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.....