yep there is a great push in Florida to "enhance our fisheries with hatchery programs". Oh man, it just never stops.

Thanks, Mel

02-06-2002, 09:39 AM
TR3, I agree with you about circle hooks, especially for the bait guys. I have been using circle hooks for the past couple of seasons on most of my tube flies for a couple of different reasons. I am just not sure that you actually get less hook ups. I am pretty sure that circles make sense with bait, especially for novices who may have difficulty detecting biting fish, thereby hooking them deeply with conventional hooks.Brian