Tuesday, October 30, 2007

.......And Summer Would Go On Forever

The end of summer has suddenly thrust itself into my consciousness and so it's reality time for me. Winter, with it's endless rains, short days and bone chilling cold is looming on the not to distant horizon. I can barely talk about it actually...sigh!
No more leisurely excursions to the north coast. No more casting a fly until almost nine o'clock in the evening and no more furiously tying reverse spiders. Coastal cutthroat trout season is over and once again it came too soon and left me unprepared for the cold months ahead. The season for coastal cutthroat trout ended October 31st.
I keep saying I want to get over to the Deschutes in the winter time but who am I kidding? It's a cold bleak place over there in the winter and to me the Deschutes is a place of warmth, life and movement not freezing winds blowing through the canyon.
It was a good season for this old fly fisherman. I had many joyful trips in pursuit of these great fish. I hooked many large trout that encourages me and makes me hopeful of their future. I hooked one "accidental" summer steelhead this year while pursuing cutts and that was just a very brief encounter.
I will begin my countdown until next years opener but it will be a busy off season. Once again the spectre of a kill season for these trout has reared it's ugly head. The usual greed and ignorance has supplanted common sense and those of us that care will try get the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to come to their senses.
It will not be an easy battle but I think with enough motivated conservation minded anglers involved we can and will make a difference.
So now I lovingly put my bamboo rods away for a few months knowing full well that some cold night in January I will take each one out and perhaps give them a fresh coat of briwax. As the spring approaches I will eagerly wait for the renewal that that sun and the trout will bring.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Return to the River

In Roderick L. Haig-Brown's classic book Return to the River the author describes the journey of the Pacific fall chinook salmon to the rivers of their origin.This book tells the saga of the arduous journey these fish endure and have endured for countless generations. Those of us that live in the Pacific Northwest and wander the rivers of this region have the privilege of seeing this ritual of nature every fall. The notion that these fish can travel from their beginnings as a tiny inch long frye just out of gravel, avoiding predators of all varieties to make their way to the ocean is mind boggling. To actually see them return to that very same spot on their fateful journey to fulfill their one purpose in life, to pro-create, thus insuring the continuation of the species is hard to grasp.
How these magnificent fish can smell their river of birth cannot be explained or at least explained in terms that a person like myself can fully understand.It is a wonder that plays itself out over and over each fall.
Autumn is a time of change and movement. The fall leaves paint the skyline with bursts of color that cannot be described adequately... blazing hues of change for sure.
The air is filled with migratory waterfowl on their way to warmer southern climes. Autumn is truly a magical time of year. The last of the indian summer days pass far too quickly as the threat of the winter ahead hints of cold to come at the same time the remembrance of the summer just past lingers also.
I will stand and watch in awe as the ritual of the salmon is played out before me in the fine gravel of a coastal river.
I've said before it is like watching a finely choreographed ballet. The males of the species anxious to "service" a solitary female. The beaten and savaged warriors bear the scars as they battle each other for the right to cover the females eggs with their milt.
When their purpose is met and their last ounce of energy expended they meet their inevitable fate which is death. Their decomposing bodies providing nutrients for the generation that follows. The cycle is thus played out on thousands of rivers and small tributary creeks throughout the northwest.
If you have never witnessed this then you are truly missing out on a miracle of nature.
It's so unfortunate that these salmon have become what amounts to being a political pawn because they stand for so much more. The native tribes of the Pacific coast knew the importance of salmon and still do.
As long as I am able I will always return to the river but not to try to deceive these fish with hook and line but to appreciate and marvel at what they do to perpetuate their kind. I sincerely hope that this fall ritual continues long after I am gone and I can go to my rest with the satisfaction of knowing that I did all I could to help them along the way in their journey of death and ultimately life.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Is ODFW Really This Clueless?

Photo by Bill McMillan

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife or ODFW apparently are unaware of the wild steelhead populations on the north coast! I really wish someone would wise them up before it's too late if it's not too late already.
Back a few years ago the gear guides on the north coast couldn't stand the fact that they couldn't make money off of the wild winter steelhead that return to the coastal rivers in February through April. They must have been thinking and scheming about a way to cover them from the end of the yearly winter hatchery steelhead bloodbath until the first spring chinook showed either in the Columbia or on the coast. They convinced ODFW that they would be willing partners in the wild steelhead broodstock programs. They would collect fish throughout the late winter months and by gosh if they made money at that time of year on guided trips then so must the better!
So now we have several years of the broodstock program under our belts and where are we?
Sure! the Tillamook area guides are making a bunch of money on their "collection" trips but what about the over all well being of the wild fish that is sustaining these programs?
Did ODFW forget about the wild fish in all this? It would certainly appear so.They are willing to plant some of the broodstock smolt in the lower river but they still insist on main stem plants in the very area and right on top of newly out of gravel wild smolt.
Were the area ODFW fish biologists off that day or something? Why did the head fish biologist not even know which fish were planted where? Do they even care? One has to wonder.
I'm obviously not a biologist but it does not take a degree to see what is happening. No, the ODFW biologists are not clueless! They know exactly what they are doing and that is ignoring science in order to pander to a vocal bunch of professional guides who have figured out a way to make money off of a recovering wild steelhead population that is being damaged by these broodstock plants.
So hey all you bait chucking, $175 a day mercenaries! Sleep well guys because you are contributing to the demise of what few wild fish remain...hope you can face your children some day when they ask you if you did all you could prevent the extinction of wild salmon and steelhead.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Oncorhynchus Clarkii.....Clarkii

The fish so nice they named it twice!
I cannot think of a species of fish that I love more than these silvery coastal dwellers. They come to a fly with aggressive abandon and fight like a fish twice their size.
Beautiful is not an apt description of their various colors of the spring, summer and fall. The resident variety will take on a heavily spotted bronze coloration with the red gill slash (where they got their name) very prominent. The sea run variety, while heavily spotted also will be silver with a deep hued blue back...hence the nickname "blue backs" and the red slash will be very faint.
The fall is prime time action for cutthroat trout which supposedly follow the fall salmon up river to feed on their eggs. That may just be an urban legend because while they will feed on just about anything, aquatic insects by in large make up the cutthroat's diet.

As aggressive as they are they are also a species most affected by man's interference. The introduction of various species of hatchery fish on the north coast rivers have pushed these trout out of their usual habitat and forced them to compete with those hatchery plants for available food. The coastal rivers are not blessed with an abundance of food so these sensitive fish have to feed on what is available, The over sized hatchery smolt have depleted their numbers to a critical point and so any harvest would put them in even more peril.
The north coast locals do not have much regard for cutthroat trout and treat them as little more than nuisance in their pursuit of the larger salmon and steelhead. They are not much more than a bait stealer to salmon/steelhead anglers and they take little care in releasing them.
The over all well being of a coastal anadromous river can be measured by it's cutthroat trout population.
If you have a wild coastal cutthroat trout population in decline it's a good bet that other wild fish in that system are in trouble also.
These fish face many obstacles in their recovery. Over harvest, habitat degradation, hatcheries and angler ignorance hurt these once plentiful populations.
These trout are the last of the wild trout on the northern coast save for wild steelhead.
They are as beautiful as they are mysterious and delightful.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Coho are Protected Again

Once again a federal court judge has had to undue the meddling of the Bush administration.
This is truly good news and will have an effect on how all the Oregon coast rivers are managed as far as harvest.
Kudos and appreciation go out to the groups involved for making this happen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Protections for Oregon Coast Coho Salmon: July Court Ruling Upheld.

A federal judge has declared illegal the Bush administration’s decision to remove endangered species protections for Oregon Coast coho salmon. U.S. District Judge Garr King adopted in its entirety the July 2007 recommendation of Magistrate Judge Janice Stewart that the administration’s refusal to list the coho be set aside. The court ruled that coho’s legal “threatened” status be reviewed and a new listing decision be finalized within 60 days. Restoration of ESA listing would prohibit actions that harm the species and require the government to prepare recovery plans.
The decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by fishermen and conservation groups last year.
The decision to withdraw endangered species protections from the coho was predicated on a novel scientific theory adopted by federal agencies. The theory held that coho are inherently resilient at low populations, and that they will always bounce back. The court cited extensive scientific critiques of that theory from government scientists, who said that it was unreliable and failed to pass the “red-face test.” The court ruled that the new theory did not represent the “best available science” as required by law.

“This is a victory for good science and for Oregon’s future,” said Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman, who argued the case for the groups. “Restoring protections for these salmon today means a greener and economically vibrant Oregon tomorrow.”

“Oregon coast coho are still on life support, and recovery depends on protecting and restoring the rivers and streams these fish depend on,” said Dr. Chris Frissell, former Oregon State University salmon biologist and Senior Staff Scientist with Pacific Rivers Council. “This decision restores vital habitat protection so that the coho can begin moving toward recovery.”

Once a staple of Oregon’s salmon fishing fleet but now off-limits to commercial fishermen, coastal coho runs have sharply declined from their historical abundance. Fishermen look forward to rebuilt coho stocks which once constituted a substantial part of their income. They know this means rebuilding the stream side spawning habitat needed by the fish.

“For the sake of our fishing families and communities, now is not the time to slack off on habitat protections for coho salmon,” said Glen Spain, with the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “Eliminating these protections shifted the conservation burden onto the backs of fishermen, without protecting the rivers and streams the coho depend on. With federal habitat protections restored, coho have a chance to recover and, one day, draconian fishing restrictions can be lifted.” Coast Range Association Director Chuck Willer said "let's put the legal issues behind us and get on with the work of restoring coastal freshwater habitat and returning the coho to abundance."

Historically, more than 2 million coho salmon spawned in Oregon’s coastal rivers. Due to decades of aggressive logging and poorly managed fishing, those numbers collapsed. Runs bottomed out at about 14,000 in 1997, a decline of more than 99 percent from historic levels. The runs were listed under the Endangered Species Act the following year. Coast coho returns showed some improvements in the early 2000s but have generally declined since then, and still remain at a small fraction of historic levels.
The slight rebound between 2001 and 2003 prompted the state of Oregon to prematurely declare Coast coho sufficiently recovered to be stripped of federal protection. The federal agency charged with administering the fishery, National Marine Fisheries Service overruled its own scientists who raised grave doubts about Oregon’s novel population analysis as well as the status of the species to remove federal endangered species protections in 2006.
The plaintiffs include the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Pacific Rivers Council, Trout Unlimited, Oregon Wild, Native Fish Society, and Umpqua Watersheds. They were represented by attorneys Patti Goldman and Jan Hasselman of Earthjustice in Seattle.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

News Flash!!! Hatchery Steelhead Inferior

Please excuse the sarcasm but this is not exactly new information. Anyone with any modicum of common sense knows about the over all inferior traits of hatchery fish versus wild fish. Sadly many are either in denial or so blinded by their "harvest mentality" that they cannot see beyond their ignorance, greed and selfishness.
Their favorite argument is "I don't belive there are any truly wild fish left anyway"
My God if I had a dollar for everytime I've either heard that or seen it posted somewhere I could retire! Hey wait a minute I am retired!!! well anyway you get the idea.
Here is an article from Reuters that just reinforces what scientists already know.

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When it comes to making babies, steelhead trout like it wild.

In a study published on Thursday with great implications for captive breeding programs, U.S. researchers found that after being set free, steelhead trout reared in hatcheries produced offspring far less fit than those of wild-bred fish.
In fact, when these captive-bred trout are released in the wild, they are roughly 40 percent less successful at producing offspring that survive to adulthood than their wild cousins, according to the research in the journal Science.
"With each generation through the hatchery, the fitness of the resulting fish when they breed in the wild declines remarkably quickly," Michael Blouin, an Oregon State University zoology professor who was one of the researchers, said in a telephone interview.
The researchers used genetics to track generations of steelhead trout in the Hood River in Oregon. They said the findings showed definitively that while they may look the same, wild fish and fish from hatcheries are not the same.
They added that the findings suggest that the idea of releasing captive-reared fish into the wild to help boost the wild population should be carefully reconsidered.
This is probably because the offspring of captive-reared fish inherited traits that might work in the slow-moving world of a hatchery but turn them into sushi in the fish-eat-fish world of the wild, the researchers said.
Blouin noted that there are two different missions for fish hatcheries. The traditional mission has been to produce fish for harvest, and Blouin said they are really good at that.
"These highly domesticated stocks perform well in a hatchery. The offspring are calm and they feed well and they grow well," Blouin said.
Another type of conservation-minded "supplementation" hatcheries produce fish intended to be added to wild populations to augment their numbers.
"There are no good data showing that supplementation programs work. And now we have genetic data showing that one might be a little concerned," Blouin said.
The steelhead trout is an important type of salmonid fish, which includes salmon and trout.
"If you're trying to create hatchery fish that are going to perform well in the wild, you want to minimize the number of generations in captivity. Even just a single extra generation through the hatchery causes a really large, detectable decline," Blouin said.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Teach Your Children Well

What do we teach our children about the world around us? Do we teach them to honor and respect every good thing that nature has to offer or do we teach them that the world is their oyster and they can do whatever they like?
Someone said that if we allow kids to kill a few wild trout that we are doing them a great favor and making them love fishing and the outdoors all the more.
I firmly believe that type of thinking is deadly wrong. We teach them to harvest and take regardless of the consequences. We teach them that conservation is less important than our selfish wants. We teach them that killing a wild fish has no long term effects on the general well being of that endangered fishes future. We teach them that instant gratification wins out and later consequences do not matter.
Why not teach kids to love and nurture and work for the improvement of the last remaining wild trout populations we have? Why not teach them to work for the betterment of the resource? Why not teach them that releasing wild fish is a good thing and helps insure the future of the species. Those who just want to kill will not admit that the pratice of catch and relese has helped bring some trout populations back from the brink.
I was ready to write about the north coast and the beautiful fish that I encountered there yesterday. I am pretty critical of that region because it has so much to offer yet some soulless and selfish people believe that the well of wild fish will never dry up.
Sure what are a few dead trout going to matter in the grand scheme of things? It's so much more important to allow a young angler to kill a few and so he will feel good about himself.After all his father and his grandfather killed wild trout with apparent reckless abandon so why should the next generation not be allowed to?
Indeed it was that recklessness that got us into the situation we are in now.
Careless adults with run away egos think this heritage of harvest should continue unchecked. They make excuses and accuse those that actually do care of doing harm because we practice catch and release. Do you think they may feel a little guilty? or are they so gullible and ignorant so as to not know any better. Perhaps they are just a victim of what ever whim might strike them at the time.
I feel so very strongly about conservation of our last remaining wild fish that when some narcissistic egomaniac writes about what a great idea killing a few coastal cutthroat trout is for kids I get what I believe is righteous indignation.
It takes someone so selfish and self absorbed that they care little about anything but themselves.
It's an emotional issue for me and while it may seem like this is an emotional response to some witless person's rant it goes beyond emotion.
We teach our children that everything is theirs to plunders and take without remorse then we teach them greed and a lack of respect that will not serve them well as adults.
We implant in our children the harvest first and worry about the over all effect later.We teach them that the future of a population of wild trout or any precious natural resource is not important.
Sad isn't it?