Sunday, July 26, 2009

...and the Beat Goes On

You children of the 60's must certainly remember the old Sonny and Cher song "The Beat Goes On" don't you? Well I thought I would liken it to what the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is doing to wild salmonids in Oregon.
The beating, trampling and mismanaging our wild coldwater fisheries just keeps going on.
Looking back into recent history we can see the blitzkrieg that ODFW has launched on wild salmon,steelhead and trout. I will briefly review what has transpired in just the last 10 or so years as ODFW "beats" on wild fish.
The steelhead broodstock programs is perhaps the biggest blunder these "stewards" have foisted upon the state of Oregon. Ask anyone, who isn't a bait guide, on rivers like those in the Tillamook basin how few steelhead redds they are seeing since this program has gone on.
Then the total mismanagement of chinook salmon statewide. Whether it's the Columbia river or the coastal regions the state of Oregon's salmon populations, specifically chinook salmon, are in serious trouble. Ask anyone who fishes either area and they will tell you just how bad it is. ODFW went so far as to close specific rivers and areas to the retention of chinook salmon BUT they are allowing business as usual on coho salmon. They will even allow the harvest of wild coho in the same rivers where the chinook closure is taking place.
Then there is the "Angling Opportunities" excuse to pillage wild trout and steelhead populations. Sure enough ODFW is once again casting an eye towards the wild winter steelhead on the North Umpqua. In less than two years after first protecting these fish ODFW is going to try to push across a harvest of wild winter steelhead. Doesn't matter that it was only last October that the commission decided against a harvest.
Seems to me that there should be some kind of asterisk after each regulation that protects wild steelhead.
* We at ODFW reserve the right to pull the conservation rug out from any wild steelhead population if it can increase license sales So really nothing is safe these days. Whether it be coastal cutthroat trout, chinook and coho salmon or wild winter steelhead when it comes to being responsible stewards there truly aren't any sacred cows.
The thing is with a looking fee increase on just about every tag or license the state of Oregon is about to price themselves out of the game.
There are few if any "blue ribbon" coldwater fisheries in this region anymore but still the fight for what scraps are left goes on.
Folks it really does suck being such a cynic but reality, being what it is, forces me into this position.
I would much rather talk about the great strides our fish and wildlife departments are making in the preservation of our coldwater fisheries but for every small step forward that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife makes they take two huge steps backwards.
Groups like Trout Unlimited and Native Fish Society are the proverbial John the Baptists, crying out in the wilderness of failed hatchery programs and disappearing salmon runs.
For those of you that buy an angling license in Oregon and Washington. Don't you think it's time to hold these people accountable for their mismanagement?
Next year the biennium budget process for ODFW will begin anew and it will be your chance to see these bureaucrats in action. Go to a regional budget meeting and ask pointed questions about what this state agency is doing with our money.
The experience is eye opening!


  1. You know I always like to throw my two cents in on these conservation posts so here goes . . . .

    The angler opportunity mantra is nonsense. Oregon is replete with angler opportunity. So I agree with you there.

    I disagree, however, on your coho stance. The population unit, OCN, is a bit large, as in painted with a broad brush. Really you have distinct population segments within that management unit, the Siuslaw population, Umpqua population, Coos, Coquille, Alsea, Siletz, etc.

    In 2003 there were 80,000+ coho in the Siulsaw and no inshore fishery. The last couple years there were far, far fewer. But, that decline happened in the absence off an inshore fishery. Some of those fish from 2003 and 2004 could have been harvested with only a negligible, at most, effect on the brood class three years later. Even the most conservation oriented fish groups agree (off the record) that harvests at the level ODFW is proposing in those four basins will make no difference to the number of outbound smolts. Why not have a fishery then?

    It is called adaptive management. Each basin is going to need it's own management regime, it's own quota and its own rules. We need to be done with the days of a two or three fish limit set for every river on the coast and instead look at each river and fishery on its own merits.

    The way I'd like to see ODFW go is to assess each river basin and it's carrying capacity for each salmon species and continually reassess that as habitat conditions are improved and make sure there is enough escapement to fully seed the available habitat with a substantial built in buffer. This needs to be done for every river on the coast.

    That way, we will maintain and enhance salmon populations even as allowing fisheries and maintaining the existing connection to salmon and growing that connection in the next generation of anglers and conservationists.

  2. I don't trust ODFW assessment of the populations.
    Case in point is the cutthroat trout assessment by ODFW biologists which turned out to be incorrect.
    This is what happens when you do not have a balance of wild fish people versus hatchery fish people within ODFW and especially on the coastal basins.
    It makes no sense to have a fishery that will impact endangered fish like fall chinook.
    If there is the huge return of coho like ODFW is predicting then proper precautions must be take to insure the safety of depressed chinook populations. I don't see ODFW doing that just like they didn't do with wild steelhead and salmon smolt when allowing a harvest of cutthroat trout.
    Face it, ODFW's track record the last decade is not very good.

  3. "I don't trust ODFW assessment of the populations. "

    I don't either. The confidence intervals on their population studies should be listed as no confidence.

    "This is what happens when you do not have a balance of wild fish people versus hatchery fish people within ODFW . . . ."

    I totally agree. There are definitely some good people in ODFW there are also far too many nasty hatchery huggers. I'm not going to name names here but I'm thinking of one SOB in particular.

    "It makes no sense to have a fishery that will impact endangered fish like fall chinook.
    If there is the huge return of coho like ODFW is predicting then proper precautions must be take to insure the safety of depressed chinook populations. I don't see ODFW doing that . . . ."

    I mostly agree. They should close the coast generally except where open and they should not allow bait in the fisheries that are open, imo. I am most likely not going to fish for chinook this year. I certainly will not keep any and recommend the same for everyone.

    What we saw with the coho last year and hopefully this year is generally speaking a quick rebound from the abysmal runs of a couple years ago. This should take place over the next few years for chinook as well. My friends who fish the ocean have reported catching about 15-20 fat chinook while coho fishing and I hear that the nook are already coming in and out of Winchester on the tide--hopefully good signs.

    As you know these things are cyclical (though we've never been this low and it is a definite crisis)harvest of chinook this year will not prevent their recovery but will prevent the bounce back from being as high. (At least it is thought) The stakes are high though and more caution should be exercised,in my opinion. Like I said, I think chinook should be closed period.

    Sadly, something we can't control is the northern ocean fishers. I'm not looking for boogey men but if the ocean were better regulated for chinook we'd see more and bigger fish returning to our oregon streams since a typcal chinook is exposed to three years of fisheries at sea.

    The cutthroat harvest is an abomination, plain and simple.

    ODFW is like a barge, not a driftboat. Change will come but will come slowly. It's going to happen though.

  4. Change will happen but I fear it may be too late. I think I know the hatchery manager you are referring to and yes he is a SOB!