Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tell Us Something We Didn't Already Know

This is disturbing news folks but it's not surprising. Tough to lay the blame at any one source but the ultimate culprit is us!

The Following article is courtesy of the Sacramento Bee

Fall Chinook Salmon on Verge of Collapse in California

by Matt Weiser

The Sacramento River's fall chinook salmon population is headed for a collapse, according to new federal data, threatening the upcoming commercial and recreational fishing season on one of the country's most important runs.

The fall chinook run in the Central Valley has long been touted as a conservation success story. As many other species declined, fall salmon spawning in the Sacramento River and its tributaries held reliably above 200,000 fish for 15 years.

But in fall 2007, the number of spawners suddenly fell to just 90,414 fish, the second-lowest total since 1973. That includes wild and hatchery-raised fish.

The news came in a memo e-mailed Monday from the director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council to council board members.

The numbers are preliminary and normally are not made public until February. But they represent a steep drop from the 2006 return of about 270,000 chinook.

"It's frightening to think how far we've fallen so quickly," said J.D. Richey, a salmon fishing guide on the American River, a key tributary that contributes to the Valley's chinook run. "It's pretty bleak."

Even more worrisome, the count of 2-year-old chinook returning to spawn in 2007 was just 2,021 fish. That is not just a record low, but also a mere fraction of 36-year average of about 40,000 fish. Early spawners, also called "jacks," are considered a reliable indicator of the number of 3-year-old fish expected to spawn in the following year.

In addition, the 90,414 total falls below the council's minimum conservation target of 122,000 fish, which may compel officials to shorten the 2008 fishing season both in the ocean and in Central Valley rivers. The council meets in Sacramento March 8-14 to begin that regulatory process for the season that begins in May.

"The magnitude of the low abundance … is such that the opening of all marine and freshwater fisheries impacting this important salmon stock will be questioned," Donald McIsaac, the council's executive director, wrote in the memo. He called the numbers "an early alert to what at this point appears to be an unprecedented collapse."

The Central Valley run includes fish that spawn on the San Joaquin River. But the vast majority of the fall chinook spawn in the Sacramento River and its tributaries. These fish mainly range north in the Pacific Ocean, supporting the fishing industry in Washington and Oregon as well as California.

In 2006, the salmon season was drastically curtailed to protect the smaller Klamath River chinook. With fishermen still recovering from that, another reduction would sting.

"It's going to be devastating," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "It could mean no fishing at all."

It remains unclear why the run fell off so sharply in 2007. But many indicators point to poor ocean health, which may, in turn, be caused by factors linked to global warming, according to researchers.

For several years, changes in wind patterns have halted or delayed deep upwelling currents in the ocean. The upwelling drives a food cycle that produces plankton, which in turn feed tiny shrimp-like krill. The krill, in turn, are the primary food for young salmon spending their first year in the ocean.

The upwelling disruptions may have contributed to a decline in krill along with their salmon predators. Krill also feed a variety of seabirds, many of which also have declined in number.

Other experts said they believe poor environmental conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are to blame. Six other fish species are declining there due to a combination of near-record water exports, poor water quality and competition for food from invasive species.

"It's just another piece of evidence that our management of the rivers and the estuary are insufficient to support these species," said Tina Swanson, senior scientist at the Bay Institute. "We need to do better, and really quickly."

Many anglers fear a reduced season in 2008, but it may not be much worse than what they just went through because of the poor chinook return.

Richey, for example, had only 10 percent of the usual number of clients booking salmon trips on the American River last year.

"I basically just stopped offering salmon (trips) because there wasn't anything to catch," he said.

"To me, it just felt like there was a void in the Valley. It was odd. I guess having the chinook was something I've taken for granted all these years."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Just Another Dead Wild Steelhead

The above photo appeared on the northwest's largest sports fishing internet forum and yes that is an intact adipose fin. It will no doubt spark some debate among some of the enlightened few that care that this steelhead was killed for this fisherman's glory shot but, unfortunately it will get far too many "atta boys"
Wonder if that dead wild steelhead tasted good? Certainly a wild steelhead must taste great or there would be no reason to kill them right?
Do you suppose this picture of this fellows grand achievement will reside in some drawer for years to come and that will be the only evidence this wild steelhead existed?
Some have said why even post these pictures of dead wild steelhead and the ignorant anglers who killed them?
I post them because I know there are some of you that read this blog who give a damn. I post these pictures to keep us motivated and focused on the ignorance that still prevails among the sports fishing community.
We cannot continue to allow these fish to be marginalized! They are a precious resource that must be protected and stood up for or they will be gone just like that! How many times have you heard that old and foolish statement that there are no "true" wild fish any more? That is the excuse that is used by the ignorant to justify the harvest of wild salmonids.
I will continue to post these egomaniacs pictures to show how far we still have to go in the ongoing battle for wild fish.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Stop the Insanity!!!

Anyone remember Susan Powter? She was that manic crew cut wearing blond exercise and diet guru and television huckster from the 90's who assaulted our senses with her commercials. Her catch phrase was "Stop the Insanity!!!" I always thought she was referring to her own commercials and so I took her advice and turned the channel.
I think she may have been on to something with that phrase though. I would like to apply it to our current wild fish management here in the north west.
I was talking to a friend who has a copy of the 1953 Oregon Fishing regulations and was amazed at just how progressive those regs were fifty five years ago. There were actually closures and protections of wild salmon and steelhead that were years ahead of their times. Sixty oneyears ago apparently someone at ODFW had the fore sight to think about the future of wild fish!
I feel the states of Oregon and Washington have taken huge steps backwards concerning wild salmonids in recent years though.
The steelhead broodstock programs on the Nestucca and Wilson rivers are a prime example of the harvest drunk mentality that pervades the thinking these days. We have convinced ourselves that we cannot possibly live without fish to harvest and by God we deserve fish to harvest! The broodstock programs are not the only misadventures of fishery management in this region.
Amazingly history has shown us time and time again just how resilient wild salmon and steelhead are. They have rebounded from poor logging practices, mining and even volcano eruptions! The main thing that has brought wild fish to their knees is.....hatchery fish. You can trace nearly every case of wild fish demise to the introduction of hatchery fish into the rivers of the region.
Wild winter steelhead were rebounding nicely on the north Oregon coast until these ill conceived broodstock programs started around 2001.They were started under the guise of better hatchery management but in reality they are nothing more than bait guide welfare programs. We see the decline but ODFW will not acknowledge it and any ground that was gained in bringing back wild fish from the brink has been lost. The proverbial one step forward and two steps back saying comes to mind here.
So here's to those of you that simply must have a fish to kill and the fishery managers that seem hell bent on sating that gluttony at the expense of wild fish. I hope in the end that you will be happy with your artificial and dwindling resource and the outraged fishing public that will want answers.
I find your thinking disturbing and disgusting but rest assured that those who truly do want to stop the insanity are not about to give up quite yet.
Oh and those of you that "pimp" the resource for financial gain? No, I haven't forgotten about you wonderful people who sell out wild fish without giving anything back. You know who you are and I have definitely had plenty to comment on you in past entries. You fishing website owners, guides and businesses who lack the integrity and conscience in favor of making money on the very thing you claim to love. If I believed in the existence of hell then I would certainly believe there is a special place for your kind there.
You might find my comments rude and angry but listen folks my passion comes from a deep seeded belief that we are responsible for the earth we leave our children and grandchildren. From the looks of things as they now are they are not going to be very pleased with us.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Home I've Never Seen

I dream of a place that maybe one day I'll visit. I know I'll feel right at home and welcomed as the prodigal son returning to his home.It's a place I've never seen and yet I feel know it intimately at least in my heart.
I know the day that I step foot on this place it will be like deja vu. I've been here before but not in person but in my dreams.
That place, the place of my ancestors is Scotland.
I am a Stewart. The descendant of William Stewart of the highlands. The Stewart name is as ingrained in Scottish lore and history as single malt whiskey and Scotland's famous lochs.
I wouldn't begin to try to describe my ancestral home because as songwriter Jimmy Buffet once wrote "Don't try to describe the ocean if you've never seen it" but it's a place I know I will be quite familiar with the minute I step foot on it's soil.
My family is many generations removed from the "Auld Sod" but returning to it is a quest and yearning I cannot ignore and return I will.
I think this poem by Jeanette Simpson best describes my heart.

Oh Scotland, My Heart

Oh, Scotland!
How I long to walk your highlands and your glens,
To watch the flowers in your meadows wave in the breeze,
To hear the ocean waves noisily kiss the shores of your western isles,
To sift the sands of your beaches through my fingers,
To see the rainbows after your showers,
And to feel your history surround me.

You are not the land of my birth.
You are the land of my ancestors' birth.
My ancestors, who were involved in your struggles to become a nation,
Who were there in your shining hours and your darkest hours,
Who sacrificed for you and were shaped by your story
Then later left you for reasons I do not know,
But my innermost being knows there were tears at the parting.

As the ripples and tides of the ocean shape the sands and even the shorelines over time,
So did the experiences of my ancestors ripple through the generations and shape me.
The whispers and shouts of their patriotism have flowed through my blood since my birth.
And, I long to know your history, to fathom the riddles of your past.
I cannot read enough or learn enough about you.
I want to experience every facet of you so that I may better understand myself.

I must have inherited a homesickness gene, one that pines for you at times
And feels incomplete without my connection to you.
Your music soothes an empty corner of my heart
When I am aching to be on your sod.
My love for you permeates my soul.

No, you are not the land of my birth,
But you are the land of who I am.
You haunt me; your magic pulls me.
Oh, Scotland! You are my heart!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Neil Young - Keep on Rockin' in the Free World

In my humble and unlearned opinion this is maybe the greatest social commentary song ever written! As timely today as it was when Neil wrote it.
On election day of 2004 when exit polls indicated the end of the Bush reign of terror I drove around with this song blaring at full blast from my car stereo. Of course later that night the reality of an American despot who would not cede power so easily came crashing down on my hopes and the hope of millions of Americans. We had faith in the our electoral process and were confident that the constitutional mandate of free elections could not be derailed by corrupt little men like George Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and our faith was betrayed.

.....that's one more kid that'll never go to school, never get to fall in love, never get to be cool KEEP ON ROCKIN' IN THE FREE WORLD

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

What a sad picture. I'm not begrudging this gentleman his triumph because that is a very nice, once in a life time wild steelhead. Many anglers fish their whole lives in search of such a fish. I've only hooked a couple of fish that came close to that size and both broke me off.
This wild steelhead was hooked, landed and killed legally on the Chetco river in southern Oregon. The Chetco is one of the few Oregon rivers where it is legal to harvest wild steelhead.
So you might wonder why this picture saddens me so much since this fellow did what he was legally entitled to do.
It's sad because of the lost potential of that fish. That steelhead spent at least three years in the ocean before returning to it's native river to spawn. It carried the genes to pass onto future generation it's unique qualities. It's sad because those of us that speak out for wild steelhead are shouted down by the harvest mentality crowds.
It's really more than just a dead wild steelhead though. It's the attitude behind it! The responses by some on the largest of fishing forums here in the northwest tells me a lot about the priorities that some "sportsmen" have. They could not care less about the well being of a vanishing run of fish. They couldn't care less about the fact that our wild steelhead runs are a mere fraction of what they were just a couple of decades ago. We have got to change and soon because there will not be any thing left to care about
I'm sure this fisherman had a few nice meals from this fish or maybe he even smoked it for the holidays. Yes I imagine it made a fine meal and this picture will live on the world wide web and in his memory for years to come. In a time when nearly every river in the northwest has hatchery steelhead to harvest don't you think that this fish could have been easily released? He could have taken a few quick measurements and photos to have a nice reproduction mount to hang on his wall. Wonder if this fish tasted good or if it now resides in the freezer among the frozen peas and carrots. We will never know this fishes fate except the the cold stark fact it never spawned and the progeny it could have produced will not return to the Chetco and that my friends is sad.

2008...What Lays Ahead?

Well faithful readers we made it through another year. For me it was a year of enlightenment, accomplishment and of course failure.
How was I enlightened you might ask? I would have to say that the biggest thing I learned was how politicized our fisheries have become. It seems like it is no longer a matter of doing what is the right thing for our resource but what is the most politically expedient. Often it's the path of least resistance that causes the decisions that are made to be made.

I would expect we will hear more politicians saying all the catch phrases that will capture the attention of the large sports fishing communities attention in order to garner their vote.
I've accomplished making a least some people more aware of the tasks before us in the coming year. We that care about wild fish know that this year could make or break the future of wild fish. We are not conceited enough to think we have so much clout as to pull it off ourselves either. Remember I've said before it should never be about individuals or personalities but the greater good of the fish.
Someone recently offered me help on a vital wild fish issue that is near and dear to me if I would go along with a plan to increase the daily take of hatchery steelhead. What is wrong with that scenario? Basically they offered to trade wild fish for more hatchery fish. So what happened to doing what is right instead of trying to do the old "I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine" thing. Although I should be flattered by someone thinking I have that much influence I thought about it and it was just the wrong way of accomplishing things in my opinion.
I am just one person who cares for wild salmon, trout and steelhead and that's all. I look back on 2007 and realize that I have failed by not doing enough to protect and enhance the wild fish I claim to love so much.
Was there a letter I could have written to a fishery official that may have made a difference? Maybe! Was there a bit of garbage that I could have packed out of some area I was fishing? Without a doubt. Could I have spoken up about something that would have helped? Yes I could have. One thing for sure is that there is no time for a learning curve in the wild fish conservation movement. The time to act is now!
Wild fish are in peril and we cannot waste any time in doing what we can to help. Hopefully some of you will make that your 2008 New Year resoltuion.