Has hell froze over? Are the Chicago Cubs a sure bet to win a World Series? Apparently that is what it's going to take to get ODFW to change course and go all the way with responsible wild fish management. They took a baby step but it's not enough....by a long shot it's not enough.
After several years of a misguided and dogmatic strategy of upriver plants of hatchery steelhead on the Nestucca river they have re-evaluated the program and decided to move the large majority of these plants into the lower portion of the river.
Realize of course that their are still some 40,000 hatchery and broodstock steelhead smolt being released in the old release area so obviously this is not even close to a perfect scenario...yet.
Plainly speaking the much touted steelhead broodstock program is not doing what it was intended to do! On top of that, and most troubling of all, is the over all effect on main stem spawning native steelhead. This is an ill conceived program that boils down to a state sponsored welfare program for gear and bait guides. Having the hatchery steelhead planted in one up river location and given their propensity for straying, provided north coast gear guides the opportunity to fish during a time of year (late winter) when in the past was reserved for wild steelhead only. The out of basin hatchery stock, which comprised the bulk of hatchery plants in the past, was done by the time the native steelhead showed up. The native steelhead were pretty much not interfered with as far as intermingling hatchery fish being present.
The broodstock program changed all of that and what we have today is a late arriving hatchery stock that is intentionally timed to arrive during the same time endangered native steelhead arrive.
Folks it was like a mass hypnosis among the north coast fishing scene. This program, with the nearby Wilson river and the further south Siletz river also having similar programs along with the Nestucca was supposed to make everyone happy with a phasing out of the out of basin stock from the Alsea river being replaced by the so called superior broodstock plants.
As most of you surely know it just does not work that way and what we have today is a declining native winter steelhead population in those rivers that was making a comeback prior to the implementation of these broodstock programs.
So here is hoping that ODFW does not stop there and takes into consideration the big picture and that is the welfare of wild native steelhead and not the welfare of a handful of bait guides....keep your fingers crossed.