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 ifish.net
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.