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Pacific Northwest Sea Run Forum No such thing as rainbow trout, only landlocked steelhead

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Old 01-11-2002, 04:10 PM
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Hatcheries, Native vs. Wild, and other Intertwined topics

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...
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Old 01-11-2002, 04:32 PM
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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!

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Old 01-12-2002, 02:49 AM
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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.

William

Last edited by inland; 01-12-2002 at 03:10 AM.
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Old 01-12-2002, 08:27 AM
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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.

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Old 01-12-2002, 01:32 PM
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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.


Scott
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Old 01-12-2002, 03:50 PM
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Scott,

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.

Hal
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Old 01-12-2002, 08:13 PM
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Scott,

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.
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Old 01-13-2002, 05:58 AM
Scott K Scott K is offline
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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...

Tyler,
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.
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Old 01-13-2002, 07:49 AM
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And now for something 'slightly different'...

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.
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Old 01-13-2002, 10:04 AM
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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.
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Old 01-13-2002, 01:16 PM
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Scott,

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.
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Old 01-15-2002, 12:15 PM
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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.

Regards,
Sinktip
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Old 01-15-2002, 04:13 PM
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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.
Sinktip,
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".
OC
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Old 01-15-2002, 04:18 PM
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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?

ST
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Old 01-15-2002, 05:14 PM
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Lightbulb

Thanks for the enlightenment Sinktip. But didn't that saying pertain to just one fishing user group? You don't have to answer that.
Sincerely
The new age fly fisherman.
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