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.