Just when you think things will settle down in the world of salmon and fish something comes along to upset the ole apple cart so here we go. The issue is the QIN Winter Steelhead season but the issue is not Steelhead but rather the Late Coho run. How so this is a reasonable question but the answer is well .... complicated?

To understand the issue a brief look at history and the fish is required. So this link to WDF&W's harvest posting is needed. http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/commercial/salmon/files/2014_landings_archive.pdf This will allow one to match up what harvest is and run timing at the estuary harvest areas. Keep this thought this is ESTUARY run timing not 50 miles upriver.

So what is a Late Coho? Depends on where you are as it has been used in multiple places in hatchery programs in Grays Harbor & Willapa but for the Chehalis it is the December / January returns. The reality is our Coho run has three distinct parts. The Normal timed Coho first show in August in small numbers and ramp up in numbers steadily and tail out by week 44. This portion of the run is substantially larger proportionally than in its natural state due to large numbers of hatchery plants both fry & smolt that numbered in the millions back some years. Now natural selection has pretty much done away with the hatchery traits with time so the front part of the normal Natural Origin Recruits ( NOR ) is truly natural but is much larger proportionally than it was before human manipulation and front loading the run timing.

Then we have the back end of the normal run timing. When I was young this was called the T-day run. It comes in primarily in weeks 45 to 48. In the past this was proportionally a larger part of the Coho run but harvest & just us has reduced it . Then we have the true Lates that come through the estuary in weeks 48 through 51 with stragglers into January. In all three parts of the run you have overlap as a certain % of Normal timed Coho will come back late and a % of Lates comes back early.

So what does this have to do with Steelhead? Down and dirty a run at history is needed. After Boldt the Dept. Game did not accept the QIN fishers targeting "Native Steelhead" so they started planting out large numbers of early timed Steelhead from Chambers Cr ( and others ) for harvest both tribal and Rec. This resulted in a agreed to Steelhead season starting December 1 which we still have. Now for many in East GH at the time this was not acceptable. Why? Well they kicked the crap out of the Late Coho and wiped out the December Chinook. I personally objected one time and the Dept Game staffer bluntly told me that was the Dept. of Fisheries problem. Fast forward to the present and we still have December 1 start for winter Steelhead but since the joining of the two agencies and new genetic guidelines the early hatchery origin plants are not allowed so few Steelhead in December. ( look at the numbers December in the harvest report that I linked previously)

You then add to this little effort is made by either of the Co-Managers to track the health of the Late Coho. Sure on Bingham Cr. they have a very good count as the Science Division has a trap but little else of a serious nature that I am aware of. We do have hatchery releases identified as Lates at Bingham and for the Skookumchuck Dam mitigation which are really a hybrid cross between the back end of the normal run and Natural Lates.

Why is this all important? It is accountability in harvest pure and simple. We ( and the fish ) cannot afford to not clearly define the true impacts of ANY fishery Treaty or Non Treaty. That the QIN did not throw the first punch in this thing is not only true but I doubt if they got the second, third, or forth blows in. That said two wrongs do not make a right. The Late Coho are a very special fish to the East GH folks and other avid fishers and now a days are called the Native Hooknose on the Satsop. It is a weak component of the Coho run that does not perform in returns as well as the normal timed Coho due to environmental factors and a improperly managed Steelhead harvest.

In nearly every fishery in the Chehalis Basin ( Spring Chinook possibly the exception ) the dishonesty in quantifying the true harvest impacts by run components in not just troublesome but downright glaring. It exist everywhere but the QIN Steelhead harvest is simply the most obvious and damaging to the fish at the moment.

So to the point I have been making for some time. The Co-managers are dysfunctional to such a degree that they cannot get anything done, other than shut us Recs down when they screw up. If they cannot address a issue so clearly defined December Steelhead season what hope is there for the complex issues with years of much lower returns looming on the horizon? If it continues I feel it would be safe to say we and the fish are toast. Often it is said have to know where you have been to know where you are to know where you're going. It is just plain time to leave the past behind us folks because this thing between the Co-managers, whatever it is, cannot continue.
Dazed and confused.............the fog is closing in