Monday, December 28, 2009

The Smoking Gun?

There isn't much I could add to this except to say this does not surprise me in the least. Our Fish and Wildlife agencies are corrupt in so many ways.
It really is all about saving their own tenure with the state and some will stop at nothing to do so. In the meantime our wild salmonid populations are apparently expendable to meet that end.


By Sam Wright
 A common management practice in Washington and Oregon since the early 1960s is the planned, deliberate overfishing and eventual extinction of wild Pacific salmon populations in order to harvest comingled populations of salmon that are produced by artificial production (Wright 1993). In Washington, the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Wild Salmonid Policy identified 89 separate naturally spawning Pacific salmon populations that were being subjected to this practice or nearly one-third of all existing Pacific salmon populations in the State (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) 1997: Table II-1, p. 9).
I was the project leader and lead author for this EIS process and had to work with an Assistant Attorney General (AG) assigned to WDFW. My original language in Table 3 described the process in part as “planned, deliberate overfishing and eventual extinction of wild salmon populations in order to harvest comingled hatchery fish”. The AG stated that “this sounded like something illegal” and changed the language of the Table title to “Current fish management plans and practices overfish 89 wild stocks in order to harvest comingled hatchery fish at rates that are not sustainable by wild populations.” This is an example of one of many ways that have been used to disguise the process.
My initial attempt to stop this practice occurred in the early 1980s when I was administrator of the Habitat Management Division for the Washington Department of Fisheries (WDF). My work included involvement in a wide array of habitat protection, enhancement and mitigation projects. I soon began to wonder if I was knowingly committing illegal acts. Was it illegal to commit public funds to habitat improvement work when I knew that viable adult salmon spawners were never going to be provided to reap projected project benefits? Was it illegal to force a landowner to correct an upstream fish passage problem when I knew that spawners were never going to be provided to utilize habitat above the obstruction? Was it illegal to force a developer to fund a costly mitigation project when I knew that spawners were never going to be provided to justify the expenditure? I was also concerned that the “secret” would eventually be revealed to the public and that this could destroy our future ability to protect salmon habitat.
In 1982, I advised WDF that it was essential to end this practice since it was probably illegal in several different respects. The practice appeared to be illegal under the legislation that created WDF and had never been reviewed under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). In addition, all of the more recent hatcheries requiring environmental reviews did not even hint at this practice in their environmental documents. At best, the practice was simply very poor resource stewardship. I then provided a plan to eliminate this practice that was later described in Wright (1993).
The first part of my recommendation was to mark all hatchery Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) and all hatchery coho salmon (O. kisutch) by removal of their adipose fins. The basic principle involved was the ability to manage wild and hatchery salmon as “separate species” and the adipose mark enabled this to be done in practice. The second part of my recommendation was that natural spawning escapement objectives needed to be established for all existing naturally spawning salmon populations and that all fisheries would then be managed to achieve these objectives. The third part of my proposal was that existing and planned hatchery programs would be adjusted as necessary to make them compatible with achieving these natural spawning escapement objectives.
The adipose marking proposal was initially rejected by everyone, but gradually came to be accepted and is now widely implemented. The problem is that it was decoupled from both the establishment and management for natural spawning escapement objectives and the need to make hatchery programs compatible. Adipose marking is meaningless by itself when the same high exploitation rates continue to be applied in non-selective fisheries harvesting comingled wild plus hatchery salmon and hatchery programs continue to be incompatible.
My only successful attempt to expose this problem in a formal publication occurred in Wright (1993). The subtitle was “Salmon managers need to abandon the use of hatchery fish management zones.” WDF tried to stop publication but had to settle for a disclaimer stating that “The views in this essay are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Washington Department of Fisheries.” There was a great deal of luck involved in the peer review process since two of three reviewers were not from Washington or Oregon. Two subsequent attempts to expose the problem in formal publications failed when the majority of peer reviewers were from Washington and Oregon.
I initially had high hopes for resolution of the problem when Puget Sound Chinook and Lower Columbia River Chinook were listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Both areas had many Chinook populations on the list of 89 that were being deliberately overfished (WDFW 1997). However, all of these same populations were then assumed to be indistinguishable from hatchery Chinook or “genetically extinct” as wild populations. In Puget Sound, a total of 37 defined Chinook salmon populations were divided into 22 “A” and 15 “B” populations, with the latter group judged to be extinct. The situation in the Lower Columbia River was far worse, with North Lewis River fall Chinook being the only remaining population that was not determined to be extinct.
Unfortunately, my prediction of mass extinctions had been fulfilled. This extinct classification allowed the status quo practices of existing hatchery programs and high exploitation rates to continue for all of these populations. Some even had “escapement goals” identified to complete the public illusion of responsible resource management. Many hatchery Chinook never make it all the way back to existing hatchery traps and end–up spawning naturally. These can then be identified as an escapement goal without compromising the desired hatchery programs and high exploitation rates.
Over the years, there have been many varied attempts to disguise hatchery fish zones such as the “escapement goals” established for 15 Puget Sound “B” group Chinook salmon populations. The only citable reference that precisely identifies salmon populations where there is clear, unambiguous management intent to put adequate numbers of viable natural spawners on the spawning grounds is the Salmon Fishery Management Plan of the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PMFC 2003: Table 3-1,15p.). This confirms the solitary status of North Lewis River fall Chinook and that both the entire Columbia River system and the entire South Puget Sound Region are huge hatchery fish zones for coho salmon. As predicted for wild Chinook salmon, there have also been massive extinctions of wild coho salmon populations.
The common practice of deliberately overfishing naturally spawning salmon populations in order to harvest comingled hatchery fish continues to be alive and well in Washington and Oregon (albeit with some new disguises commonly called “hatchery reform”). The solution is still exactly what it was in 1982. At a minimum, resource managers in Washington and Oregon should at least be honest about what they are doing so that countless millions of dollars will not continue to be spent in hatchery fish zones when the same money could be spent much more productively in wild salmon zones. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent and the management status (wild or hatchery zones) has never been used (as a criteria) to prioritize competing project proposals.

PFMC 2003. Fishery management plan for commercial and recreational salmon fishery off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California as revised through Amendment 14. Pacific Fishery Management Council, Portland, OR.

WDFW 1997. Final environmental impact statement for the Wild Salmonid Policy. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, WA.

Wright, S. 1993. Fishery management of wild Pacific salmon stocks to prevent extinctions. Fisheries 18(5):3-4.
Author: Sam Wright, 1522 Evanston Ct. NE, Olympia WA 98506 (360-943-4424,

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays from The Quiet Pool

Here is hoping your stocking is filled with new fly rods and reels instead of a lump of coal!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Tis the Season

No I am not talking about Christmas here, I am talking about fly fishing for winter steelhead.
Yeah I bitch about winter and do it alot but since I do not have the resources to fly to Maui every winter I have come to the realization that I need to make the best of winter.
You would think I would under take a winter distraction that is maybe less masochistic than fly fishing for winter steelhead. I could maybe take up my time having my tongue pieced and then having the stud ripped out by some pissed off bait fisherman. That would probably prove to be less painful than standing waist deep in a forty degree coastal river casting a huge creation of feather and fur to a fish that is about as interested in my offering as a Pacific northwest banana slug is in crossing a salt line.
Take yesterday for instance. I was fishing a particularly treacherous piece of water that my fishing buddy assured me was wade able.
What he didn't tell me was the bank dropped off almost vertically. So in I go and was instantly up to my stomach in frigid water. Of course the shock of this sudden drop off cause me to loose my balance and my sleeve went into the cold water.
The air temperature was only a little warmer than that of the water....we fished only one other hole because I was quite wet.
Sounds like fun huh? Poke me in the eye with a hot poker? Hmmm, let me think about it while I wring out my coat sleeve.
I've done the winter steelhead insanity for over 35 years now but went fly only in just the last 5 years. Fly only means deeper wading and more interaction with the water.
When I gear fished I could stand well up on the bank with hardly ever a need to wade any deeper than my knees. I caught a lot of fish in those days too!
One might ask why in the hell would I torture myself in this way especially for so few fish. I cannot tell you why except to say I just love fly fishing so much that the thought of putting my fly gear away for the winter and picking up a casting or spinning rod was more than I could bear.
I don't need fish to eat and since I rarely bring anything home I've gotten used to not having it and really don't miss it much.
Oh I will certainly kill every hatchery fish I encounter but I usually stay away from areas where there are hatchery fish present. Staying away from areas that hatchery fish frequent will assure me of avoiding my gear fishing brethren and the lower evolved bait chuckers.
The trade off is less fish but it's worth it.
So this winter I will still whine and complain but rest assured this old goat will still be stumbling along a river near you. Look for the old guy with the white beard and corn cob pipe and offer him a cup of hot fortified coffee and perhaps the directions to your can't miss swinging water...the karma earned will pay off in great dividends.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Limp Wrist Fly Chucking Faggots

That is the latest thing that we fly fishermen have been called by the increasingly paranoid bait crowd here in the Pacific northwest.
I thought I would take time to perhaps refute some of that.
If I am limped wristed wouldn't that mess up my casting? I do a fairly good job at single hand casting so the limp wrist insult has no grounds.
I would like to think or at least I hope that I do not "chuck" my flies but I have to admit that there are times on the Deschutes when the wind is raging down the canyon that I may have "chucked" my fly out of defensive necessity. I guess fly chucker could be accurate at times.
Then the faggot part. Do they mean I am a cigarette? Faggot was slang for cigarettes at one time and was also used to describe a bundle of wood used for fuel. I refuse believe that a person would be so ignorant as to use this derogatory description of ones sexual orientation and apply it to fly fishermen...or would they? It's not like I haven't been called this before when I've taken a stand against the abuse of wild salmon and steelhead.
I've been threatened by more than one bait "chucker" and I've found that there is a lot of brave talk on the internet.Since it is so easy to be an anonymous internet warrior but never have to account for such mean spirited slander I mostly ignore this stuff.
All joking aside though it is worrisome that the resistance to conservation of wild salmon and steelhead gets to the point to where this kind of garbage exists. I often tell my detractors that I am pretty easy to find out on the river and I do spend a great deal of time on the north coast which seems to be a breeding ground for anti-conservation sentiment.
So call me anything you want tough guys but you will never be able to call me uninvolved or apathetic. I think being called those names would be the biggest insults of all.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cured Salmon Eggs are Toxic

So something we have suspected for many years turns out to be true! Sodium Sulfite cured salmon and steelhead eggs kill fish.
When this study was made public a few well known bait guides were quoted as saying

"They should do the same smolt study with twinkies and see how many die"

"I'll quit using cured eggs if you quit using toilet paper"

One unenlightened bait guide brags about how he discards left over baits in the river to "imprint" on the juvenile salmon and steelhead what to look for when they return in a couple of years....sheer brilliance huh?
The fact is these knuckle draggers have never evolved as anglers. They cannot leave their comfort zone of bait use no matter what the consequences.
This study is just another hurdle that wild salmonid must face and so far the professional guides out on the river could not care less.
The article below was taken from Bill Bakke's Home Waters and Wild Fish


By Bill Bakke - Native Fish Society

In 2007 Jeff Misler asked the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to test cured salmon eggs for toxic compounds, for he was concerned juvenile salmonids were being killed by ingesting the bait.
Oregon State University and ODFW researchers conducted the study for ODFW and made the following discovery: Cured salmon eggs killed juvenile salmon and steelhead.
The research discovered that within a 23 day span 30% of the juvenile salmonids were killed. Upon further investigation, they found that eggs cured with sodium sulfite were lethal. It is this chemical that kills the fish.
They also tested the eggs by giving them a soak to see if they were less lethal. They were testing whether fishing softened their impact. Soak times ranged from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, but the results were the same: the fish died.
Salmon eggs are a favored bait used by anglers fishing for salmon and steelhead. Anglers cure their own eggs or buy them, but if sodium sulfite is used in the curing process they are fishing a poisoned bait.
Additional research on nutrient enrichment of salmon and steelhead streams has pointed out the fact that eggs are preferred by juvenile salmonids. Most salmon eggs are available in early winter months when the juvenile fish are seeking food in cold water when other food supplies are less abundant.
Juvenile fish are seeking the fat rich eggs and anglers fishing steelhead and salmon are using cured eggs. The combination is lethal.
ODFW officials said in a news release that “We’ve already talked with several manufactures and we’re encouraged by their commitment to solving this problem.”
However, ODFW researchers said they “…cannot predict what impact, if any, the ingestion of cured eggs by juvenile fish has on the final size of the adult population.”
In the research proposal to investigate the toxic effect of cured salmon eggs on juvenile salmonids, there is evidence of even more mortality than what was found in the OSU research. A 1979 study showed that consumption of borax cured eggs led to decreased growth and an increase in plasma corticosteroids in chinook and rainbow trout juveniles. Furthermore, we recently observed between 50-60% mortality in a preliminary study feeding cured salmon eggs (Clements Pers Obs).
Measuring the impact based on the effect on adult salmon and steelhead production, is like taking pins out of the voodoo doll. They can reason that not all juveniles survive to return as adults, so the loss of a few or even a gob of young fish is, at best, immaterial and mitigates any need to manage the use of eggs as bait.
At a time when most of our wild salmon and steelhead are depleted and designated a threatened species, sensitive species, and candidate species for ESA-listing, one would hope that the management authorities would recognize a problem rather than trying to minimize it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Shane...the Elitist Wannabe

Yep I confess! You see that gentleman in the tweeds and jaunty hat? That's me...well sort of.
In Jack Ohman's new book "Angler Management" he devotes a chapter to the fly fishing elitist and while I may want to be an elitist my bank account says otherwise.
How do I know I want to be an elitist you might ask? Here are a few examples.
I am self conscious about not owning Simms G-3 breathable waders. Seems ridiculous huh? hey all the good fly guys have Simms. Mike McCune wears Simms and so does Ed Ward and Lani Waller.
I smoke a brier pipe while out on the river and it makes me look the part.
Can't afford a real expensive one though like Bill Bakke smokes.
I try to talk about hatches in the way of someone who knows what the hell he is talking about. Yeah I'll drop the occasional Callibaetis or Hexagenia limbata then step back while the person I am talking to marvels at my expertise which they never do.
I do have a couple of bamboo fly rods to thoroughly impress the salmon fishermen on the coast but it is all for naught and I'll usually get the "Can you throw eggs with that stick har har?"
Kind of tough to impress a guy with an inch of dried salmon egg goo on his fishing rod.
I make every effort to drop names like Haig-Brown or Lee Wulff but so far it hasn't gotten me an invitation to join the elite Deschutes Club and I cannot understand why.
Maybe if I carried around a bottle of 18 year old Macallan that would get some acceptance don't you think?
I don't know if I am making any progress in my pilgrimage to fly fishing elitism. I wasn't invited to contribute a Green Butt Skunk to Joel LaFollette's Dan Callaghan commemorative fly plate. Wonder why he wouldn't want on of my flies but would take one from the likes of Bill McMillan or Frank Moore? Do you think word got out that I shopped at the Dollar Tree and Harbor Freight for fly tying supplies?
I might have to disguise myself when going in those stores because I certainly wouldn't want to screw up my ascension to fly fishing elitist.
I would like to think I am well on my way to becoming the real Henning Hale Orviston of "The River Why" fame. Should I tell anyone that I shop at Cabela's?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

How To Win Friends and Influence People on the River

Winter steelhead season is upon us with its cold toes, frozen guides and rude fishermen. I don't think all are deliberately rude but just clueless. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have the "Lords of the River" also known as professional bait guides who think nothing of cutting you off in order to get their "sports" into a fish.
Many of you can no doubt add to the following like compiled by my friend Erik Helm of the Classical Angler

1. If you do get into a run, you are one lucky boy! Under no circumstances should you move. Cast from the same position in all directions. If you wait long enough, a fish might swim through the run and eat your fly or bait/lure.

2. If the approach you are using does not prove effective, under no circumstances change what you are doing. Keep it up and sooner or later you will either catch a steelhead or die, whichever comes first…

3. If someone is in a run, under no circumstances talk to them or look at them. Just proceed below them to their casting distance and low-hole them. They will get the point sooner or later that the entire river belongs to you.

4. If you are fishing with eggs, make absolutely certain to tell everyone how many fish you have caught.

5. If you see someone about to enter an otherwise empty piece of water, run down the bank and jump in the water before they get there. Remember the spoils belong to the bold and greedy.

6. If you are fishing from the bank with spinning gear, make sure that you cut off anybody wading from any good fish holding water.

7. If you are new to fishing with a two-hander and are having trouble casting, just stay in the run and practice your casting without moving. Since you have no chance, neither should anybody else.

8. If you are wading below a nice piece of holding water or a run and want to fish it, do not get out of the water to walk up to the run on the bank or a path. Instead, splash your way stumbling upstream through the heart of the run. This should stir the fish up and put them in a biting mood.

This last one is from yours truly and it goes out to those models of angling etiquette also know as drift boat guides.

9.If you see an angler swinging flies through a run be sure to cut him off and fish his water. Hey he isn't going to catch a damn thing anyway and after all the river belongs to you!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Traditional Speycast

A Fly Fishing Poem

I thought you all might like this poem. I may have posted it before but I like it so much that I'll post it again.
Why does fly fishing inspire poetry like this? Of all the other types of angling there is a romantic quality in casting a fly that cannot be found elsewhere in the fishing pursuits.
Anyway enjoy Mrs. Lamberton's poem...tight lines

Trout Fishing
Mrs. Eunice B Lamberton

Give me a rod of the split bamboo,
a rainy day and a fly or two,
a mountain stream where the eddies play,
and mists hang low o'er the winding way,

Give me a haunt by the furling brook,
A hidden spot in a mossy nook,
No sound save hum of the drowsy bee,
or lone bird's tap on the hollow tree.

The world may roll with it's busy throng,
And phantom scenes on it's way along,
It's stocks may rise, or it's stocks may fall,
Ah! What care I for it's baubles all?

I cast my fly o'er the troubled rill,
Luring the beauties by magic skill,
With mind at rest and a heart at ease,
And drink delight at the balmy breeze.

A lusty trout to my glad surprise,
Speckled and bright on the crest arise,
Then splash and plunge in a dazzling whirl,
Hope springs anew as the wavelets curl.

Gracefully swinging from left to right,
Action so gentle- motion so slight,.
Tempting, enticing, on craft intent,
Till yielding tip by the game is bent

Drawing in slowly, then letting go
Under the ripples where mosses grow
Doubting my fortune, lost in a dream,
Blessing the land of forest and stream.