Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Is A Steelhead Flyfisher?

Jeff Bright wrote this in the latest edition of "Adipose" the newsletter of Wild Steelhead Coalition

In this age of compromised rivers and diminishing habitat a steelhead flyfisher is not merely an angler who pursues sea-run rainbow trout with a fly, but one also fully committed to the preservation and protection of wild steelhead and their rivers.
This commitment includes a desire to become better educated on issues affecting the health of wild steelhead. It means becoming a citizen and steward of the Pacific Northwest, writing letters to agencies and officials, making your voice heard, speaking for the fish, and contributing money to vital efforts.
It means carefully weighing your consumer and political choices and evaluating the impact they have on the ecology of anadromous rivers --not only locally but regionally as well. More than anything, it means rolling up your sleeves to help, in anyway you can, with the fight to save wild steelhead.

Quite a challenge isn't it? I know I fall well short of what Jeff is talking about and I have no excuse.
How about you? What have you done for wild steelhead or any population of wild salmonids?
Groups like Wild Steelhead Coalition,Native Fish Society or
Trout Unlimited are groups that fight for our wild salmonid heritage. Why not join one of these groups if you care about wild steelhead, salmon or trout. It's money well spent and you will be making a difference and it's a good start towards being a good steward of our wild resource.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye

Today marks the 46th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. I remember the day very well and without a doubt it was one of the most tragic occurrences in the history of this nation and a day I will never forget.
I will always commemorate this day as it was of the most indelible memories of my childhood. I was in the 4th grade and we were getting our weekly Spanish lesson on closed circuit TV. It was 11:15 AM on the west coast when the bulletin broke on the TV. At 11:30 we took our lunch as usual when a teacher announced President Kennedy had died. When I got home from school that gloomy Friday I found my mother weeping in front of the television. My father was as quiet and somber as I have ever seen him that weekend. We sat transfixed in front of the television for the next 4 days and I also watched as the murder of Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was broadcast .to the grieving nation. Like I said I will never forget that day as long as I live.
What died that day was more than just a head of state. What died was the hope, promise and potential of dynamic and courageous leadership that we may never see again. We can only speculate about what might have been had President Kennedy lived to serve out his term. I would like to think that we would have achieved the true greatness this country is capable of. We lost our innocence that day and as a nation we suffered a tragedy that is still fresh and still painful to all of us living then.For those of us that remember President Kennedy, he will forever be our handsome young president forever frozen in time at the age of 46 with Jackie in her pink suit with matching pillbox hat......Truly we hardly knew him.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do Wild Fish Matter?

Ask yourself that and I'd bet you would say "Of course they do!" and I'm sure most are sincere so maybe I'm just preaching to the choir here. If that applies to you then you can skip the rest if you want.
If you are not sure then maybe I can help you to see what I'm getting at here.
First of all if you think that by saving hatcheries, going to fin clippings,working on boat ramps or helping the steelhead broodstock program makes you some kind of conservation hero then think again. In 2002 you helped save the north coast hatcheries by showing up at Tillamook county Fairgrounds or ODFW headquarters and feel pretty good huh? Whether you meant well or not all you accomplished is nailing just another nail into the coffin of wild salmonids. Yes I might be blunt here but you did the wild salmon and steelhead of the Pacific northwest no favor at all. If you clipped fins at some Tillamook county good old boys pet project then shame on you!
There is absolutely no excuse for not being educated about wild fish and their habitat...none!
Dumping hatchery raised salmon and steelhead into the habitat of wild fish is death to those wild fish. It's a proven fact that hatchery plantings damage the delicate balance of wild fish and their environment. Didn't know that huh? Well BS! There is no excuse for not knowing. Perhaps you don't really care? That isn't surprising since after all the state of Oregon owes you fish to harvest don't they?
Feeling a little scorched huh? Hey I warned you didn't I?
Listen folks if we are ever going to get to sustainable numbers of wild fish then this hatchery madness has to end. We cannot continue to harvest wild fish at the rate we are going and think that dumping gazillions of hatchery raised fish into a river to replace will solve the problem because it will not.
Allowing the harvest of wild coastal cutthroat trout and the pitiful numbers of returning fall chinook salmon plus a myriad of other devastating situations facing our wild salmonids. Wild winter run steelhead populations are in a death spiral and ignorance along with greed  is what got them there and unless the public gets wised up about what is at stake then it is a gloomy future.
I'm not saying there has not been progress because there has but we risk throwing every gain we have made by idly standing by and doing nothing. Killing sea lions is not the answer and neither is running the gill nets off the Columbia however getting educated and getting involved is the answer. Think beyond your ego and how many quarts of eggs or pounds of fillets you can put in your freezer.
I apologize if you've been offended by the tone of this post.....wait a minute!!!!! No I do not apologize because if anything I've said here makes any of you uncomfortable in any way then I'm glad because maybe you'll get involved. The old saying that is you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem, while being a cliche, never rang truer.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hatcheries and Their Effect on Wild Salmonids

This article is by Bill Bakke of Native Fish Society. It is a lengthy read but worth it.

The following quotes are based on scientific evaluation and most are from peer reviewed scientific papers. The lead author and the date of publication are provided for reference. Hatchery solutions for wild salmonid decline have ignited a debate about their effectiveness and impact on wild, native salmonids. While science has shown that in many cases hatchery programs are in conflict with wild salmonid conservation and recovery, the ongoing problem is that this information is not being effectively applied by the management agencies.
Allendorf et al. 1994: We are not aware of a single empirical example in which (hatchery) supplementation has been successfully used as a temporary strategy to permanently increase abundance of naturally spawning populations of Pacific salmon.
Altukhov et al 1991: Artificial reproduction, commercial fisheries, and transfers result in the impairment of gene diversity in salmon populations, and so cause their biological degradation.
Araki et al. 2008: Captive breeding is used to supplement populations of many species that are declining in the wild. The suitability of and long-term species survival from such programs remain largely untested, however. We measured lifetime reproductive success of the first two generations of steelhead trout that were reared in captivity and bred in the wild after they were released. By reconstructing a three-generation pedigree with microsatellite markers, we show that genetic effects of domestication reduce subsequent reproductive capabilities by 40% per captive-reared generation when fish are moved to natural environments. These results suggest that even a few generations of domestication may have negative effects on natural reproduction in the wild and that the repeated use of captive-reared parents to supplement wild populations should be carefully reconsidered.
Araki et al. 2008: “Our review indicates that salmonids appear to be very susceptible to fitness loss while in captivity. The degree of fitness loss appears to be mitigated to some extent by using local, wild fish for broodstock, but we found little evidence to suggest that it can be avoided altogether. The general finding of low relative fitness of hatchery fish combined with studies that have found broad scale negative associations between the presence of hatchery fish and wild population performance, should give fisheries managers pause as they consider whether to include hatchery production in their conservation toolbox.”

Bachman 1984: Hatchery brown trout fed less, moved more, and expended more energy than wild brown trout in streams.
Bams 1970: Hatchery pink salmon migrated to the ocean one to two weeks earlier than wild pinks.
Berejikian and Ford 2003: Competitive asymmetries between hatchery and natural spawners and possibly their offspring can clearly contribute to the differences in relative fitness. Hatchery fish have lower fitness.
Blouin 2003: Non-local domesticated hatchery summer-run steelhead achieved 17-54% the lifetime fitness of natural native fish.
Blouin 2009: "If anyone ever had any doubts about the genetic differences between hatchery and wild fish, the data are now pretty clear. The effect is so strong that it carries over into the first wild-born generation. Even if fish are born in the wild and survive to reproduce, those adults that had hatchery parents still produce substantially fewer surviving offspring than those with wild parents. That's pretty remarkable."
Blouin 2009: “The implication is that hatchery salmonids – many of which do survive to reproduce in the wild– could be gradually reducing the fitness of the wild populations with which they interbreed. Those hatchery fish provide one more hurdle to overcome in the goal of sustaining wild runs, along with problems caused by dams, loss or degradation of habitat, pollution, overfishing and other causes. Aside from weakening the wild gene pool, the release of captive-bred fish also raises the risk of introducing diseases and increasing competition for limited resources.”
Blouin 2009: There is about a 40% loss in reproductive fitness for each generation spent in a hatchery.
Brannon et al. 1999: (Independent Scientific Advisory Board) : The three recent independent reviews of fish and wildlife recovery efforts in the Columbia River Basin addressed hatcheries. There was consensus among the three panels (National Fish Hatchery Review Panel, National Research Council, Independent Science Group), which underscores the importance of their contributions in revising the scientific foundation for hatchery policy. The ten general conclusions made by the panels are listed below.

1. Hatcheries generally have failed to meet their objectives

2. Hatcheries have imparted adverse effects on natural populations

3. Managers have failed to evaluate hatchery programs

4. Rationale justifying hatchery production was based on untested assumptions.

5. Hatchery supplementation should be linked with habitat improvements

6. Genetic considerations have to be included in hatchery programs.

7. More research and experimental approaches are required.

8. Stock transfers and introductions of non-native species should be discontinued.

9. Artificial production should have a new role in fisheries management.

10. Hatcheries should be used as temporary refuges rather than for long-term production.

Brauner 1994: In freshwater swimming velocity tests, wild coho salmon smolts swam faster than hatchery fish. In seawater hatchery fish performance compared to wild fish was poor. Hatchery fish had more difficulty osmoregulating.
Byrne et al. 1992: Building more hatcheries should cause alarm to biologists concerned with the preservation of native stocks until it is demonstrated that supplementation can be done in a way that does not reduce fitness of the native stock.

California Dept. Fish and Game 2002: The brains of hatchery raised rainbow trout are smaller in 7 out of 8 critical neuroanatomical measures than those of their wild reared counterparts.
Chilcote et al. 1986: Hatchery steelhead are only 38% as successful in producing smolts as wild steelhead.
Chilcote 2002: “…there will be little benefit to bringing some of the wild fish into the hatchery environment if the resulting hatchery smolts will have ocean survival rates that are 1/10 of those for wild smolts….all indications are that hatchery fish, even from wild broodstocks, are not as successful as wild fish in producing viable offspring under natural conditions….”
Chilcote 2003: A naturally spawning population comprised of equal numbers of hatchery and wild fish would produce 63% fewer recruits per spawner than one comprised entirely of wild fish. For natural populations, removal rather than addition of hatchery fish may be the most effective strategy to improve productivity and resilience.
Chilcote 2008: At a recent meeting of lower Columbia River Salmon Recovery Stakeholders, the document , Recovery Strategies to Close the Conservation Gap Methods and Assumptions, hatchery fish impacts are discussed. It says, “…relative population survival rates (recruits produced per spawner) were found to decrease at a rate equal to or greater than the proportion of hatchery fish in the natural spawning population. In other words, a spawning population with 20% hatchery strays (regardless of the type of hatchery program and whether they are integrated or segregated) had the net survival rate (recruits per spawner) that was 20% less than a population comprised entirely of wild fish (0% hatchery strays). Likewise, a population with 40% hatchery strays had a population survival rate that was 40% lower than a population comprised entirely of wild fish.”
Dickson 1982: Juvenile hatchery fish show a behavioral shift in stream feeding position compared to wild fish. Hatchery fish feed nearer the surface. This may expose them to greater predation.
Ersbak et al. 1983: Hatchery trout conditions declined after stocking. Hatchery fish were less flexible in switching to available food in the stream.
Fenderson, 1968: Hatchery fish are more aggressive and dominate wild fish, and hatchery fish have a higher mortality.
Flagg et al., 1999: The reviews conclude that artificial culture environments condition salmonids to respond to food, habitat, conspecifics and predators differently than fish reared in natural environments. It is now recognized that artificial rearing conditions can produce fish distinctly different from wild cohorts in behavior, morphology, and physiology
Fleming, et al., 1993: The divergence of hatchery fish in traits important for reproductive success has raised concerns. This study shows that hatchery coho salmon males are competitively inferior to wild fish, and attained only 62% of the breeding success of wild males. Hatchery females had more difficulty in spawning than wild fish and hatchery fish had only 82% of the breeding success of wild fish. These results indicate hatchery fish may pose an ecological and genetic threat to wild fish.
Fleming et al. 1994: Results of this study imply that hatchery fish have restricted abilities to rehabilitate wild populations, and may pose ecological and genetic threats to the conservation of wild populations.
Fleming et al. 1997: Reproductive success defined in the study as the ability to produce viable eyed embryos did not differ between hatchery and natural females. Hatchery males, however, achieved only 51% the estimated relative reproductive success of natural males under conditions of mutual competition. Hatchery males were less able to monopolize access to spawning females and suffered more severe wounding and greater mortality than natural males.
Flick, et al. 1964: Wild brook trout had higher summer and winter survival than hatchery fish.
Ford, 2002: Substantial phenotypic changes and fitness reductions can occur even if a large fraction of the captive broodstock is brought in from the wild every generation. This suggests that regularly bringing wild-origin broodstock into captive populations cannot be relied upon to eliminate the effects of inadvertent domestication selection.
Gudjonsson and Scarnecchia 2009: “In some rivers the salmon stocks have been enhanced by the release of smolts produced by using local brood stock. Smolts reared in hatcheries and released in rivers frequently had 50% lower return rates than wild smolts.
Hilborn 1992: Pacific salmon hatcheries have failed to deliver expected benefits and they pose the greatest single threat to the long-term maintenance of salmonids.
Hooton 2009: “Most hatchery programs produce steelhead that reflect only a small fraction of the natural life history variability inherent within and between wild populations. The numbers of steelhead that can result from carefully administered hatchery programs may be impressive, but those fish represent only a narrow segment of the diversity and adaptability of wild fish. Such products cannot be relied on to sustain natural populations over the long term.”
Hulett et al. 1994: Hatchery winter steelhead were about one-half as effective as wild winter-run steelhead in naturally producing smolt offspring. Hatchery winter steelhead were about one sixth as effective as wild winter steelhead in naturally produced adult offspring.
IEAB 2002: Cost to catch for hatchery fish:
Hatchery Species Produced Cost of a Salmon that is caught
Leavenworth spring chinook $4,800
Entiat spring chinook $68,031 (Highest $891,000)
Winthrop spring chinook $23,068
Priest Rapids fall chinook $12.00 (Highest - $293)
Irrigon summer steelhead $453
Spring Cr. fall chinook $237 (range 14.53 - $460)
Clatsop coho $124
Spring chinook $233
Fall chinook $65
Nez Perce fall and spring chinook $3,700
McCall spring chinook $786 (range $522 to $1,051)

The benefit of the fishery is $45 to $77 per fish for the commercial fishery and $60 per fish for the sport fishery.
Jonsson et al. 1993: Differences were evident for hatchery Atlantic salmon relative to wild salmon, with common genetic backgrounds, in breeding success after a single generation in the hatchery. Hatchery females averaged about 80% the breeding success of wild females. Hatchery males had significantly reduced breeding success, averaging about 65% of the success of wild males.
Kincaid, 1994: Atlantic salmon held in hatcheries for four generations produced juveniles that had different performance characteristics than progeny from wild parents.
Knudson et al. 2006. “Perhaps the most important conclusion of our study is that even a hatchery program designed to minimize differences between hatchery and wild fish did not produce fish that were identical to wild fish.”
Kostow 2003 : Our data support a conclusion that hatchery summer steelhead adults and their offspring contribute to wild steelhead population declines through competition for spawning and rearing habitats.
Kostow 2004: “In conclusion, this study demonstrated large average phenotype and survival differences between hatchery-produced and naturally produced fish from the same parent gene pool. These results indicate that a different selection regime was affecting each of the groups. The processes indicated by these results can be expected to lead to eventual genetic divergence between the new hatchery stock and its wild source population, thus limiting the usefulness of the stock for conservation purposes to only the first few generations.
Leider, et. al., 1990: The mean percentage of offspring from naturally spawning hatchery steelhead decreased at successive life history stages, compared to wild steelhead, from a potential of 85-87% at the egg stage to 42% at the adult stage. Reproductive success of naturally spawning hatchery steelhead compared to wild steelhead decreases from 75-78% at the subyearling stage to 10.8-12.9% at the adult stage.
Levings, et al., 1986: Hatchery chinook used the estuary a shorter period of time than wild chinook. The greatest overlap between hatchery and wild chinook in the estuary is in the transition zone where greater competition could occur.
Mason, et al., 1997: Hatchery x wild and wild x wild crosses had higher survival in the natural stream compared to hatchery x hatchery crosses.
McClure : “Continued interbreeding with hatchery-origin fish of lower fitness can lower the fitness of the wild population. Generally, large, long-term hatchery programs that dominate production of a population is a high risk factor for certain viability criteria and can lead to increased risk for the population. The populations meeting ‘high viability’ criteria will necessarily be large and spatially complex. In order to meet these criteria (spatial structure and diversity) there should be little or no introgression between hatchery fish and the wild component of the population. Populations supported by hatchery supplementation for more than three generations do not in most cases meet ICTRT viability criteria at the population level.”
McLean et al. 1997: Hatchery steelhead spawning in the wild had markedly lower reproductive success than native wild steelhead. Wild females that spawned in 1996 produced 9 times as many adult offspring per capita as did hatchery females that spawned in the wild. Wild females that spawned in 1997 produced 42 times as many adult offspring as hatchery females. The wild steelhead population more than met replacement requirements (approximately 3.7 – 6.7 adult offspring were produced per female), but the hatchery steelhead were far below replacement (<0.5>
Meffe 1992: Countless salmon stocks have declined precipitously over the last century as a result of overfishing and widespread habitat destruction. A central feature of recovery efforts has been to build many hatcheries to produce large quantities of fish to restock streams. This approach addresses the symptoms but not the causes of the declines.
Miller, 1953: Hatchery cutthroat trout had lower survival compared to wild fish due to absence of natural selection at early life stages.
Miller et al. 1990: Over 300 (hatchery) supplementation projects were reviewed and the authors found: 1) examples of success at rebuilding self-sustaining anadromous fish runs with hatchery fish are scarce (22 out of 316 projects reviewed), 2) success was primarily from providing fish for harvest, and 3) adverse impacts to wild stocks have been shown or postulated for every type of hatchery fish introduction to rebuild runs.
Moran and Waples 2007: “…we show some compelling differences in reproductive success of hatchery and wild fish. Naturally spawning hatchery fish are less than half as productive as wild fish.”
Mullan, et al., 1992: Hatchery spring chinook produced more precocious males than wild chinook. This could be one factor in the low survival of hatchery fish.
Naish et al. 2008: If one concern has been identified, it is that many hatchery programmes continue to be operated with few objectives, and with a poor understanding of the magnitude and importance of the impacts of genetic effects of hatchery releases and the role of this information in informing remedial actions.

A rapidly growing body of literature points towards detrimental behavioral interactions between hatchery and wild fish. More is known about these interactions in freshwater rearing habitats than in estuarine and marine environments. There is also, however, a paucity of information on whether risk avoidance measures are effective at reducing competition and predation and, as far as we know, little attention is directed towards carrying capacity when the size of release is considered.
Nickelson 1986: Hatchery coho salmon have lower survival than wild coho relative to poor ocean productivity cycles. Hatchery coho juveniles are more abundant after stocking in streams but the result is fewer adult returns and fewer juvenile coho salmon in the next generation than in streams that were not stocked.
Nickelson 2003: To aid in the recovery of depressed wild salmon populations, the operation of hatcheries must be changed to reduce interactions of juvenile hatchery fish with wild fish.
Perry, et al. 1993: Idaho has been trying to unravel the secrets of hatchery and wild salmon interactions in nature. Since hatchery salmon do not survive as well as wild salmon, it is important to fix this problem. It is possible that a hatchery supplementation program may inadvertently replace the target natural population with one having lower survival and reproductive potential.
Ratliff, 1981: Wild fall chinook were more resistant to C. shasta than were hatchery chinook.
Reisenbichler, et al. 1977: His research shows that hatchery x hatchery crosses of steelhead fry survival was lower than for wild x wild crosses and wild x hatchery crosses in streams. Likewise he found that hatchery x hatchery crosses survived better in the hatchery environment. The hatchery fish were derived from local wild steelhead and had changed in performance in two generations of hatchery rearing. Conclusion: differences in survival suggested that the short-term effect of hatchery adults spawning in the wild is the production of fewer smolts and ultimately, fewer returning adults than are produced from the same number of wild steelhead spawners.
Reisenbichler 1986: Most (hatchery fish) outplanting programs have been unsuccessful. Rigorous planning, evaluation, and investigation are required to increase the likelihood of success and the ability to promptly discern failure.
Reisenbichler 1994: Gene flow from hatchery fish also is deleterious because hatchery populations genetically adapt to the unnatural conditions of the hatchery environment at the expense of adaptedness for living in natural streams. This domestication is significant even in the first generation of hatchery rearing.
Reisenbichler 1996: Available data suggest progressively declining fitness for natural rearing with increasing generations in the hatchery. The reduction in survival from egg to adult may be about 25% after one generation in the hatchery and 85% after six generations. Reduction in survival from yearling to adult may be about 15% after one generation in the hatchery and 67% after many generations.
RIST 2009: “Most information available indicates that artificially-propagated fish do have ecological impacts on wild salmonid populations under most conditions (e.g. a 50% reduction in productivity for steelhead in an Oregon population). To the degree that the trait distributions seen in wild salmon populations are adaptations to their environments, selection imposed by the hatchery environment could result in reduced fitness of hatchery fish in the wild.”
Shrimpton, et al., 1994: Juvenile hatchery coho showed a reduced tolerance to salt water compared to wild coho.
Slaney, et al., 1993: Hatchery adult steelhead strayed more than wild steelhead
Sosiak, et al., 1979: As juveniles, hatchery fish had less stomach fullness and fed on fewer taxa than wild fish. This was determined after hatchery fish were in streams from one to three months.
Steward et al. 1990: Authors reviewed 606 hatchery supplementation studies and found that few directly assessed the effects on natural stocks. Genetic and ecological effects and changes in productivity of the native stocks that can result remain largely unmeasured. However, the general failure of supplementation to achieve management objectives is evident from the continued decline of wild stocks.
Swain, et al. 1991: Hatchery coho salmon diverged from the wild fish in fin size and body dimensions. These were considered adaptations to the hatchery environment.
Taylor, 1986: Hatchery coho salmon diverged in body structure and variation from that of the wild coho.
Vincent 1987: Hatchery stocking ended in a Montana stream and wild trout more than doubled (160%) and the wild trout biomass increased by 10 times.
Waples 1991: Genetic interactions between hatchery and wild salmonids will increase as hatchery supplementation becomes a more dominate form of hatchery management.
Waples 1994: Hatchery captive brood stocks may shift genetic structure in natural populations.
Wohlfarth 1986: Stocking with hatchery stocks cannot replace wild productivity because hatchery fish are selected for adaptation to the hatchery environment and do not perform well in the natural environment.
Wood, et al., 1960: Hatchery coho salmon 14 months after release into a stream did not reach the body composition of the wild salmon in time for downstream migration

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Lonely River

The rocks on the stream bank are wet as I walk along this small coastal river. They never seem to dry this time of year as a matter of fact. The river is a lonely place now and even though the semi-busy highway 6 is just a few dozen yards above me I feel alone. It's not like I miss the crowds of years gone by but these days it's like fishermen have resigned themselves to their angling fate and moved on to other pursuits.
An angler could expect, in years past, to be greeted by the pungent smell of rotting salmon carcasses but the salmon aren't here. The wild steelhead weren't here last winter and the wild cutthroat trout weren't here this summer and fall. The best days of the Pacific Northwest anadromous fish runs are long gone and like some said recently we are fishing on the crumbs or even worse the crumbs of the crumbs.
We can look to ocean conditions and El Nino as the culprit to this latest salmon drought and be optimistic in knowing this is just a cyclical thing and it indeed is. The comeback or rebound seems to be smaller and smaller every cycle though.You will hear us old guys talking about the "Good old days" of the 70's and compared to what we have now I guess there really were the good old days. Have we passed the point of no return? I certainly hope not but how can one be optimistic? Can we point to an ecological breakthrough that will restore the status quo? I've not read of any.
Where does our optimism, if any, lay?
Will I continue to spend lonely days along the rivers that I learned to love because of not only the angling pleasure I derived from them but the vibrant life that always sustained my well being? Yes I will keep coming back for as long as I am able to. As the years go by the rivers seem to be less alive than they were in the past although the evergreens flourish along the hillside of this lush rain forest. The river seems to die just a little bit more as if mourning the loss of it's children...the salmon.
If I were a religious person I would certainly pray for the restoration a natural resource we took for granted for far too long.
I would also pray that there would be a collective awakening of what is at stake and what we are on the verge of losing that is if we have not lost it already.
The river that once sustained life just weeps now. On going but devoid of what made it unique.
I'll still walk along the lonely river as long as my legs allow me too. I'll be that old gray haired guy with his old bamboo fly rod that wistfully reminisces about the good old days.
I'll wonder if future generations of anglers will talk about these days as the good old days...I wonder

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Long Dark Tunnel of Winter

I know what you are thinking
"Oh brother! He's starting his winter whine fest early this year"
Well maybe I am. It seems like I never prepare myself for the onset of winter and this year is no different. I know there is still another six weeks until the winter solstice but despite what the calendar says winter is here.
Getting dark at 5pm every day is the biggest clue and I just cannot get used to it. My limited fishing days are impossibly short during this time of year and the chill in the air is a dead give away that winter is indeed here.
I think of winter as a long dark tunnel. You enter at one end in the sun and warmth of summer and as you travel further into the tunnel it gets darker. When you've reached the darkest point there in the distance is the light of spring.
My trout rods are put away for the season and when the days are shortest I'll get out my bamboo rods for a fresh coat of wax and rream of spring but for now I am looking forward to swinging some big winter flies for the tight lipped winter steelhead of the coastal streams. The beginning of the winter steelhead season begins in earnest after the first of the year. In years past the traditional kick-off to the winter season was the day after Thanksgiving but through manipulation by ODFW those early lower river hatchery brats have been eliminated. Instead the broodstock hatchery winter steelhead arrive about the same time as the wild winter steelhead.
Well you all know how I feel about the broodstock fiasco so I will leave it at that.
It seems like just yesterday I was walking along the sands of Kaanapali Beach on Maui or driving over Mt. Hood on my way to the Deschutes.
Now I watch the river level on the Wilson or Trask and wonder when the inevitable floods will come.
I'll make the best of it all though because fly fishing is not just a spring and summer pursuit anymore.
I cannot wait for the days along my favorite stream trying to entice a sluggish winter steelhead into striking a fly that seems big enough to choke a horse.
I've yet to start up my winter fly tying blitz but it's coming as it does when I get cabin fever.
So here is hoping that the north coast does not have another 100 year flood for the third year in a row.
Hope you all are dealing with the winters of your own lives well.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Skagit Snap T Spey Cast

Good friend John Bracke demonstrating the Snap T spey cast on the Deschutes river.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Stupid is as Stupid Does...A Never Changing Concept

I thought I would bring this one back to the top because a rash of stupidity has broken out on the internet fishing forums again again.
I originally wrote this in April of 2008.
Sometimes the sheer ignorance of the fishing masses absolutely drives me nuts. This is the age of the world wide web for crying out loud! These fools must have at least enough intelligence to operate a computer so why do they have such assinine notions about anything from wild steelhead to indicators on spey rods.
Hey I'm no Einstein but I am capable of an abstract thought or two.
Anyway enjoy the reprise of this classic Shane rant.

Yes pretty blunt I know but hey when have I ever not been blunt on this blog?
It's pretty simple logic actually and so if you have ever taken the time to actually dig deeper than the need to fill your freezer and put aside your own selfishness then I'm not talking about you.
So hang on folks it's going to be a bumpy ride.
You are stupid if....
You believe that hatchery fish will be the salvation of wild fish.
You think that cormorants, terns and cutthroat trout steal all the salmon smolt.
You think that fin clipping parties and releasing bright hatchery steelhead is conservation.
You think the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has the best interest of wild fish in mind.
You think the elimination of sea lions will solve our Columbia river salmon problems.
You feel that allowing broodstock steelhead to spawn will help augment wild steelhead populations.
You think the way to get kids excited about fishing is to allow them to kill a few wild trout.
You think that simply creating more hatchery fish will solve the problem of diminishing returns.
Should I go on?
Apparently many of the anglers in the state of Oregon just cannot bear the thought of not having hatchery fish.
It's been proven time and time again throughout the decades how detrimental hatcheries are to wild fish but for some reason it just does not matter to a harvest drunk group of anglers and that my friends is stupidity at it's worst.
How did we get to this point of addiction?
Instead of beating on this topic endlessly here with just a few opinions I would invite you all to look at some of the discussion going on over at There are a few enlightened and thoughtful comments there but the majority are truly can decide which is which.
I could fill this blog with the ignorant notions of some, even those that the sports fishing community puts on a pedestal.
Yes I am frustrated by some of the idiotic things I read and hear and my only release is to intensify my conservation efforts. You just want to grab these uninformed zombies and shake some sense into them.
Believe it or not I do think a reasonable and intelligent hatchery policy can co-exist with wild salmonid recovery. My only question is when will we see that reasonable and intelligent policy because we are not seeing it now especially on the north coast?
I also think the ODFW has some very gifted and talented folks working for them but it seems that this policy driven agency insists on wasting that talent.
I really wish I could be optimistic about the future but I am having a hard time doing that when I encounter the just plain ignorant forces on the stream bank and on the internet that cannot see past the end of their selfish noses.
So bear with me folks because the light of conservation cannot be hidden forever. There are many that just will not let it be hidden. Hopefully the light of intelligent management of wild fish and their habitat will shine....keep the faith!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ignorance Is No Excuse

The salmon in the above picture was taken illegally on the Nestucca river last week. See the intact adipose? That is a wild fish and there is no harvest of wild coho allowed this year.
I am pretty sure the guy that caught this fish was ignorant of the fact that he could no legally harvest a wild coho salmon because I doubt he would have had his picture taken for all the internet to see. However ignorance is no excuse and hopefully the OSP found out his identity and he was cited.
The person taking the picture might have been from that tackle shop in the back ground and if it was I amazed he didn't tell the guy he had an illegal fish in his possession.
The photo appeared on and what also amazed me was the number of people making excuses for this idiot! At least one being a professional guide!
Are ethics not important? Is being informed and educated not important anymore? Apparently so.
Of course the over zealous thought police on that website have since removed the controversial thread.
There is enough information out there these days so a "Duh I didn't know" just doesn't cut it anymore.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Snagging Chum Salmon.....Fun for the Whole Family

Photo by Lambton

While reconnoitering the Miami River today to see how many chum salmon have shown up I stopped at the Moss Creek Bridge for a look down in the deep pool that is below the bridge.
There was a father on one side and his adolescent son on the other bank and in the water was probably 20-30 chum salmon that were near their spawning stage. They bunch up in large number in the Miami and nearby Kilchis river where they are easy target for the unwashed masses.
This father and son team were trying, successfully I might add, to foul hook the salmon in the pool. Oh sure they had a legal spinner on but about 12 inches above the treble hooked spinner these "sportsmen" had attached lead weight.
The kid snagged two or three fish and his proud father apparently taught him well.  As I stood there watching in a sort of sad fascination, trying figure out why a father would teach his son this abhorrent practice, the mom showed up with two daughters to join in the fun.
I had seen enough and drove away to get in cell phone range to call the Oregon State Police in Tillamook to report the snagfest.
This, my friends, is why I no longer fish for salmon! I knew that when I left home today I would most likely see some salmon abuse that would piss me off and I was not disappointed.
Between the snagger family and the asshole running his chartreuse "fly" over spawning chums with his spey rod on the Kilchis I knew that the dark side of fishing was having it's season.
Why ODFW allows the targeting of endangered chum salmon is a complete mystery to me but they do and they actually promote it.
Fall salmon season is a whole different and undesirable ballgame and I am glad I am no longer a participant.
Heavy rains the rest of this week will hopefully push the chums out of their vulnerable lays and into there spawning grounds although they are already spawning in both rivers.
Hopefully OSP got there and maybe a hefty citation will make this shitty dad think better of teaching his kids to disrespect wildlife, especially endangered salmon. I somehow doubt it though as this kid was really into abusing these fish. Way to go dad!