Wild Steelhead Harvest?

Posted by: Double Haul

Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/28/02 02:31 PM

December 26, 2002

Anglers can harvest wild steelhead again

Mail Tribune

After a five-year ban on the harvest of wild steelhead, Oregon
anglers can get a taste of the wild fish again in some south coast streams when a late Christmas present comes Wednesday.

Beginning Jan. 1, anglers will be able to harvest a single wild steelhead a day on the Chetco River, the Elk River and four smaller
streams that flow out of the Coast Range to the sea in Curry County.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in July unanimously adopted
the new wild steelhead bag limit for these streams after Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists successfully argued their wild steelhead populations are some of the healthiest along the coast - and, perhaps, the world.

The effected streams are the Chetco, the Elk, Hunter Creek, Pistol
River, the Winchuck River along the Oregon/California border and
Euchre Creek, which is a small stream near Port Orford.

They all are considered high producers of some of the largest winter
steelhead grown in Oregon. Of these streams, only the Chetco has a hatchery steelhead program, with just 50,000 winter steelhead smolts released annually into the river at Brookings.

The new rule allows an angler to keep one wild steelhead as part of
the two-fish daily limit on these streams. But anglers can keep just five wild steelhead a year.

A similar rule is in effect on the Rogue during the winter steelhead

The wild steelhead ban was part of a deal ODFW cut in 1997 with the
National Marine Fisheries Service to sidestep a threatened species
listing for wild steelhead in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Russ Stauff, an ODFW biologist in Gold Beach, pushed for five years
for the change because he believes the streams' bountiful steelhead
populations warrant some harvest.

ODFW surveys since 1997 show these streams are teeming with infant
steelhead at concentrations never recorded in the United States,
Canada and Russia.

"We probably have the healthiest population of steelhead in the
world," says Stauff. "I think this is the best way to protect these

Since the ban on wild steelhead harvest, Stauff had received heavy
pressure from angling groups to increase the stocking of hatchery
steelhead in the Chetco and to expand the program to the Elk River
and other streams mired in an all catch-and-release fishery. But Stauff
thought expanding the hatchery program was unnecessary and expensive,
and instead began working on getting the wild steelhead ban lifted.

The proposal garnered strong support from some of Oregon's most
staunch wild-fish advocacy groups because the research showed these
particular runs can absorb limited harvest.

"I like it," says Bill Bakke, founder of the Portland-based Native
Fish Society. "If you have a robust population where you can allow a low kill, that's less risky than adding hatchery fish."

Stauff says harvest on wild steelhead likely will be low because
many anglers want to release all the wild steelhead they catch as an
ethical choice.

However, allowing the occasional harvest of a wild fish taps into
the heritage of winter steelhead fishing - killing and eating a prized
fish - without jeopardizing the runs.

"I think what we're developing here is a new ethic," Stauff says.
"It's a combination of the new (catch-and-release) dogma and heritage."

The change comes as winter steelhead fishing kicks into gear on the
Chetco, where recent rains have drawn the first steelhead of the year
upriver, says Tony Kronemeyer of the Sporthaven Marina at the
Chetco's mouth.

Fishing with roe and plug lures are popular on the Chetco and Elk,
which are easily traversed in driftboats by even novice rowers. Pistol
River, Hunter Creek, the Winchuck River and Euchre Creek are all fished off the bank by wading anglers who primarily cast roe and corkies.

Posted by: RICH G

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/28/02 05:07 PM

What a crock!!!!!! beathead

After all that we know up to this point and we take a step backwards. confused
Posted by: Wild Chrome

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/28/02 05:19 PM

This will be a win-win....if it can be enforced.
Posted by: Todd

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/28/02 10:09 PM

If my only choices were to take a healthy run of wild fish and open up to a limited kill or put in a hatchery to satisfy the meat fishermen, I'd go with the limited harvest.

If I were king, of course, there wouldn't be either. eek

Fish on...

Posted by: Plunker

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/28/02 10:45 PM

Wow! Could this be the same Todd who has a history of favor towards the hatchery holes at reiter and marblemount? evil laugh

I'm impressed with Bill Bakke's statement of approval. This seems to be somewhat of a reversal from my past impressions of his stance on c&r for wild fish.

I am curious if the Wild Steelhead Coalition will voice a strong opposition to this breech in momentum towards universal mandatory release of all wild steelhead?

Can any harvest be acceptable? umbrella
Posted by: Sparkey

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/28/02 10:55 PM

This is not a question of if given a healthy population, should harvest be allowed...instead, this is a question of if given a choice...limited harvest or an introduction of hatchery fish...which one would us/you choose.

I do not think Bill Bakke in anyway was supporting a wild fish harvest as much as he was opposing the unneccsary introduction of hatchery stock!
Posted by: Bob

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 01:11 AM

Four thoughts on this one:

1) Great to see a recovery of an area after some lean years. C&R certainly played some sort of a role I'm sure ... but it's also imprtnat to note that (as far as I know) there is no influence of tribal nets on these streams, so that what harvest will likely occur will still be very small in relation to total run size. It's a very differnet situation from those few Washington streams that are in okay shape and facing both a large traibal harvest as well the sport harvest.

2) I believe that these streams are more homogenous when it somes to the size of the fish ... so you probably won't see as much of the "trophy-hunting" we do on the OP streams; a big concern even if numbers say the run is "healthy".

3) The article mentions that " ... these streams are teeming with infant steelhead at concentrations never recorded in the United States, Canada and Russia." Yet, there has been "crash" because of this "overopulation". It would be interedting to see exact comparsons with "healthy" streams in this region and I'd also like to understand why these OR rivers can support it while the biologists (especially Gibbons) say they can't.

4) Will be interesting to see if the influx of Orgon-based catch-and-kill guides that have descended upon the Forks-area rivers over the past 6-7 years will decrease now that they have the ability to kill fish in their local area.

A few thoughts that crossed my mind right off the bat ... I'm sure some more will down the road smile
Posted by: Smalma

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 02:05 AM

Don't see why must of you Washington fishermen would have concerns with any of this. When the emergency Puget Sound CnR closures came down a couple of years ago (remember the watershed event that ignited the formation of the Wild Steelhed Coalation) many were citing how steelhead management in other states was far superior to Washington's stone age approach. What is being done is exactly what Oregon's management policies are- where there are "healthy" stocks wild fish harvest is allowed.

Bob -
With your concerns about trophy fishing you must have real problems with Alaskan steelhead management - there when steelhead harvest is allowed anglers can only take fish over 36 inches.

Tight lines
Posted by: RICH G

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 02:26 AM

Why must people be so concerned with their oportunity to harvest. Why is it that people want to even harvest wild steelhead. I dont understand how people can destroy such a beautiful thing?

I gues it is our heritage as humans to destroy things.

That article makes it sound like Harvest of wild steelhead is what is important CnR is a way to ensure we can rebuild run sizes to harvestable levles when runs are in the dumps yet still have an oportunity to fish.

Like I said before,,,,, WHAT A CROCK!!!!!!!
Posted by: FishinSinsation

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 03:15 AM

I was talking to some fellow board members tonight and the most compelling opinion was that its wrong to kill native steelhead, but it's ok to kill native salmon. Personally I don't really see the difference in protecting steelhead but then turn around and kill native salmon. Are salmon so much less important to our future fishing that we might as well harvest them to extremely low levels and then protect them, and not allow the native kill? If people continue to believe its ok to kill native salmon they will be in the same boat as the steelhead down the road, I believe that regardless of the fish we shouldn't kill natives.. The people who said it was ok to kill native salmon also said they would kill native steelhead if they were at harvestable levels. SIGH.. those harvestable levels can only last so long..


dangit wheres my flyrod
rolleyes rolleyes rolleyes rolleyes rolleyes
Posted by: Catarafter

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 12:08 PM

I have been reading this, and the othr threads, concerning the depletion of native steelhead.

It appears to me the emphasis is only whether to harvest or not, to save the native stock.

Why is no one addressing the allowed logging practices, that are, and have been conducive to the depletion of steelhead and salmon in the PNW.

I read recently that clear cutting has now allowed right up to the river. Why has this been allowed now when that cover is needed for the young fish?

The hills can no longer retain the water, so it runs off as soon as it falls, washing out the redds, flooding the rivers with every freshet.

I started coming out here to fish steelhead in the "70's". The rivers ran clear, even when bank full. Fish all over the place. Then as the hills were being "raped", the rivers became muddy with each freshet, the banks and redds being washed away, and each year, less and less fish in the rivers.

These issues need to be addressed as well, to protect what is left of the native fishes.

Just my 2cents,
Posted by: Bob

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 04:58 PM

Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 06:55 PM

i think if you read the native fish societys goal page you will see that this is exacly what they want, that is a healthy population of wild fish that can handle a small harvest.
Posted by: Smalma

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 06:56 PM

Bob -
You are right of course, the 36 in minimum is limited to SE - though as I recall the SE region has over 300 steelhead streams (though most are small).

I believe in South Central one is allowed to kill up 2 steelhead a year - I would not be surprised that there are exceptions.

My real point is that much of the discussion I have seen regarding the "bonking" of wild steelhead seemed to indicate that only Washingotn allows the "bonking" of wild fish while the reality is that Alaska, British Columbia and Oregon all allow the taking of wild fish.

That doesn't make it more justifiable here in Washington just corrects a common mis-conception.

The later part of your post seemed to indicate that you were comfortable with some kill when steelhead were in high abundance as some of the Alaska streams. Is there is some magic population level (over X number of fish) or some portion of carrying capacity. This seems to be a new position for you or did I mis-understand where you were coming from?

Tight lines
Posted by: Bob

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 07:56 PM

Not a new position for me. Personally, I'll always look at steelhead as a sport / game fish that I will not harvest. However, your references of streams with a directed harvest carry concentrations of fish that ours to shame.

And as I mentioned, even though the regs say you can take one, over 98% of the fish are released. That's hardly the case here. The sporties' attitudes are different here: whether it be that because the state says it's oaky, it's oaky, or the attitude amongst some that if "I don't get them the Indians will".

Unfortuately, I guarantee you that a large number of anglers in this area DO NOT adhere to the daily / seasonal guidelines that have put into place.

That's another factor with our fisheries, we have terrible enforcement, and I'm a believer that beacause of it, giving some an inch means they're gonna take a mile.

Enforcement in these Alaskan streams is far greater than what we see here. You don't have dozens of plunkers lined up on lower river bars whacking and stacking them in the Alaska streams. Knowing what happens in real life as opposed to what's on paper is just pne more reason I'd like to see the door shut on it.

The Anchor River, the only SC stream with a really appreciable run of fish is strictly C&R, so is the Ninilchik and Deep Creek. Anglers can keep a steelhead in portions of the Kasilof ... but these are an introduced fish to the system. The few fish that return to Crooked Creek (a Kasilof trib) are protected and the small harvest that does is occur is based on the "natural spawn" following the heavy plants of hatchery steelhead in the 80's into the early 90's. This stocking was eliminated because of straying into the nearby Kenai and the concern over that.

So what harvest is alllowed is basically on hatchery stock.

If the state could prove beyond any doubt that are the runs are healthy, MAYBE I could live with seeing a limited harvest, although as I mentioned before, I don't believe that I'll ever kill another one on purpose.

And this gets me back to my original point. The state says our runs are healthy and can support harvest, yet one by one, stocks fall from a healthy listing to depressed or worse and then all fishing must cease. Our management practices have failed ... it's time to put a finger in the dike to give us time to figure out why and do something about it!
Posted by: Smalma

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 08:30 PM

Bob -
I think you and I have more agreement than disagreement in regards to wild fish harvest. I appreciate the time you have taken the time to discuss this issue and have enjoyed the banter.

I do disagree with the role that "mis-management" has played in the sudden decline in the productive of the many of the so-call healthy steelhead stocks in the Puget Sound region.

Using the Snohomish system again as an example - for more than a decade escapement of wild steelhead around or above the goal for the system (6,500) fish produced runs that consistently allow for some limited harvest (typcially in the 10 to 20% range) as well as a pretty nice Catch and Release fishery with escapements continuing to average about 110% of the goal. Suddenly marine survival plummented and the same escapements (6,000 to 7,000) was producing total runs (before any fishing) of only 2,500 to 3,500 fish.

It is hard for me to envision how mis-management could cause such a sudden down turn in productive - especially considering the same thing was occurring throughout Puget Sound and the Georgia straits; including waters that were closed to fishing, managed with wild steelhead release or catch and release and waters that allowed some harvest.

A major criticism I would have of recent management is that collective we have not invested enough in monitoring (creel census etc) so that we can have timely information on the age structure and population trends of our wild stocks. Without that information corrective management actions (ending targeting wild stock fisheries and going to hatchery only seasons) were a year late in coming.

A larger future concern is what should management do if this negative productive continues for another fish generation. If populations drop by half again over the next 4 or 5 years - what to do? I'm afraid that modification or termination of hatchey programs and fishing closures will all have to given serious consideration.

Tight lines
Posted by: $$B-MONEY$$

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 08:43 PM

What crap! As soon as a run is healthy they, give the "surplus" out! When will D&W understand that surplus is good, let the smolts duke it out, surival of the fittest. Just think of a run so healthy "too many" spawn! confused confused confused Those would be some tough smolts! As a whole I don't think we will ever learn. evil
Posted by: RICH G

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 08:45 PM

I think miss management is the obviouse reason we see the declines in the Pugtet Sound wild steelhead.

Obviously the escapement numbers set for the systems under MSY were set far too low and when nature for whatever reason needed that gross excess of fish spawning in the system to ensure safe numbers of fish the next generation nature got cheated because the safety nett was gone.

The exzact same thing will happen to the Quileute some day if we dont get away from MSY. And people will wonder what happened and try and blame it on everyting else other than over harvest. The powers that be will say "we just cant figure it out it was over escapement every year". Yep it was over MSY's escapement but not natures escapement and natures escapement is the one that counts.
Posted by: Bob

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 09:31 PM

Thanks for the reply Smalma. I think it's healthy to have these sort of discussions even if you don't always agree with the other side ... and I hope a few can use this a perhaps a future example of seeing how we can disgaree with turning it into a bashfest wink

One question if you will before we finish up:

We keep hearing that in the instances of stocks that have fallen on such hard times that much of the management's blame (whether it be AK, OR, BC, or WA) points towards ocean survival.
Why is it that these oceanic conditions have not appeared to affect populations across the board?? What makes the conditions different for the Puget Sound Stocks vs. a few of the OP stocks? From the best of my knowledge, we know little about their ocean distribution paterns as a whole when compared to salmon stocks ... it doesn't quite make sense to me!
Posted by: Smalma

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 10:03 PM

Bob -
As I have mentioned before this marine survival thing is a puzzler. To make things even more complicated for most of the Puget Sound rivers that have had such poor marine surivial problems it has been limited to the winter steelhead. Hatchery and wild winter smolt to adult survival is way down but at the same time in the same rivers summers (hatchery and wild) appear to be doing well (perhaps having above average survival). All the smolt trapping information seems to indicate that summer and winters migrate pretty much at the same time.

The information is known about migration patterns indicate that our steelhead migrate off shore, ride the currents north and west across the North Pacific and then south and east (a large elliptical path). Since the summers and winter return at different times they most have different timing during their high sea migration. The same might apply to your coastal steelhead. They are closer to the high seas than Puget Sound at that slight edge might make all the difference.

To my thinking there must patchy conditions (feed or temperatures) in the north Pacific and some stocks or group of stocks migration timing is such that they are finding better conditions than others.

From the reports that I'm hearing it sounds like those poor conditions are becoming more wide spread with most reports of hatchery returns being poor or worst throughout Western Washington. Definitely not good news.

Tight lines
Posted by: Bob

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 10:14 PM

Okay, I got you to bite:) Thanks for the reply.

Obviously something is not right this year. Poor returns up and down the coast ( I was supposed to fish a fellow from Cali a couple of days back ... he says the N. Cali streams are seeing the same thing).

This brings up an interesting scenario:

returns so far look weak ... in these streams where wild harvest is allowed, do we take action now to curtail harvest and THEN relax regs down the road to hopefully stem a potential crisis situation?

Or do we sit back and wait?

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this one?? smile

Personally, given the goofy situation we've seen so far, I say go selective and C&R and work with the tribes to curtail netting until we see what happens, then re-evaluate.

This is one criticism I've always had, there never seems to be a conservative approach from the start and adjust from there, it always seems to be the other way around!
Posted by: Smalma

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 10:42 PM

Bob -
Thought you said just one more questions. But hey what the heck I'll bite again - I'm well known as a free riser, fortunately for me I'm not a trout.

The situation with the wild fish likely will not be as drastic as with the hatchery fish. It appears that poor conditions typcially hit the fish the hardest their first year at sea. The reason wild fish populations are more stable of course is the much more diverse age structure of the wild fish population. Typcially early timed Washington hatchery stock is about 85% or so 2-salt fish. Which means of course if that group fails the run fails. With the wild stocks we have maybe 15% repeat spawners, a few 4 salt or older first time returning adults with the remainder more or less split equally between 2 and 3-salt adults. The failure of the 2 salt group with the wild stocks will not have nearly as drastic impact on the total returns as with the hatchery fish.

Generally if there is good imforamtion on the spawning escapement and age structure of last year's run one can have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the old groups of fish. What would I do? I guess that would depend on good I thought my wild fish imformation was, and how the stock has been preforming in relation to its management goal. If I had poor information and especially if the recent escapements have been marginal in relationship to the goal some sort of action may be prudent. If I had good information and have consistently been achieve escapements well above goals then I would say there is some buffer and we could probably take the time (wait further into the run) to better assess the wild run strength.

A question for you.
If there is strong feeling that the hatchery run is a bust and the wild run may as well why don't you recommend closing the river to all fishing rather than CnR? That would appear to provide the best "safety net" for the wild fish.

Tight lines
Posted by: Bob

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/29/02 11:24 PM

Ah, ah ... a diplomatic and hard-to-pin-down answer smile

And a rebuttal question that I expected.

Honestly ... would I support a full closure? At this point in time, I'd hate to see a full closure as I have bills to pay like the rest of us and due to the salmon crisis this fall, I've already cancelled over 30 trips since October ... many before the official shutdown came. I'd also be pretty PO'd that so many of us have asked for some sort of safety cushion to start with, but keep hearing that it isn't necessary. But if push comes to shove, I've always said I'd hang up my rod and I'd find some way to cope with it smile

Here we go full circle to some other points that have been brought up in this thread and others.

A number of wild fish have already been harvested out of these streams. Had we already been operating under C&R regs and even more specifically with selective rules, it's likely that the overall impact of fishing the rest of the year would not be much higher than what we've already allowed to be taken in a harvest-oriented fishery.

As I mentioned before it's seemingly an all or nothing situation ... 'kill them all or no fishing at all' seems to be the long standing policy that rules all in our state management for nearly all fisheries. The state seems to be interested more in creating short-term harvest opportunities and keeping the meat hunters happy without looking at the long-term picture of healthy stocks and max opportunity ... with hatchery harvest available and to perhaps only anger than small percentage still wishing to harvest these fish now rather than all anglers down the road when we have nothing left.
Posted by: POS Clerk

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/30/02 12:28 AM

Posted by: Dan S.

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/30/02 01:39 PM

I dont understand how people can destroy such a beautiful thing?
Careful, Rich. That's EXACTLY the reasoning PETA uses to try to stop hunting and fishing. I release wild fish to reduce the impact I have on the survival of the run. Simple as that.

How would you respond to a PETA member that came up to you after you bagged an elk and said, "I don't understand how people can destroy such a beautiful thing." ?
Posted by: RICH G

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/30/02 02:59 PM

I see your point DanS,,

You know what I meant but other people may take it a different way.
Posted by: Dan S.

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/30/02 03:31 PM

I agree with you, Rich. But it IS a slippery slope we're standing on, and some people think C&R is just as wrong as you and I think bonking natives is.

I'd rather see C&R viewed as a conservation tool, rather than something we do because of the beauty of the fish.
Posted by: spawnout

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/30/02 11:20 PM

I lived in Coos Bay for 10 years and the Elk was one of my go-to rivers. Caught my first 20 pounder there (released it too). Can't say I ever saw too many other fishermen releasing fish though. I did see the day when drift boats outnumbered steelhead about 10 to one, and I have never fished it since.

The good news about all this is they didn't close the river, they just allowed only C&R. And what happened? Only the greatest recovery of a fishery ever seen, it sounds like - I sure saw it at it's worst. What does this mean? CATCH AND RELEASE WORKS beer
Posted by: Plunker

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/31/02 04:07 AM

OK DanS - You warned 'em!

Here's some worms outta that can you opened.

It's not my nature (a matter of ethics) to tell others what to do but it's not just
PETA Phreaks who agree with the secretary in the following comic strip.

Mandatory C&R? "That's One Sick Joke."

Those who wish to force others to either quit fishing or adopt the sadistic perversion
called C&R fishing are just plain malicious.
I guess it's true that misery and perversion loves company.

Posted by: Jerry Garcia

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/31/02 08:43 AM

PETA claims fish feel pain, some scientists think fish don't feel pain[at least as we know pain]--so Plunker, do you belong to PETA? As sadistic/masocistic people have discovered, it's a thin line between pain and pleasure!! Maybe thats why occasionally I've caught the same fish twice in a short period of time-They liked it!!!!
Posted by: Dan S.

Re: Wild Steelhead Harvest? - 12/31/02 01:09 PM

Hurts so good, Jerry..............hurts so good. laugh

So, Plunker, are you saying that the secretary in Dilbert is based on the real you? Has PETA accepted your membership application yet? :p

Man, that's one BIG can o' worms we opened.