Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Native Fish Society Speaks Out For Wild Salmonids

By Bill Bakke
The Native Fish Society has an important mission that others believe in and support. We are making progress. I have worked in native fish conservation for more than 40 years and have spent time with legislators in my constant effort to strengthen and fund conservation. Senator Jan Wyers responded in the 1980s by funding five native fish conservation positions at ODFW. It was though that program that key people were hired and important work for Oregon’s wild salmonids was accomplished. In 2012 the legislature is again concerned about the future of wild salmonids as more and more populations are protected under the ESA and others are lost forever. The NFS Hatchery Accountability Project clearly states that there needs to be better accountability for biological and cost impacts of hatchery programs. There have been two hearings this session and in the next session our goal is to hold the agency accountable.

At one time it was possible to expect administrative solutions to problems affecting native fish management by government agencies, but that has changed, so legal action is necessary to force the government to follow its own rules and comply with state and federal law. This is why we have put ODFW on notice to clean-up its Sandy Hatchery program so that wild winter steelhead, coho, fall chinook and spring chinook are protected and a path is opened up for their recovery under the ESA. A 76% stray rate of hatchery spring chinook into the wild chinook spawning grounds is not acceptable under state or federal rules and it needs to be corrected.

We are in Stevenson Washington tonight defending the management program for recovery of wild summer steelhead in Wind River. This run has been protected as a wild steelhead management river since 1982, but there is local pressure for a stock and kill fishery. We are involved in these public meetings to make sure that the Wind River wild summer steelhead continue to rebuild and eventually recover.
The NFS is working for wild salmon, steelhead and trout throughout the Northwest through direct action and by supporting the good work of other groups. Our volunteer river stewards are working in their communities for healthy watersheds and native fish. It is a big job and for a small organization and it can seem wild and wooly, but we are undaunted in our efforts and we have a record of success when we take time to look in the rear-view mirror. 
I am committed to the future of the Native Fish Society because it is an effective advocate for native wild fish in the Northwest. We base our advocacy on the best available science and there is a lot of it being published that has direct bearing on our conservation work. We have a history of success but we could do better with more funding and more folks to push our advocacy program forward. The point is that as we grow our funding base we do so without sacrificing our mission for native wild fish. The organization and its leadership have made that commitment and with the support of our members and friends we can be successful in solving complex and difficult problems for wild native fish in the region.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

As Winter Wanes

So here I sit with just a few weeks left of winter. And what kind of winter has it been?  Well it has certainly been a better winter than last year that is for sure!
All of that aside though, I am ready for spring. All the signs are there too! Baseball's spring training has begun. I can uncover my outside faucets because the chance of freezing them to the point of bursting is minimal. I am also beginning my six month long sneeze fest which means there is pollen floating around in the air that irritates my sinuses.
I dusted off my old drift fishing gear to hopefully put a few hatchery steelhead in the freezer this luck as the rain this year has been nearly relentless. I complain about the hatchery influence so much on this blog that I figure instead of sitting around all winter waiting for the rivers to drop into some sort of reasonable fly fishing levels I could kill a few of these hatchery fish thereby doing my part to take as many out of the river as possible.No luck with that but I did manage a nice wild buck while swinging a fly with my Spey rod.
I have been lazy too. You may have noticed that I have re posted a few earlier entries from this blog. Kind of a "Best of the Quiet Pool" sort of thing. Well it's really not laziness, it's more like not having much to write about. God knows I have covered the "Winter, ODFW and Hatcheries all Suck" topics ad nauseum on this blog. I also write about the Deschutes river a lot as well. I think the Deschutes is a subject that I could never run out of things to write about it and my love for it.
I mean could you ever find too many words to describe something beautiful like Van Gogh's "Starry Night" or the feeling you get the first time you see your new born child? Beauty and wonder are beyond my weak human abilities to do justice to in words.
So as the first trip over the Cascades to central Oregon in pursuit of rainbow trout nears I anticipate the reunion with my "Mother River"
Like a child anticipates Christmas or as someone who has not seen a loved one for a long time anticipates.
It is just that isn't it? You have to look at a river as more than just a place to catch fish. I love the trip over to the Deschutes almost as much as the actual fishing. I love to look for things I have never seen before as I travel east. Maybe it will be a species of bird that I have never seen before or spotting a bald eagle, which is always something I would never get tired of. As I have evolved as an angler and as a person I try to be satisfied with what is around me at the moment. It doesn't always work out that way but I will say the beauty of the outdoors never disappoints's is the human factor that disappoints and spoils the moment.
I don't care what Punxsutawney Phil might or might not have seen on February 2nd! I am looking forward to the renewal of spring. Winter be damned and as British poet Anne Bradstreet wrote.
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Hatchery Influence


The following is an opinion by my good friend John Bracke of the Nestucca river. John has long been an important advocate for wild salmon and steelhead for many years along the north coast of Oregon.

The use of hatchery fish is nothing new. What has happened is the removal of the hatchery product from stretches of river that had been planted. While the removal of the hatchery product is good for the wild fish it is also bad for the wild fish. Many of today's remaining wild populations are being influenced with a percentage of successful hatchery spawn. With the removal of the hatchery product the obvious then comes out. A percentage of the wild run is made up of hatchery strays that have spawned successfully.
This fact is obvious on all of Oregon's hatchery polluted fisheries dealing with ocean migrating runs. The agency in charge realizing that the hatchery product is somewhat successful in the wild then removes the bad hatchery product and then begins to use the wild return for their hatchery use. This is justifiable because the fish is of wild origin and if they due spawn in the wild the agency feels the impacts are not as bad. Not quite so fast the agency has been put on notice not to exceed a 10% stray rate into the wild spawning population. Their new reason for failing to meet these guidelines are that they do not have the money nor the willingness too look into this problem. They are going to take this issue up during the new native fish policy.
Not so fast, a large part of the problem with the new broodstock fiasco is the run timing. We now have the hatchery return coinciding with the wild return in run timing and in spawning. The pressure is then twice as bad. Before you had a group just fishing on wild fish with little impact. Move a hatchery product on top of this run and you have a mess.
With the removal of the hatchery run you will see a decline in the wild population. Within 4-5 years depending on the hatchery influence in the drainage the true population of the wild return will become obvious.
How due we solve this problem. The hatchery fish are not cheap with the cost of the product being what it is let's put the expense of the product on those who would prefer to purse such prey and make it mandatory that they kill every hatchery fish they catch and not play catch and release on such fish. This form of fishing has had a much more negative affect on the wild population and creates even more problems.
Then we have those of us who would prefer to fish on wild runs instead of hatchery crap. We also need to pay for our fishery as well. A user fee for each drainage would benefit not only the drainage but also the surrounding area. What it boils down to is who is willing to pay for the expense associated with a wild fishery or a hatchery fishery. At this point in time the only people willing are anyone?
Then the idea of shifting towards a consumptive wild fishery on steelhead and everything else. Sorry folks, the ocean migrating runs that this state has left are not healthy enough for a total take on the wild population. Yes, they will open up certain fisheries to boost tag sales and optimism that the run is better than it really is.
What the problem really revolves around is public involvement. If the agency only hears from the kill crowd who do you think gets what they want. Those of us involved in the health and welfare of the wild fish can only due so much. The fisheries are in trouble due to the lack of involvement, from the new angler. When I say new I mean within the last 2 decades.
Those that have dropped out thanks for getting out of the way, you only created more problems than they were worth.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To All You Fishing Superstars Out There

When I started this blog over 5 years ago my intention was to write down my thoughts and opinions based on my life of fly fishing. With the exception of a few politically charged offerings I've kept pretty much to what I set out to do.
If you've come here to get instructions or advice then I can tell you that there are many out there who know a hell of a lot more than me. I try to be a good steward of the rivers and the fish that live in the rivers that I love. I do not want notoriety beyond doing what I can for wild salmonids. I know many people who feel the same as I do.
What I have seen the last few years is the emergence of the fishing "superstar". They are in both the fly fishing community and the conventional gear crowds. The internet is their playground and you cannot escape their plethora of hero pictures. These young and some times even middle age fishing studs have a little success and all of the sudden they know it all and are even writing articles in national magazines. They are giving "sage" advice on hooking big numbers of fish worldwide.
Most of these stars are in their 20's  or 30's and have had very little time to experience shaving their damn face much less learning all the ins and outs of fishing.
I find these instant experts funny in a pathetic sort of way. They rig up their indicators and bobbers and brag of big numbers and fishing in exotic locales. They have their images plastered all over the internet with holding wild steelhead out of the water out. Their "posse" of wannabes are there to sing their praises and tell them " You da man!"
They even have a series of DVDs out their to exhibit their exploits to those that can only dream of fishing in such far away places.
You can call me a cynic and maybe I am but these rock stars are hurting our sport and most of the time that actions and attitudes are the only impression the general public gets of fishing. This "in your face look at me" brashness wears pretty thin to most everyone but their peers,camp followers and ass kissers. Another thing they do to hurt the sport is the way they come across to those who might be interested in taking up fishing. They care little about conservation or anything that might limit them from putting up the big numbers and plastering their face all over the internet.
You won't see them at an important public hearings when the well being of wild trout and salmon is being discussed. They are too busy having pictures holding wild trout or steelhead out of the water. They are too busy treating salmon and steelhead fishing like some sort of angling extreme sport to be play along with snow boarding and skateboarding.
Oh they will exploit the resource and talk about what a darn shame it is that all the wild salmonids are disappearing but to get them to take action? They love the bloated hatchery runs in small coastal rivers and you can see them holding court with the morons who don't know any better.
So young man, I say young because most of you are younger than my kids, I will acknowledge that you are a better fisherman than me. You catch more and bigger fish than me but I am not impressed and in fact I am worried that after the old guys are gone the traditions of fishing in the Pacific Northwest and more importantly conservation are going to be left in your hands
I doubt you are up to the task and so all the things that are wonderful about casting a dry fly to a rising trout or drift fishing for winter steelhead will be gone and that scares the hell out of me.
So young dudes if you have time to actually do something more than being a steelhead fishing superstar and popping zits in the mirror then maybe you can help us old guys out as we try to save a few wild trout. You don't respect the river, the resource or anything but your own over-inflated ego!
If you think I am writing about you then yes I more than likely; with it!