Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Smoking Gun?

Okay guys are we in agreement that hatcheries are harmful to wild salmonid populations? Still not convinced huh?
Well don't take my word for it and why should you anyway? I am not a trained fisheries biologist but I do believe the science that the experts have come up with. You could counter almost every argument that I posted if you are in favor of robust and vibrant hatchery programs.
Would you argue with science? Maybe the following assessment BY THE EXPERTS will convince you.

ScienceDaily (June 13, 2009) — Steelhead trout that are originally bred in hatcheries are so genetically impaired that, even if they survive and reproduce in the wild, their offspring will also be significantly less successful at reproducing, according to a new study published today by researchers from Oregon State University.
The poor reproductive fitness – the ability to survive and reproduce – of the wild-born offspring of hatchery fish means that adding hatchery fish to wild populations may ultimately be hurting efforts to sustain those wild runs, scientists said.
The study found that a fish born in the wild as the offspring of two hatchery-reared steelhead averaged only 37 percent the reproductive fitness of a fish with two wild parents, and 87 percent the fitness if one parent was wild and one was from a hatchery. Most importantly, these differences were still detectable after a full generation of natural selection in the wild.
The effect of hatcheries on reproductive fitness in succeeding generations had been predicted in theory, experts say, but until now had never been demonstrated in actual field experiments.
"If anyone ever had any doubts about the genetic differences between hatchery and wild fish, the data are now pretty clear," said Michael Blouin, an OSU professor of zoology. "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."
An earlier report, published in 2007 in the journal Science, had already shown that hatchery fish that migrate to the ocean and return to spawn leave far fewer offspring than their wild relatives. The newest findings suggest the problem does not end there, but carries over into their wild-born descendants.
The implication, Blouin said, 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, the report noted.
This research, which was just published in Biology Letters, was supported by grants from the Bonneville Power Administration and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. It was based on years of genetic analysis of thousands of steelhead trout in Oregon's Hood River, in field work dating back to 1991. Scientists have been able to genetically "fingerprint" three generations of returning fish to determine who their parents were, and whether or not they were wild or hatchery fish.
The underlying problem, experts say, is Darwinian natural selection.
Fish that do well in the safe, quiet world of the hatcheries are selected to be different than those that do well in a much more hostile and predatory real-world environment. Using wild fish as brood stock each year should lessen the problem, but it was just that type of hatchery fish that were used in the Hood River study. This demonstrates that even a single generation of hatchery culture can still have strong effects.
Although this study was done with steelhead trout, it would be reasonable to extrapolate its results to other salmonids, researchers said. It's less clear what the findings mean to the many other species that are now being bred in captivity in efforts to help wild populations recover, Blouin said, but it's possible that similar effects could be found.
Captive breeding is now a cornerstone of recovery efforts by conservation programs for many threatened or endangered species, the researchers noted in their report. Thousands of species may require captive breeding to prevent their extinction in the next 200 years – which makes it particularly important to find out if such programs will ultimately work. This study raises doubts.
"The message should be clear," the researchers wrote in their report's conclusion. "Captive breeding for reintroduction or supplementation can have a serious, long-term downside in some taxa, and so should not be considered as a panacea for the recovery of all endangered populations."

So you have to ask yourself is this the smoking gun? One would certainly think so but this study probably wouldn't convince many in Tillamook county because the hatchery addicition runs deep through many gernerations of anglers.
We see bogus "conservation" awards for those who put their efforts into increasing hatchery output and those efforts are bullshit! So instead of letting the opinions of a few knuckle draggers who post on and who believe that the the only way to fishing nirvana is dumping a "gazillion" hatchery smolt into the watershed (actual ifish quote) then read the science! It's all out there and easily your homework if you care to because you will find the smoking gun on dwindling wild salmon and steelhead.


Friday, December 24, 2010

The Bigger Picture

It's a given that we all love fly fishing. If you are reading this blog you have to love fly fishing at least a little or you wouldn't waste your time reading my mindless drivel would you? Well it's the same for me also. The joy I get from casting a fly to a trout or steelhead is hard to measure. I fear my sanity would suffer greatly if I could not get out on a river on a semi-regular basis.
All that aside though I believe that there is something larger than our angling pleasures....namely the effort to save what wild salmon, trout and steelhead we have left. We cannot sit idly by and just expect the wild salmonids in our river to always be there because that has never worked with anything in the past and our endangered cold water fisheries are on the brink.
We have to ask ourselves just how important is our passion for these things. Can you set aside your desire to have some excellent fly fishing in order to save a few wild trout or steelhead...can you? I am not putting myself or my conservation efforts above those of any of you that are reading this but I can assure that I would give up fishing a river like the Deschutes if I thought I could make a difference in the survival of a wild species like the redside rainbows. I could set aside fishing on the Metolius if it meant that the Bull trout would survive and I could quit tossing flies at coastal cutthroat trout on my favorite coastal river if the survival of these trout hung in the balance.
We cannot pin our hopes that state fish and wildlife agencies or the federal government to do what is necessary to make sure wild fish survive because their track record is piss poor.
Here we sit on the eve of a new year and still our wild cold water fisheries are in grave danger because of greed and mismangment and a lack of imagination of our fish and wildlife agencies. So I am hoping that each of you have a wonderful 2011 out on the river and I ask you to consider just one thing as you hold that beautiful trout or steelhead oout the water for your hero shot. Think about what it takes for that fish and other wild salmonids like it to survive and perpetuate their species. What could you sacrifice in 2011 to make that happen.
2011 will mark the fifth year I have shared my thoughts with you on this blog and I wanted to take the time to thank all of you who stop by the Quiet Pool for putting with my ranting and poor punctuation. Your feedback is what keeps it going.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of my fly fishing friends out there.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The World is Our Oyster

I was just browsing the mega Pacific northwest website and sometimes soap opera known as and reinforced. once again, my belief that sports anglers have to be among the most selfish and greedy bunch in the world. Everything from hatchery fish are our God given right to saying tough shit house boat owners the wake our water crafts put out is just something you are going to have deal with because we gotta a mess of fish to catch! Barbless hooks? forget it because it may cause me to catch less salmon.
In fairness though, is not the only place where this self serving, "Screw everyone else I gotta get mine" mentality exists on the world wide web. It's pretty much everywhere.
It will come off sounding overly pessimistic but I have deep fears and doubts that we will ever save what little wild salmon and steelhead there are left because we just have no desire to sacrifice anything in favor of our own greed.
My generation grew up with our parents giving us everything we wanted. I had all the latest toys and bikes etc. because my folks gave them to me but failed to instill any kind of charitable character traits. I'm sure most of you had similar childhoods. To overcome the "me first" attitude we had to struggle and force ourselves to actually care about something bigger than ourselves. It's still and effort for me!
Some my age never over came it and they have passed "The world is my oyster" mentality down to their own children.
Fishing for salmon and steelhead in this region has brought out the worst in people and they cannot wrap their pea brains around the notion that they can no longer kill and harvest everything and anything they want. When told that there are not enough returning fall chinook in several watersheds they are outraged.
I've bitched about the "Harvest Mentality" for most of the almost 5 years this blog has been in existence. I've singled out Tillamook county as the worst offender but in retrospect maybe that was unfair. Oh sure they own a lot of the blame for their piss poor attitude about wild fish issues but they are really not much different than anglers around the Portland metro area.
My brother recently asked me during a heated political debate what I have done to change things. In my defense I listed the activities I have been involved with for wild salmonids however if I were truthful I would have said I have not done enough. I guess the thing that bothers me most is not just the half-assed efforts of people like myself but those who think more hatchery fish, broodstock programs that rob wild salmon and steelhead of the eggs that are needed to perpetuate the wild spawning species. They actually think that what they do is necessary and they feel good about it.
Listen folks, and this may come as a shock to some of you, but the state of Oregon and Washington is not obligated to supply you or me with fish to kill especially at the expense of what few wild salmon and steelhead are left.
The world is not our oyster no matter what Falstaff may have said. We get out of it what efforts we put into it and sadly, when it comes to wild trout, salmon and steelhead those efforts and attitudes are lacking.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Well Hallelujah...Our Hatchery Troubles Are Over

A better hatchery salmon and steelhead huh? Wasn't that what they promised with the broodstock programs? Of course the harvest addicts will greet this as the best thing since sodium sulfite. Maybe if they make the tanks oval WDFW could draw in a bunch of NASCAR fans!!!!

From OregonLive
By  Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian

Call it another example of survival of the fittest.
Researchers experimenting with juvenile salmon and steelhead at a Washington fish hatchery say fish raised in circular tanks with a swift current are faster and tougher than fish raised in the commonly-used rectangular raceways.
The findings come from a pilot project at Eastbank Hatchery in Wenatchee, Wash., carried out by Chelan County Public Utility District, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Conservation Fund's Freshwater Institute. Researchers determined that fish raised in circular tanks migrated downstream faster upon release, reaching a checkpoint five days earlier than their brethren. More of them survived, as well -- 72 percent compared to 52 percent of fish raised in rectangular tanks, according to a Freshwater Institute news release. Also, the fish raised in circular tanks included fewer "mini-jacks," juvenile salmon that become sexually mature early and stay in freshwater rivers instead of migrating to the ocean. Researchers are concerned that hatchery-raised jack salmon can distort the genetic makeup of wild salmon over time.
Depending on the technology used, circular tanks can re-use up to 99 percent of the water in the system. The systems also collect waste and uneaten food, making them easier to keep clean, according to the Freshwater Institute. The institute, a non-profit based in West Virginia, advocates the sustainable use of water.
The findings are preliminary, but researchers are "extremely optimistic" that hatchery operations and water conservation efforts can complement each other, hatchery manager Joe Miller said in a news release. However, scrutiny is required because fish hatchery operations have a "history of unintended consequences" such as producing flawed fish, the news release said.
The research findings will be presented Dec. 7 at the Northwest Fish Culture conference in Portland.

--Eric Mortenson

Monday, November 29, 2010

Of Gray Days and Winter Steelhead

Winter Steelhead caught by Jad Donaldson

It's November 29th but I know that the Pacific northwest is well into the winter season. It's not like it's early or anything it's just I decided I needed to get out of the house today and so I made my first trek over the coast range to look for winter run steelhead. Yes I know it's seems like a pipe dream but it wouldn't matter if all that was present were a run of suckers because I needed to get out on the river.
The winter scene is like one would expect during the early winter steelhead season. It's like you are looking at the world through a gray filter like the kind that might be used on a camera. The low peaks of the coast range had a typical winter fog obscuring their tops as the alders and maples stood in stark contrast to the green firs along the highway. The higher peaks of the coast range showed a trace of a recent Thanksgiving week snow. All the fall leaves have blown away during an earlier fall wind and those that did not make it into a coastal stream were now a ground up mulch along the river. The fall colors of October have been transformed in subdued hues of pale green and misty gray. Yes this is definitely winter.
I have a special steelhead run that has given me success over the last few years and so it was there that I headed.
Fishing in the upper reaches of a coastal river is a solitary experience for the most part and on this "winter" day I fished alone with only the occasional car or truck passing on the road that runs along the river.
In some ways these cold and solitary days on the upper river have an almost overwhelming affect on me,a kind of an anxiety that I cannot explain.
In other ways it is so quiet and still that I do not feel it is proper to talk, to myself of course, in anything other than a whisper.
I took out a new spey rod today hoping for that new rod mojo to reward me and to my utter delight and joy I did have a very strong grab and short run before the fish came unhooked. The sound that an older Hardy fly reel makes as a strong steelhead peels off line during that initial run is the most beautiful music a steelhead fly fisherman can hear. My short encounter with an early winter steelhead made the day instantly brighten.
These winter days are just too short and I cannot seem to get out of bed in the pre-dawn hours so my fishing days is truncated to just a few hours in the afternoon.
I decided to head home as the predicted storm was starting to make it's presence known but I felt that the day had been a success. A new rod and a brief but thrilling encounter with a winter steelhead warmed me like no cup of chicken noodle could even begin to.
With limited numbers of returning steelhead that seem to get fewer every year I count these fleeting encounters a gift and a sign of a hopeful winter to come.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Please Sir Can I Have Some More?

Ah yes! The harvest mentality is alive and well in Oregon and Washington! I can just hear it in Tillamook and Clatsop counties right now. "Endangered fish? We don't care about no stinkin' endangered fish! We want our freezers filled with freezer burned fillets and sodium cured eggs"
Well I sure as hell care about them and know many people who also care about them. This damn hatchery addiction has got to end if we ever want to have wild salmon, steelhead and trout for the future!

From the Oregonian
ASTORIA-- Four counties say a draft federal plan for managing lower Columbia River fish hatcheries is "flawed" and "inadequate."
Officials from Clatsop and Columbia counties in Oregon and Pacific and Wahkiakum counties in Washington wrote a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding how the federally funded hatcheries will be managed.
The Daily Astorian reports the federal agency's draft environmental statement spells out five potential operating scenarios for the hatcheries funded with money under the Mitchell Act, the law that provides federal dollars for conservation of Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead.
The counties said the 1,100-page document is divisive and assumes that fish production will not increase. It does not acknowledge basin-by-basin efforts to restore fish runs, county officials said, that they claim they were not consulted in the process. They requested that it be withdrawn.
"The history of working together and the values we share for future abundance is too important to leave to this flawed and inadequate document," the letter said.
For 10 years, funding has ranged from $11 million to $16 million for annual hatchery operation funding of 62 programs. They have produced more than 71 million fish each year.
Congress has not appropriated the money to operate the hatcheries next year. 
The five operating and funding scenarios included in the draft consider multiple options but none include increasing fish production.
One scenario discontinues Mitchell Act funding and others cut back the number of fish caught by up to nearly 50 percent. Four options close hatcheries and cut production.
In the zero-funding scenario, production would be cut to about 36 percent of the status quo. Another would operate lower Columbia River hatcheries with stricter standards to protect natural-origin fish, and a third would apply those tougher standards to upper river hatcheries.
Clatsop County Manager Duane Cole said the focus should be on developing resources needed to adequately support the hatchery system. The current funding of $12.5 million should be boosted to $35 million to $40 million, he said.
"The federal government needs to get serious about developing abundance by fully funding the hatchery system," Cole said. "The resources spent on this document should be spent on enhancing the system to restore the fish runs," Cole said.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Greatest Generation

Can we ever thank the veterans of World War II enough? Probably not even come close but recently I got a chance to let one of them know how much I appreciate him and the other veterans who saved the world from tyranny and oppression.
I was entering a local variety store near my home and noticed an elderly gentleman wearing a ball cap that said "World War II Vet"
I felt the urge to ask him if I could shake his hand and I wanted to just say thank you to him. Of course I had to wander around the store for several minutes while I got up the nerve to approach this aged vet. Don't ask me why I was nervous because I couldn't tell you, but it took me a few minutes to figure out what it was I wanted to say.
My father was a veteran of that war and perhaps connecting with this man would some how give me a chance to connect with my dad. I did think about my father as I finally decided to go ahead and do what I knew was the right thing to do.
I had thought that he and his wife had slipped out of the store and I had missed my chance as I looked up and down the aisle for the octogenarian gent.
I finally found him and simply said in a voice choked with emotion "Sir, my father was a WWII vet and I was wondering if you would do me the honor by allowing me to shake your hand?" He gladly obliged and said simply "Thank you for noticing son"
Whether we agree with the politics of war or not we can never downplay the importance of our veterans and whenever I get the chance I will say thank you.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

"It's a Money Thing For Me"

This interview appeared on the blog Buster Wants To Fish
You readers can draw your own conclusions

Q & A with a North Umpqua Guide:

Q: I heard through the grapevine that you are advocating bringing hatchery summers back to the fly water. Is that true, and if so, what is your reasoning?

A: Well, I don’t know how much you know about the North Umpqua, but it’s just the last few years that we’ve stopped seeing hatchery summers in the fly water. The hatchery fish that were up there weren’t a problem, since they were main stem spawners. I grew up on the Umpqua, and I can tell you that 99% of Umpqua summer steelhead are creek spawners. The hatchery fish spawned in the main stem, where they were acclimated. Back then you might have seen one or two hatchery fish up at Lee’s pool.
My real issue is I don’t think the wild run can handle all the pressure. I mean, we have more guys coming up here every year. But we only have a couple thousand wild steelhead. Without the hatchery fish, guys are figuring out where the natives hang out and they are pounding on them every single day. Meanwhile, ODFW is planting hatchery summers in places where nobody fishes. I’d say 2/3 of the Umpqua’s hatchery fish aren’t even getting fished for. A third of them are planted below the I-5 bridge. Another third is planted at Whistler’s Bend, and the last third at Rock Creek. But nobody fishes below I-5 bridge. Look at Whistler’s Bend. I drive by there every day, and if you see one guy fishing there it’s a rarity. Two guys I know run down there in the fall. The fly water is the only good summer water, and without some hatchery fish up there, the wild fish take the brunt of the pressure.

Q: So you think that by adding a hatchery program above Rock Creek you’ll be decreasing pressure on the wild fish? I don’t think you could find any examples of that correlation. Hatchery programs result in an increase in angling pressure on wild fish. That’s according to Oregon’s leading biologists and decades of research.

A: I think people are over thinking this whole thing. I mean, do we have a true “wild” run in the Umpqua? With all the hatchery influences over the last century, are these fish really wild?

Q: Umpqua steelhead are wild as they come. Has nobody shared with you the DNA analysis on wild steelhead in Oregon? I can send you the graphs that show the distinct genetic groupings of hatchery and wild fish.

A: Well I haven’t seen what you are talking about, but you just said yourself that the wild fish weren’t harmed by all those decades of hatchery mixing, right? So what’s the problem? Your own data says the wild fish are fine. We had hatchery fish all over up here. All the way up to the dam.

Q: What I’m saying is that there has been very little, if any, genetic introgression from interbreeding. But we know the presence of hatchery adults on the spawning grounds reduces overall numbers of wild fish. So you’re going to have a hard time convincing wild-fish advocates that there is an acceptable risk, at any level.

A: I just don’t see it that way. I don’t think there was much, if any mixing. And if the wild fish are as pure as you say they are, that proves it, right? All I’m saying is if you’re going to have hatchery fish in the Umpqua, put them in the places where people fish! Or get rid of all the hatchery fish, and take the money and use it to repair lost spawning and rearing habitat. One or the other. But it doesn’t make sense to spend all this money and resources on a program that nobody can benefit from.
I’m all for wild fish. But right now we aren’t getting the numbers of wild steelhead we used to see. We’re under 5,000 fish. We need 7,000 to 9,000 fish to handle all the pressure on the fly water. The only way we’re going to get that is if they either let us have some hatchery fish or reclaim the lost habitat. Like Canton Creek. There used to be over a thousand wild fish in there. But it was wiped out when they built that road. It’s never recovered. So if ODFW took all the money from hatcheries and used it to bring back wild fish, I could get behind that.
Now our winter steelhead in the Umpqua really need protection. In the winter we get 10,000 to 14,000 wild fish. And ODFW wants to institute a hatchery program and a kill fishery! All of us guides are against it. ODFW makes no sense. You can’t kill wild fish!

Q: But you just said you’re against killing wild fish, but hatchery programs kill wild fish. Isn’t that an inconsistency?

A: I hear what you’re saying, and I could get behind a wild-only Umpqua. But it’s got to be one or the other. The way things are going now, I can’t make any money. I’m not ashamed to say it’s a money thing for me. If we’re going to have hatchery fish, let’s acclimate a third of them from Wright Creek down and offer people a little more opportunity in the summer. We don’t even need to increase the numbers. Just put them where they can be used. Or get rid of them altogether.

Q: Do you think you would feel the same way about this if you weren’t guiding?

A: I don’t know. The summer hatchery program, the way they’re running it now, just doesn’t make good economic sense. So I think I would be frustrated even if I wasn’t guiding. I’d still be up here in the canyon. It’s the only part of the river you can consistently get fish on dries throughout the summer.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Wild Salmonids Catch a Break

I solicited Rob Russell to write an opinion on the current sodium sulfite based bait that are popular here in the Pacific Northwest.
Rob has been at the fore front of this issue and is a real friend of wild salmon and steelhead

Sodium Sulfite - Oregon Has Spoken
by Rob Russell

Regardless of your beliefs, it's time to prepare for a sulfite-free future if you fish cured roe in Oregon. A few recent developments: 1) The Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has informed egg cure manufacturers they have until August 2011 to remove sodium sulfite from their products or face regulation. The state agency's declaration was the result of findings in a recent OSU study showing that sulfite-cured bait is harmful to juvenile salmon and steelhead; 2) Oregon's Fish and Wildlife Commission made it clear at its August 2010 meeting that sodium sulfite is not welcome in Oregon's waterways, and that the commission will act swiftly if manufacturers fail to meet the phase-out timeline; and 3) The Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) joined ODFW in calling for the August 2011 voluntary phase-out, and also indicated that it will move toward regulation if manufacturers miss ODFW's deadline.
  In a classy move, Oregon's Fish and Wildlife Commission recognized and thanked manufacturers who have worked closely with the state through what has sometimes been a stressful process of study, analysis and decision making. The voluntary phase-out affects many Oregon-grown businesses who must now develop and market new sulfite-free products. So far, a boom in business is buffering manufacturers' concerns. Oregon is in the heat of a good salmon season, looking forward to an even better 2011 season, and manufacturers are enjoying brisk sales. One sporting goods retailer on Oregon's South Coast said he's ordering cases of cure and pure sulfite powder for a hungry public. He speculated that people are stockpiling for the ban. Ya' think?
    It was obvious this year that lots of folks responded in good faith when confronted with the results of the study. I met several salmon anglers this summer and fall who were vocal about having made the switch from sulfite eggs to something less toxic. One prominent Siuslaw River salmon guide made the switch to straight shrimp and had a great season. Of course, many serious egg fishermen stuck with their standard cures. Some were just squeaking in one last season before the switch. A large crowd of others declared the OSU study was bogus, part of a conspiracy by fly-fishers to make Oregon a fly-fishing-only state. Communists, hippies and tree-huggers were also implicated.
   In fact, the original proponent of Oregon's egg-cure study was an avid roe-fisher before the results became public. Once the study showed the deadly effects of sodium sulfite on young salmon and steelhead, he simply eliminated sulfite-cured roe from his arsenal. His public awareness campaign has helped spread the word to anglers throughout the West, but several prominent salmon guides have complained, claiming his underlying goal is to eliminate bait fishing in favor of flyfishing. Regardless of those false allegations, concerned salmon anglers throughout Oregon are working hard to increase awareness of the facts, and the looming deadline.

One important note: Oregon's state agencies have, so far, only addressed concerns related to the health of salmon and steelhead exposed to sulfites. ODEQ has been alerted to possible risks to human health from exposure to sodium sulfite. The human health issues deserve study as well, and may prove to eclipse concerns for salmon and steelhead. In the eternal words of one of Oregon's leading manufacturers, "that stuff will give you cancer." Anyone who deals with sulfites on a regular basis knows how nasty they are. I, for one, am very pleased to have them out of my life. Though they did cure my warts.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wild Winter Steelhead at the Crossroads - An Opinion

We are 10 years into the wild winter steelhead broodstock programs on the north coast and what have we got to show for it?
Dwindling numbers of returning wild adults? Yes
Over sized and hungry broodstock smolt? You bet!
Gear and bait guides are the biggest benefactors in this program? Absolutely
The promised review and assessment of the program by ODFW? Nope!
So here we sit ten years later on the eve of yet another winter steelhead season with not much more knowledge of this program than when it first started.
Yes the broodstock program did supply a better strain of hatchery steelhead but you have to ask yourself if it was worth the price of the sacrifice of the wild eggs that were "borrowed". Experts do not think so.
Did it sell a lot more angling licenses and create the "angling opportunities" like ODFW had hoped? Doubtful since they pretty much eliminated the early winter season for thousands of November/December winter steelhead enthusiasts. Remember the old days of sneaking out for some winter steelhead fishing before Thanksgiving dinner?
Here is what we do know. Returning broodstock offsprings are less fit than the guides and ODFW would like you to know. The science and analysis of the broodstock programs  fishery experts is out there and it refutes what all the bullshit the Tillamook area bait guides are trying to sell you at the largest fishing forum in the Pacific northwest
Meanwhile the wild winter steelhead, the fish that really matter, are at a crossroads. Apparently a few at ODFW realize this but one has to wonder if it's too late and will they ever have a voice in making the correct policy decisions at that agency
I fear that another 10 years of playing dumb by ODFW will be the final straw for wild winter steelhead.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Good News For Bull Trout

I guess hydroelectric dams aren't critical habitat after all huh George?

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — The Obama administration has issued its final rule on critical habitat for the bull trout, one of the most fought-over threatened species in the country the past two decades.
The rule issued Tuesday by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reverses Bush administration policy on endangered species by recognizing the importance of protecting habitat to restore fish and wildlife in danger of extinction.
The 2005 critical habitat designation was struck down by a federal court, and an inspector general's report found improper political influence went into its creation.
The new rule greatly expands the miles of streams and areas of lakes and reservoirs deemed essential to restoring bull trout in Oregon, Washington

Friday, October 01, 2010

Metolius will humble you

Photograph by Kathleen Lewis Stewart

First of all let me say that the Metolius is a beautiful river in every sense of the word. It's a place that I could easily live near and be quite contented! To be able to hang around Camp Sherman and the "Met" would be wonderful.
It also showed me that I am not the hot shot fly fisherman that I may have foolishly thought I was. Actually I know I'm an average fly angler at best so there was no delusional thinking going on here at all.
Crystal clear and swift is the best way to describe it and for the few hours I fished it I as might well have been fishing with no fly on my line for all the good it did me.
It was however, one of my best fishing trips of the year...go figure

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fall has Fell

So where did the summer go? One day I'm wearing shorts and bitching about the rivers levels being too low and the water too warm and then the next minute I'm back to long pants and bitching about the river levels are too high and the water being too cold. Why couldn't I have found out that my waders leaked in July?
Actually autumn is one of my favorite times of year. It's a season of movement,change and big salmon plowing up through shallow riffles.
Alas the salmon are getting scarce these days but the miracle of the spawning runs is still a wonder to behold.
Fall is the season of my favorite fish, the Coastal Cutthroat trout. Over the years I have developed a special affinity for these wonderful trout and I try to protect them and even fight for them when I have to.
On the Oregon coast these trout are little more than an after thought and nuisance. In the immortal words of the great Rodney Dangerfield these trout "Don't get no respect"
Anglers on north Oregon coast streams are after the bigger salmon and steelhead so the lowly cutthroat trout are of little importance to them.
I've often said that I will take a 17 inch cutthroat trout over a 30 pound salmon any day is absolutely the truth and so naturally the fall season is a special time for me.
The thing about fall though is sometime the transition to winter is too short. In years past it seems like we go straight from balmy indian summer days right into the big chill. I need time to get ready and at least a chance to dig through all my junk to find my "mood" light that gets me through the cold months of winter with some semblance of sanity.
Last year I made one last trip over to the Deschutes in early November and almost played it too close. It started snowing hard about 25 miles east the summit at Government Camp. I was low on gas because of a malfunctioning fuel gage so it was pretty much touch and go until we found a gas station open.
Well that won't happen this year because this year I will not scoff at the weather reports when they call for snow at Mt. Hood.
I also like fall because I still have about 6 weeks of either Deschutes steelhead and cutthroat trout to look forward to. Some of the best fishing for the year is in September/October.
Even though the summer slipped by me this year I will still enjoy the fall season of salmon, cutthroat trout and color.
I hope you all have a pleasant fall season.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Heroes of Conservation?

We use the title of hero very liberally in this country and when that happens the true heroes get short changed.
My belief is the real heroes in this country are our military forces, police officers and fire fighters. They are the people who make a difference in the lives of the rest of by going into harms way to save lives and assure our freedom. Scoring touchdowns or hitting home runs in the world series are not heroic deeds to be sure and neither is dumping hatchery salmon into streams where wild salmon live.
The outdoor magazine Field and Stream gives out annual awards to people they feel have helped "conserve" our outdoor resources. Two such recipients from Garibaldi, Oregon are recognized for their work with hatch boxes on a north coast stream. These folks seem, from the video on the Field and Stream "Heroes of Conservation" website, to be a very nice retired couple doing what they think is great work to provide more salmon for northwest anglers....very heroic!
I would think the title of "Villains of Conservation" might be a more appropriate title because we all know the affect of a hatchery product introduced into a wild population.
If there are true Heroes of Conservation I would think they would be people who fight hard to protect our wild resources that include wild salmonids and their habitat. I would think the true heroes would be people like Bill Bakke of Native Fish Society, or Tom Wolf of Trout Unlimited. My good friend John Bracke would certainly qualify. John lives along Oregon's Nestucca river and has fought tirelessly for the wild trout, salmon and steelhead in that river. John is an aggressive conservationist who will not spare the feeling of those who intend to exploit our wild resources.
So if you intend to bestow the mantle of Hero of Conservation on anyone it would be wise to be sure that they truly are heroes.
There are a lot of impostors, posers and down right frauds out there.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Get Up Off of Your Ass and Do Something

The following article speaks for itself and there is really nothing more I can add to it. It speaks to me and if you give a shit about the environment, conservation, wild fish and a whole myriad of other things that we fly anglers are supposed to care about then it should speak to you as well. I not implying that what is good for Shane should be good for all of you but this is just common sense.
Know this much though. There has not been a single wild salmon, trout or steelhead that has been saved by posting on Facebook or an internet fishing forum about what a damn shame it all is and how mad we should be.
I can talk this way because the same goes for me and my's not enough!
Thanks go to Tom Davis of Native Fish Society for emailing this to me and others.

Calling All Fanatics
Protecting nature should be more important than enjoying it

by Derrick Jensen Orion magazine
 I’VE ALWAYS kind of hated that quote by Edward Abbey about being a half-hearted fanatic (“Be as I am—a reluctant enthusiast . . . a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic”). Not so much because of the racism and misogyny that characterized some of his work. And not even because of the quote itself. But rather because of how that quote has been too often misused by people who put too much emphasis on the half-hearted, and not nearly enough emphasis on the fanatic.The fundamental truth of our time is that this culture is killing the planet. We can quibble all we want—and quibble too many do—about whether it is killing the planet or merely causing one of the six or seven greatest mass extinctions in the past several billion years, but no reasonable person can argue that industrial civilization is not grievously injuring life on Earth.
Given that fact, you’d think most people would be doing everything they can to protect life on this planet—the only life, to our knowledge, in the universe. Sadly, you’d be wrong.
I think often of a line by the psychiatrist R. D. Laing, “Few books today are forgivable.” He wrote this, I believe, because we have become so very alienated from our own experience, from who we are, and this alienation is so destructive to others and to ourselves that if a book does not take this alienation as its starting point and work toward rectifying it, we’d all be better off looking at blank pieces of paper. Or better, actually experiencing something (or someone). Or even better, entering, as Martin Buber might have written, into a relationship with something or someone.
I agree with Laing that few books today are forgivable (and the same is true for films, paintings, songs, relationships, lives, and so on), and I agree for the reasons I believe he was giving. But there’s another reason I think few books (films, paintings, songs, relationships, lives, and so on) are forgivable. There’s that little nagging fact that this culture is murdering the planet. Any book (film, painting, song, relationship, life, and so on) that doesn’t begin with this basic understanding—that the culture is murdering the planet (in part because of this alienation; and of course this murder then in turn fuels further alienation)—and doesn’t work toward rectifying it is not forgivable, for an infinitude of reasons, one of which is that without a living planet there can be no books. There can be no paintings, songs, relationships, lives, and so on. There can be nothing.
The conservation biologist Reed Noss has called his field a “combat discipline”: we are in a crisis, and our attitudes and actions need to reflect this. And so I sometimes try to apply the Ed Abbey quote to the work of a firefighter. If you were trapped in a burning building, would you want the firefighters to be reluctant enthusiasts, part-time crusaders, half-hearted fanatics? Should the mother of a very sick child be reluctant or half-hearted in defense of that child?
I’m not saying we don’t need recreation. I’m not saying we don’t need amusement. Hell, I have three mystery novels in my backpack right now. I’m not saying a firefighter doesn’t need to rest—having hauled seven unconscious people out of the burning building, we could hardly blame the firefighter for grabbing a quick drink of water or sometimes taking a day off; and I’m not saying the mother doesn’t need to sleep or take some time away from the stress of caring and advocating for her child. We all need the occasional escape, or even indulgence. But we must be able to pursue those escapes and indulgences with the knowledge that others are rushing into the burning building, that others have taken over the job of advocating for whatever is necessary to heal that child.
And that, frankly, is part of the problem: there aren’t nearly enough of us working anywhere near hard enough to stop this culture from killing the planet. Obviously, or the world would be getting healthier, instead of being desecrated with ever increasing speed. If there were more of us trying to stop this culture from killing the planet, then those who are working themselves to death could afford to take a little time off and not feel as if things would fall apart while they climbed the mountains or ran the rivers.
“It is not enough to fight for the land,” Abbey continued; “it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there.” But this part of the quote might actually bother me more, in part because of its fatalism and in part because we—humans—are not the point. Yes, absolutely we should enjoy and commune with and make love with and touch and be with and absorb and be absorbed by the land. Yes, absolutely we should sit in the sun and feel it warm our bones, and we should listen to the whispering voices of trees, and we should open our ears and our hearts to the voices of frogs. But when the forests are being flattened and the frogs are being extirpated, enjoying them isn’t enough. So long as there’s still something we can do to protect them, shouldn’t protecting them be far more important than enjoying them? Because, once again, we are not the point. The trees, the frogs, do not exist for us. It is our culture that is killing them, and it is up to us to stop it.
Have you ever had anyone you love die or come to grievous harm needlessly, from some unnecessary act of stupidity or violence? I have. And in the aftermath I have never wished I had spent more time enjoying this other, but rather wishing I had acted differently such that I was able to prevent the unnecessary losses.
As my artist and writer friend Stephanie McMillan wrote in her essay “Artists: Raise Your Weapons”: “If we lived in a time of peace and harmony, then creating escapist, serotonin-boosting hits of mild amusement wouldn’t be a crime. If all was well, such art might enhance our happy existence. There’s nothing wrong with pleasure or decorative art. But in times like these, for an artist not to devote her/his talents and energies to creating cultural weapons of resistance is a betrayal of the worst magnitude, a gesture of contempt against life itself. It is unforgivable.”
I would extend her comments beyond art: in times like these, for anyone not to devote her/his talents and energies to defending the planet is a betrayal of the worst magnitude, a gesture of contempt against life itself. It is unforgivable.
The questions I keep coming back to are these: in this time, as countless multitudes of humans and nonhumans suffer for the profits and luxuries of a few, and as species go extinct at rates greater than any in the last scores of millions of years—as large-vertebrate evolution itself is being halted—what does the world need? What does the world need from me?
I want to be very clear: I don’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t love the world or each other (human or nonhuman). Or that we shouldn’t play games or have fun. I’m not saying we shouldn’t rest or go hiking or read good books (and Desert Solitaire is a great book). I’m not even saying I have a problem with Abbey’s quote as such; my main problem with the quote is the many would-be activists who use it as an excuse for inaction.
We are in a crisis, and we need to act as such. We need to rescue people from the burning building. We need everybody’s help.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Hatcheries are an unavoidable fact here in the Pacific Northwest. Good, bad or indifferent they have been here for over 100 years and are likely here to stay for 100 more.
Some and probably most are glad that salmon, trout and steelhead hatcheries will always be with us. They mean a fish to take home for the grill and many ego pictures for the internet.
As for me I am in the minority about salmonid hatcheries. I think they have spelled the demise for many wild salmonids populations over the decades and science backs me up.
I can easily imagine fly fishing the rest of my years without hatchery fish but I know that will not happen.
So okay people want to eat a fresh hatchery trout or salmon from time to time and I do not really begrudge them of that since our license and tags sales pay for hatchery mitigation through the Mitchell Act.
Remember though,science tells us that throwing hatchery fish into a population of wild salmon and steelhead is detrimental to the wild fish. Salmon and steelhead are a resilient fish that can take a lot of abuse and still recover. There are two things, however, that they cannot and historically have not recovered from and that is hatchery influence, over harvest.
The hatchery salmonids compete for food, intermingle and spawn with their wild counterparts and dilute the wild genes of a population of wild salmon or steelhead.
We can even look at poor ocean conditions and know that wild salmonids have faced this in the past and came back.
When wild salmonids are over harvested, whether by commercial or sport interests then those are fish that will not come back to spawn.
When those fish do come back to spawn their wild genes are diluted when hatchery fish are allowed to stray into their spawning waters. If they do produce offsprings those offsprings must compete with larger hatchery smolt that are not only bigger but are more aggressive and even carnivorous. Smaller wild smolt cannot compete with them for what little food might be available in any given stream and are eaten by the larger smolt.
Some of you may look at this and wonder if I am just talking out of selfishness or making this information up...I'm not! Volumes have been written about the adverse effects of hatchery salmonids dumped into an area that has a population of wild salmonids.
If you get the warm fuzzies when you release a hatchery salmon or steelhead to show what a great friend you are to the fish all you have done is harm wild salmon or steelhead.
You paid a bunch of money for that hatchery fish so harvest the damn thing.
You might even say that we fly fishers are doing nothing more than "torturing" wild trout for our own selfish pleasure. I can only speak for my self on this absurd and ignorant claim. I know how to safely release the fish I hook. I have no need for that glory shot of my holding a wild fish out of water in order to show what a mighty angler I am. Those days are long gone! I know that there is a 100% mortality rate when a wild fish is clubbed to death like so many "sportsmen" would like to do.
I do know one thing though and comes from doing redd surveys the past few years. Wild salmon, stee;head and trout are disappearing..the numbers do not lie folks they are just not there in the numbers that they used to be.
Someone naively said that they though the little smolt that jump in the summer pools in coastal river are jumping for joy. Well that gives them intelligence they just don't have and that sounds like something PETA would say.
I would be willing to bet that some of those wild smolt are jumping, not from joy,but to get away from over sized hatchery smolt that want to eat them.
Please harvest ALL hatchery fish you encounter! If it's missing an adipose then kill it! You will be doing the wild salmon, steelhead and trout a huge favor.

Monday, August 16, 2010

0 to - 6 A Story by Moon

Moon has contributed to The Quiet Pool before and his fly fishing musings are always enjoyable.
This is his latest "adventure" with his long suffering(and expert fly tyer)

Look, I don’t like competition when it comes to fly fishing…. Competition as it pertains to anything to do with our life style (fly-fishing) seems to me to be a violation in nature.
Though it may not be in the rules, competition as to fly-fishing goes against the very spirit of the thang most of us strive to protect. Even you dirty damn good for nothing golfers have mulligan’s….. (just saying is all).

And this is what I tried to explain to my fishing partner the other night on the river…. Oh, she wanted to keep score…. So in the end to protect marital bliss and all that happy home bullshit, I let her…….

Yes, she caught four fish while I was sitting on a log in the shade retying and she thought she was all that, but as Monica soon found out – keeping score isn’t cracked up to be all she thought it was going to be….

First – if you’re going to use a bobber, then just take the penalty stroke and fish with one. Don’t try and skirt the rules by tying a nymph onto a dry fly…. This is an abomination and can get you disqualified. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard that the national headquarters of the FFF may even be looking into taking her membership away…. And I for one want to lend my support to them on this up-most important matter of ethics…. After all – this ain’t golf.

So after I explained the rules to her (again) she wasn’t so damn hot to keep score… yes, you caught three fish on a sub surface fly. But NOT only does that not count as proper fly-fishing. But it counts as a (negative) or penalty fish as to the “spirit” of fly fishing…

So that’s already (Moon – zero, to Monica’s negative three)…

Then you add in that she foul hooked a fourth one and that’s a negative two…. One for foul hooking a trout, plus another penalty fish for foul hooking one sub-surface with the abomination rig…..

So that’s (Moon 0 to Monica’s (neg) “-“5)……

Then I added in one more penalty fish just because she wanted to keep score in the first place. After all – this was a strict violation of the “spirit of the thang” ….

So the score card read (Moon 0 vs, Monica negative 6)….

Oh she threw a fit not to mention my water bottle up in the rough…. And proceeded to protest my score keeping all the while calling me very ugly names…. But in the end I explained that – “yes, your right honey – but” though I will admit might does not make right. It is enough at times….. so if you want to keep score, go play golf sweet-pea – cuz there are no mulligan’s in fly-fishing….

And so even though I never touched a fish, I did fish proper and with that – managed to hold onto my “fishing god” status for yet another year….

Life is Good Enough.

Used by Permission

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

El Rio Deschutes es Muy Ventoso

Que? Usted dice? No habla espanol? Oh mi calidad! Actually I don't speak Spanish all that well but was in a silly mood so if by chance there are some readers from Spanish speaking countries looking in then I thought they might like a bit of their native tongue to start out this latest epic entry.
I've fished the Deschutes for many, many years and the ferocity of the wind and it always catches me by surprise although I know I am going to have to deal with it more times than not. It's like it has to remind you just who it is that is in control of your day of fly fishing.
Well I never doubted it for one minute! On Monday the wind had it's way with me and in between hurricane like gusts I did manage a few casts.I tried to get a picture of the full force of the wind as it took my fly line and threw it back in my face but the image does not do it justice.
Some people complain about the wind on the Deschutes and while it is a bit bothersome I think it defines the personality of the wild western river the Deschutes is. Without the wind or the treacherous rapids or the rattle snakes or the imposing canyon ot the dnagerous wading the Deschutes would just be another ordinary river. In my fly angling life I do not want ordinary and hence my affection for this river of danger and beauty.
The Deschutes is not for the meek or timid and I always feel that way when I fish it. If you never venture out of your safe little world and cannot bear the thought of not being able to douse your flies in shrimp scent while you attempt to impersonate a fly fisherman then stay away from this river. I do not mean this as a warning but it's true that if you cannot endure the wind and the ruggedness of the Deschutes you will in all likelihood not enjoy this river.
This was my first steelhead trip of the year and it was a very enjoyable one. I fished all the likely spots but did not find a willing steelhead in any of them. The wind made for tall tales of the strikes I missed from huge steelhead because of the wind.
While swinging flies for winter steelhead offers it's own unique challenges and the lush green beauty of a coastal river in winter is in stark contrast to the subdued hues of central Oregon I look forward to many great trips east of the mountains this year.
So in closing I would just like to say I Amor el río de Deschutes y de su cabeza de acero or something like that.

Friday, August 06, 2010

A Ray of Hope?

I do not like salmon and steelhead hatcheries and I have not been shy about my dislike for them. When it comes to the demise of wild salmonids throughout this region hatchery programs are one of the biggest.
I posted the link below for the information to these possible cuts.

National Marine Fisheries Service to Consider Cutting Columbia River Hatchery Plants

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I'm All for Wild Fish but......

There are a lot of posers, frauds and down right liars in the Pacific northwest. You hear them I'm sure.
The usually start out by joining a pseudo-conservation group like CCA or Northwest Steelheaders. They swear up and down that they want to fight hard for wild salmon and steelhead. Their main argument is getting the "Goddamn gill netters" off of the Columbia because they are using non-selective gear to harvest salmon and killing wild fish.
Gill nets do pretty much kill everything that runs into them so that argument is valid. The thing that troubles me enough to call people these frauds is when push comes to shove they only support wild salmon and steelhead as long as it doesn't inconvenience them or when conservation efforts cost them money.
We have the sulfite egg cure controversy. It has been proven that sulfite based cures are harmful to juvenile salmonids! Harmful enough to kill them.
All of the phony conservationists are crying foul. These folks are mostly bait guides that cannot get their clients into salmon and steelhead without the help of sodium sulfite cured salmon roe that they sell for $30 a quart. These guys will tell you all day long how much they love and care for wild salmon and steelhead....what a bunch of lying bullshitters they are.
Theses are the assholes who support the various steelhead broodstock programs because it makes them money.
I have never claimed to be a champion for the cause of wild salmonids. I know there is more I could and should do but I will say this much these guys are hypocrites in the worse way in my opinion. You just cannot be "sort of" in favor of saving wild salmon and steelhead. You cannot be "I'm for wild salmon and steelhead as long as it doesn't cost me money"
There is no half way here folks.
It all comes down to sacrifice and you and I have to ask ourselves what we would sacrifice for the betterment of cold water fisheries.
If you are not 100% for wild salmon and steelhead then you might as well be 0%

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Time to Ban Sulfite Based Bait Cures

Native Fish Society, Trout Unlimited and other interested partys have petitioned ODFW to ban all sulfite based eggs cures.
Research has shown that sulfite cures have been proven to kill juvenile salmonids.

Here is what I wrote on The Quiet Pool  last December

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 guide David Johnson was quoted on 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 from Washington 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.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Salmon Are Vital

We all know about the economic value of healthy salmon runs to our northwest rivers. Tourism, commercial and recreation dollars and the well being of many towns along both the Columbia and north coast is vital to hundreds of thousands of people.
How about the ecological value? The value of salmon to the well being to the river in this region cannot be counted because it is huge.
Having healthy salmon runs and what they add to the ecosystem is important to not only future generations of salmon but other salmonid species like steelhead and trout as well.
Juvenile salmon and steelhead depend on the nutrients supplied by the decaying carcasses to sustain them during their stay in fresh water before their out migration to salt water. Aquatic insect that these juveniles also feed on depend on those carcasses not to mention other stream side animals that feed on the dead salmon.
When this cycle is interrupted by a lack of salmon then the whole river life cycle is interrupted. Young salmonids will not survive to return to the river for future generations. Without salmon and steelhead returning to their spawning grounds the future will be bleak! Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife claimed that 5 spawning salmon per river mile is enough to sustain the needs of the river for the future. Thanks God that science and a federal judge intervened.
We need spawning salmon and I cannot put it more succinctly than that.  When wild salmon are removed from the system, whether it be by sports anglers, commercial fisheries or even tribal nets then those fish will, obviously, not spawn and the progeny they would have produced will be lost forever. Those decaying carcasses will not be their for the salmon and steelhead juveniles to feed upon.
Am I painting a bleak picture? Yes I am but it's reality folks.
Those of you that use salmon roe as bait might want to think about the long range consequences when killing a female chinook for her prized eggs.
Many experts think that the over harvest of egg laying fall chinook contribute to the decline of coastal fall chinook runs.
I would think ODFW would recognize "hen hunting" as a culprit to dwindling salmon populations but they seem to think that this is not a problem.
The numbers don't lie and instead of ranting about seas lions and Caspian Terns some of you bait guys should release that over ripe hen.
Think about it guys because you can play a part in salmon recovery instead of being one of the road blocks hindering it.

to Bill Bakke for some of the material used in this post

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Deschutes Steelhead in Hot Water...Literally!

Lots of debate going on at the various fishing websites here in the Pacific Northwest but, of course, it's mostly mindless whining by guides and hatchery steelhead lovers.
I am not going to offer an opinion on this because guess what? I wouldn't know what I am talking about just like most of the other internet geniuses that do have an uneducated opinion.
I decided to communicate with Bill Bakke of Native Fish Society who does know what he is talking about and here is the the information he emailed me.

Bakke spoke with Don Ratliff, biologist for PGE, about temperature profile changes for the lower river due to adjustments in temperature below the dams from the newly constructed fish passage and temperature adjustment tower at Round Butte Reservoir.

He asked the following questions:

1. Have you modeled the temperature changes using blend 17 at the mouth of the river, 100.1 miles downstream?
2.Have you modeled the effect of temperature changes in the lower river on resident trout, steelhead, and fall chinook?
3. Have you modeled the effect on small mouth bass breeding response in the lower river due to temperature changes?
4. Can adjustments be made in outflow temperature to deal with high ambient temperatures in the lower canyon and its affect on water temperatures?
5. Is there funding available to monitor the temperature effects on fish below the dams?

Here are the answers he received
Question 1:
According to Ratliff the temperature changes have not been modeled at the mouth using blend 17, however, the work of Chuck Huntington on temperature changes in the lower river have been used to estimate the effect of these changes.
Question 2:
The temperature changes and their effect on salmonids in the lower river, primarily below Sherars Falls to the mouth have not been determined.
Question 3:
The improved spawning and rearing conditions for small mouth bass in the lower Deschutes River below Sherars Falls due to temperature modification have not been evaluated.
Question 4:
Water temperatures in the lower Deschutes will be cooler due to releases at the dam in August and September, but it would be difficult to make adjustments in releases of water to adjust for hot ambient temperatures affecting the river in July. A concern regarding the flexibility to adjust temperature to meet environmental hot spells in the lower river is unclear because of existing regulations.
Question 5:
There is no funding available from PGE to monitor temperature effects on fish below the dam. This would have an impact on adaptive management for temperature in the lower river. Monitoring funds are directed at re-establishing salmon and steelhead above the dam.

I'm not going to try to second guess the PGE biologist but it seems to me that this whole thing was kind of a "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" by PGE.
One thing the colder water temperatures do is bring in straying hatchery steelhead destined for other watershed like the Grand Ronde. Higher temperatures would help keep those fish out in the cooler Columbia and reduce that straying.
One thing we do not need is hatchery steelhead straying into the Deschutes to inter act with wild steelhead that belong there.
I know that the Deschutes is a favorite river for many anglers throughout the region and of course they welcome steelhead to catch no matter what river they are headed for.
Let's also not forget the probable increase in small mouth bass that warmer temps will bring. I can just see it now! Metallic painted super charged bass boats hauling ass up and down the Deschutes in search of a "hawg" or two.
All I can say is I really don't trust PGE to do the right thing and I certainly do not respect any of these "Johnny Come Lately" concerned guides that are worried that their hatchery meal ticket is not going to get punched this year.
Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fly Fishing Ethics

For various reasons we fly fishermen are held to a higher standard as far as angling ethics go and while most of us try to exhibit good angling ethics some don't. So if you are confused or wondering what good fly fishing ethics are then you've come to the right place.
Here are a few to ponder.

Spawning Fish

Never fish in an area where you can see spawning fish working. I know it's tempting but just move on and let those spawners do their thing in peace.


Same as above. You want to leave spawning redds undisturbed. Not sure what a spawning redd looks like? Google it!

Low Holing

Gear and bait fishermen do this a lot and if you have evolved from the gut slinging crowd into fly fishing then leave this rude habit, along with your Powerbait in the past. Always ask if it's okay to step below a fellow fly angler! I like at least 100 yards of swing water below me and on the short coastal winter streams that is hard to come by. Even on big rivers like the Deschutes it is hard to get that much space. Some fly guides take it to the other extreme and act like they need a mile of river below them.

Barbless Hooks and Nets

If you intend to release your catch then pinch those barbs and try to avoid using a net. Sometimes you have to net your fish so be sure it's a rubberized net that won't remove slime from the fish. Be sure you are educated on handling wild fish.

Photos of your catch

If you've hooked a wild fish then keep it in the water. It is not good for the fish to be held out of the water for your ego shot.

Remove hatchery fish from the river

You and I pay BIG money for these fish so for cryin' out loud utilize them! You are not doing the wild salmonid populations of your river any favors by releasing hatchery salmon, steelhead and trout. Unfit to eat? Simple!Bonk it, Tag it if that is the law, open up the body cavity and THEN release it back into the river. This will provide stream nutrients for smolt, aquatic insects, crawfish and other river life. You can also take it home and use it for crab bait or fertilizer.
Disclaimer - This is what I do and might be against the fishing regulations so do this at your own risk.

Leave the river in better shape than you found it

Pretty simple actually. Anything you brought in please take it with you and maybe some extra.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's Hatcheries to the Rescue

Once again hatcheries are going to ride to the rescue and save us all! The California Department of Fish and Game released 16.5 million fall chinook smolt as an effort to bolster horrendous returns of fall chinook in the states central valley streams.
16.5 million is a shit load of smolt! However it is pretty well known that fall chinook hatchery programs do not work out well and I would be surprised if this turned out to be any  different.
In Oregon we have our own hatchery fall chinook failures in nearly every coastal river from the Necanicum all the way south. We don't see the massive numbers like California is planting but we get about a .03% return. That makes those fish that do return about as rare as Sasquatch and about as expensive as an Imelda Marcos shoe buying trip.
This all reminds me of the saying "The height of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result"
So good luck California! I'm sure you are going to need it.

Here is the original press release from California F&W

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) completed the release of 16.5 million young Sacramento Fall-Run Chinook salmon in northern California on June 15. The majority of the young salmon, called smolts, were placed into acclimation pens in San Pablo Bay prior to release, while others were released in rivers that flow to the bay. Smolts that survive to adulthood will return in two to four years to spawn in Central Valley rivers, boosting the recovery of the species in California waters.

“We hope this year’s above-average water flow and the use of a variety of release sites will improve the overall survival of the smolts and increase the return of adult salmon to their home rivers,” said Neil Manji, DFG Fisheries Branch Chief.
On June 8, the last major release of 650,000 Sacramento Fall-Run Chinook smolts took place near Mare Island Straits adjacent to San Pablo Bay. They were trucked from Nimbus Hatchery in Rancho Cordova to the site, confined in net pens to acclimate and towed out into the bay and released on the outgoing tide. The acclimation pens are operated by the nonprofit Fishery Foundation of California (FFC).
Since the collapse of the Sacramento Fall-Run Chinook salmon stocks in 2007, DFG has stepped up acclimation efforts and selected new release sites to help improve survival rates. This year, new sites for release included the mouth of the American River (to boost returns to the American River) and Eddos Harbor on the San Joaquin River near the Antioch Bridge (to boost returns to Mokelumne and Merced rivers).
“The releases went well,” said Biologist Kari Burr, FFC Acclimation Project Manager. “Once adults return and information is collected, biologists will be able to fine-tune release locations for the coming years.”
At release sites in the San Pablo Bay and Eddos Harbor, acclimation pens provided safe haven for the 3- to 5-inch-long salmon when they were released from pitch-dark transport tanks into bay and river waters. The pens allow the smolts to adjust to their new surroundings inside the safety of the net pens.
The release sites were selected in order to minimize in-river losses due to predation, pollution and other causes, and to help minimize the number of salmon that return to a different river than the one where they were raised.
The salmon smolts were raised at and trucked in from four DFG-operated Central Valley hatcheries.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Story of Heartbreak Hill

I guess I'm a typical angler. Somewhat superstitious, prone to rituals and mostly full of shit!
With all of that in mind I want to tell you the story of "Heartbreak Hill"
Through my fishing life I have known more than one "Heartbreak Hill"
Let's see...there's the steep hill going down into Cedar Creek on the Sandy. Then there are a few spots on the Wilson that I should call "Cardiac Hill" because I swear I am going to have a coronary infarction hauling my over fed carcass up to the road after fishing at that spot and so I don't fish there anymore.
The one I'm talking about is really a slight incline going east bound on Highway 6, better known as the Wilson River highway. It's not a hill one must ascend on foot either.
The reason I call it "Heartbreak Hill" is mainly because of the frame of mind I am most times in as I travel home after a day of swing flies for steelhead on the north coast..get it? I'm heartbroken that I didn't hook anything.
It's not always a heartbreak though. If I have a particularly good day on the river, whether it be hooking a fish or two or maybe something like seeing a bald eagle up close or a nice herd of elk. This last Tuesday I travelled to the north coast in search of trout or steelhead. My first stop was at my former go to hole for big cutthroat trout. This spot has yielded many big trout for me over the years but since ODFW, in it's infinite stupidity, deemed that these wild trout are plentiful enough to kill a few my former honey hole is now occupied by plunkers! You can only imagine the horror and anger I felt last year as I was shown a cutthroat trout near 20" gutted and in some assholes ice chest.
It was on to another former go to spot that the trout just don't hang out in that much anymore. After doing my typical ritual of working this spot downstream I was rewarded with the unmistakable take of a coastal cutthroat trout. These trout are not nibblers or slurpers as some rainbows tend to be. They announce their presence firmly,aggressively and acrobatically after they are hooked.
I was pretty pleased with that and hoped that there were other trout present but there were not so on I moved to another nearby river.
I swung steelhead flies for a while with no success and I decided to move upriver to another favorite spot.
I got a very strong take on my first cast into a quick run but he didn't stick so I moved a bit upstream and after playing tag with this fish he finally committed and I played him until he did a long line release and went on his way. I fished my way down stream but had no other willing trout. Now I know many of you catch a lot more fish than me but in my advancing years I no longer feel the need to whip the water to a froth and put up big numbers. Those days are gone and I have my memories of fish long past.
These days a couple of quality encounters do me just fine and this day was no different.
As I travelled home I did not go up "Heartbreak Hill" this day. The day was a success all in all and this old angler was more than satisfied with what he took home from his day on the river.
I guess "Heartbreak Hill" rarely shows up much anymore. I cannot think of too many bad days I have had while fishing. Sometime it's just the little things that make a trip a success. If I find a nice agate or quartz then it's a great day indeed.
It's important to me to make sure a day does not end with a ride of"Heartbreak Hill" and I fish or don't fish in my own way to see to it that that happens.
I would think that some first time visitors to this blog thinking it's site full of fly fishing secrets..sorry to disappoint. I chose the title "The Quiet Pool" for a reason and after some refinement over the 4 years of it's existence it's about where I wanted it to be from the beginning.
And while I still do my rants at the mismanagement of ODFW I mostly just like to reflect.
Thanks for reading

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Spawning Wild Steelhead

Wild steelhead spawning in the river is an awesome thing to witness. When you take into account that these ocean going rainbow trout travel thousands of miles into the ocean from their river of birth and return to the same river 2-3 years later boggles the imagination.
This is why the conservation of wild salmon, steelhead and trout is so important and something very near and dear to my heart.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Hatchery Accountability by ODFW

Ever wonder how much those coastal hatchery summer steelhead cost? I can tell you they cost a hell pf a lot. We pay a premium price for our fishing here in Oregon but are we getting our moneys worth?

By Bill Bakke
The Native Fish Society has asked the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to complete a cost/benefit analysis of Oregon’s hatchery system. Fiscal and ecological accountability is needed in the operation of Oregon’s hatchery system. This need is even more acute now with the recently announced declines in the state’s general fund.
Oregon’s fish hatchery program is growing at the rate of about a million dollars a year. This growth rate is unsustainable given the likely loss of general tax revenues that currently help fund the program. The only way to compensate for the loss of state taxpayer support for the hatchery program would be for the recreational and commercial anglers to support additional large increases to their license fees.
NFS has asked the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to complete a cost/benefit analysis for each of its separate hatchery programs in order to help determine the risks of these programs to native species and to help prioritize individual hatchery operations as reductions in these programs occur. The Hatchery Accountability Project provides a legitimate process that the department could use to determine which hatchery programs need to be reduced or eliminated. This process could lead to a smaller and more fiscally sound and sustainable hatchery program over the long term.
Oregon operates a fish hatchery system statewide that includes several dozen separate facilities. These facilities produce millions of salmon, steelhead and trout each year for release into the waters of the state to support commercial and recreational fisheries. For many years, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has said reform of the hatchery system is underway. The only major visible reform that NFS has seen has been the relocation of coastal coho releases to the Young’s Bay area and the expansion of supplementation and acclimation programs. These small changes are relatively insignificant and some may actually be counterproductive. There has not been any fundamental change to the way ODFW operates the hatchery system.
The Hatchery Accountability Project would provide the department with a legitimate way to prioritize its various programs based upon which programs are the most cost effective, which ones provide the largest benefit to the most anglers and which projects have the least potential for inflicting harm to native fish and wildlife resources. Saving the best programs and eliminating the worst ones should help lead to a more sustainable state hatchery program.
The Oregon Hatchery Accountability Project is based upon the following criteria:

• What is the return on investment in terms of fish caught in commercial and recreational fisheries?

• Are the angling opportunities provided commensurate with the investment?

• What are the environmental risks and costs associated with each hatchery program?

NFS has asked ODFW to begin the analysis on hatchery programs that a) seem overly expensive b) only serve small segments of the angling community or c) have a high risk of adversely effecting native fish and wildlife populations. Examples of such programs include:
1. The Atlantic salmon stocking program

2. The Cascade lakes brook trout stocking program

3. Trout stocking in flowing waters

4. The Willamette basin summer steelhead program

5. Programs that utilize non-native or introduced fish stocks

6. The transfer of anadromous salmonids among watersheds

“The Native Fish Society believes that the information provided by the Hatchery Accountability Project will provide ODFW, the Governor, the Oregon Legislature and the public with valuable tools to use in assuring that Oregon’s fish hatchery program is operated in the public interest for the long-term benefit and health of our native fish populations,” said NFS Executive Director Bill Bakke, “All we ask is that ODFW conduct an annual cost-benefit analysis of its hatcheries. That way the taxpayers, who are paying for the hatcheries, can make informed decisions about them. It just makes sound business sense to do so.”

The ODFW Commission will decide on the agency’s budget at their July 16 meeting, and it is NFS’ hope that the Commission will direct the agency to begin the Hatchery Accountability Project at this time.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Russ and Mike

Well dear readers I once again miscalculated the famous Deschutes river salmon fly hatch. This year it was way back in the early part of May!
As Cubs fans would say maybe next year.
I did venture over last Tuesday and while the fishing was not exactly spectacular I did have the pleasure of meeting two elderly gentlemen named Russ and Mike. We chatted for quite a while as we waited for some kind of hatch to materialize that never did.
Mike told me about his father's 1930'sNorth Umpqua encounter with none other than Zane Grey. Seems like all those stories about Mr. Grey being an arrogant ass were indeed true according to Mike's father. It was a pleasure talking with them
I fished until dark and finally enticed a couple of trout to take an interest in my caddis dry fly.
Every trip to the Deschutes is a mystery. You never know what you are going to see or who you are going to meet. I met Russ, Mike and a little toxic reptile friend that I gave a wide berth to.
I enjoy seeing the diverse wild life of central Oregon. The red winged black birds and Ospreys. The wild turkeys and the turkey buzzards lunching on a roadside carrion meal and of course the rattle snakes.
The ride home through the wilderness between Pine Grove and the Timberline turn off is something I always enjoy.
I use that time to think and ponder everything from how my ball club is doing to how to save wild fish. Most times I listen to books on CD. Through the public library I found a copy of David James Duncan's classic "The River Why" so that has been on my CD player for my journeys to the Deschutes or to the "Tamanawis" on the north coast. This is my third time either reading or listening to this wonderful book...the movie does not do it justice.
On another note I'll bet none of you noticed that The Quiet Pool turned 7 years old recently last June. I am amazed myself that much useless ramblings and mindless drivel can come out of my water logged brain. I wanted to thank those of you who have been following my poor punctuation since 2006 although I would imagine that most if not all have moved on to more enlightening endeavours like playing Angry Birds.
I plan on doing this as long as I have silly notions to type or ODFW to bitch about. I hope you haven't been too bored.