Viewing entries tagged
Wild Steelhead

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Wild and Wet Winter 2/6

It’s Wednesday’s Wild and Wet Winter … a California Trout, Keepemwet Fishing and Lost Coast Outfitters initiative celebrating California’s wild winter steelhead.

This week we take a look at recent work from BC.

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Recreational fisheries for steelhead are primarily catch-and-release, including the famed run of the Bulkley River, BC. The success of catch-and-release as a conservation tool is based on the premise that released fish survive and do not suffer any negative consequences.

Science has shown, however, that angler behavior can have dramatic influences on the outcome of catch-and-release angling, and that research is needed that specifically focuses on wild steelhead to identify opportunities for refining handling practices to ensure the best outcomes for fish.

Work was conducted alongside volunteer anglers on the Bulkley River to study wild steelhead from Sept 2016 to April 2017. During this time, 126 wild steelhead were caught and used in one of two studies on the impacts of catch-and-release.

Summary of Results:

Fight Time and Landing Method

Fight times were 27% longer when fish were landed by tail grab compared to netting, but there were no influences of fight time on any measure of physiological or behavioral stress

Air Exposure

  • Air exposure durations of 10 seconds and 30 seconds increased reflex impairment and short-term downstream movement (both of which are indicators of stress) of steelhead

  • Fish that were not air exposed (0 seconds) did not show either of these signs of stress

Water Temperature

  • At higher water temperatures, fish show higher levels of stress

Survival

  • Deep hooking was the most common reason for steelhead mortality, but only occurred in 2.3% of fish

  • Overall steelhead survival from catch-and-release was approximately 95%

Angler Takeaways:

  • Anglers should minimize air exposure—ideally to less than 10 seconds

  • We also advise anglers to be more delicate with fish (reduce air exposure and handling) when water temperatures are warmer

More info on this summary and the complete report can be found at:

https://www.keepemwet.org/keepemwet-news-1/2018/4/2/bulkley-steelhead-catch-and-release-project

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CalTrout: to learn more about California winter run steelhead

Keepemwet Fishing: to learn more about Keepemwet principles

Lost Coast Outfitters: blog on many things fly fishing related

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Wild and Wet Winter 1/23

It’s Wednesday’s Wild and Wet Winter … a California Trout, Keepemwet Fishing and Lost Coast Outfitters initiative celebrating California’s wild winter steelhead.

M. Wier photo

M. Wier photo

Last week we covered some of the finer points of landing, photographing and releasing a steelhead that’s been hooked while drifting down river in a boat. This week lets discuss some of the other threats, besides recreational angling pressure, that Winter Steelhead face along their journey from fry to adult.

In 2017 California Trout released the SOS II: Fish In Hot Water report which chronicles the status of all 32 Native Salmonids in California based on the latest peer reviewed science and research. Within California, there are actually 8 different classifications of Steelhead; Central California Coast Steelhead, Central Valley Steelhead, Klamath Mountains Province Summer Steelhead, Klamath Mountains Province Winter Steelhead, Northern California Summer Steelhead, Northern California Winter Steelhead, South-Central California Coast Steelhead and Southern Steelhead. Each group of fish displays different traits and behaviors based on their habitat, there for each group is managed differently.

Within the SOS report, each classification of steelhead is given a level of concern based on a number of factors that determine their likelyhood to survive long-term without human intervention. Each of the 8 classifications for Steelhead range from Moderate, to High, to Critical in their level of concern. That means all 8 groups are in peril and have a likelihood of extirpation from their native range within the next 50 years. Some classification segments, like Southern Steelhead are on the brink of extinction and angling for those fish has not been allowed for many years. Northern California winter steelhead are in a state of long-term decline over much of their range due to land use practices that reduce habitat for juveniles, such as diversions that desiccate nursery tributaries during summer months, therefore they are listed as Moderate level of concern.

The top 3 major anthropogenic threats to winter steelhead listed in the report are:

Major Dams- Scott Dam on the Eel River blocks access to an estimated 290km (180 mi.) of potential habitat, while Matthews Dam on the Mad River blocks nearly a third of historical steelhead habitat. In addition, these dams reduce streamflow during important migration windows for adult and juvenile steelhead.

Estuary Alteration- The estuaries of the Eel and Mad Rivers and Redwood Creek have been leveed, armored with structures, drained, altered by tide gates, and converted for agricultural and rural development, greatly reducing juvenile nursery habitat. What suitable estuarine habitat remains is subject to high turbidity, poor water quality, and sedimentation from runoff.

Agriculture- In the past two decades, illegal water diversions and subsequent habitat degradation of remote headwater streams for marijuana cultivation has become perhaps the most important limiting factor for juvenile steelhead survival in natal streams.

CalTrout is currently engaged in a suite of projects directed to help recover Northern California Steelhead based out of our North Coast office in Arcata California. On the Eel River we have taken a headwaters to estuary approach to restoration. In the estuary, CalTrout is working with the Coastal Conservancy, CDFW and the Wild Lands Conservancy to do large scale restoration, restore tidal marshlands, reconnect the estuary with the sloughs and install fish friendly tide gates. Along the mainstem CalTrout has identified many migration barriers and listed them in order of priority for removal. To date we have already led efforts to remove two large barriers at Bridge Creek and Woodman creek opening up several miles of quality habitat to spawning and rearing. Along the South Fork and other tributaries CalTrout is working on flow studies to help inform regulations that would allow for better instream flows at critical times for salmonids. And in the headwaters our focus is on advocating for fish passage at Scott Dam which would allow Salmon and Steelhead back into over 180 miles of historic quality spawning and rearing habitat. CalTrout is also engaged in a large scale restoration effort on Redwood Creek which includes the restoration of Prairie Creek, and important spawning tributary and restoration of the estuary.

Protecting and restoring habitat for Winter Steelhead is an ongoing mission and CalTrout is committed to ensuring positive outcome for wild fish and helping meet recovery goals.

-M.Wier

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CalTrout: to learn more about California winter run steelhead

Keepemwet Fishing: to learn more about Keepemwet priniciples

Lost Coast Outfitters: blog on many things fly fishing related

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Wild and Wet Winter 1/16

It’s Wednesday’s Wild and Wet Winter … a CalTrout, Keepemwet Fishing and Lost Coast Outfitters initiative celebrating California’s wild winter steelhead.

Curtis Knight photo.

Curtis Knight photo.

Last week we spoke with steelhead guide Jeff Hickman about some science-based techniques for landing and photographing steelhead while wading. This week let’s discuses some ways you can land a wild steelhead from a boat and still get a great photo for the album but also keep the fish wet and happy so it has the best chance at succeeding on this incredible journey to return home and spawn.

Fishing from a drift boat or raft is an increasingly popular way to chase steelhead and trout. Landing a spunky fish from a boat is and art form in itself and there’s lots of ways It can easily go wrong. There’s also tricks that can help it be a more smooth experience for both the fish and the angler. In all scenarios there needs to be some synergy between the person rowing the boat and the angler.

If you have a trophy fish on the line and it’s getting time to bring it in, there’s a couple different ways you can go about it. First of all the it’s time to assess if there’s an easy place to pull over. Beaching the boat and having the angler jump out can be a great option if it’s an easy place to do so. Be careful getting out of the boat with a fish on the line as it can be an exciting moment for everyone. Landing a fish in knee deep slow water will often be the smoothest experience for the fish and also a great way to get a photo of the catch without taking it out of the water.

If there’s not an easy place to pull the boat to shore and carefully land the fish then the next best option will be to use a net. Not all nets are created equal. Some nets are harder on fish then others. A rubber basket typically wears less slime off the fish and there’s less chance of splitting fins then mesh. If you are going to use mesh, get the softest fabric you can find. Make sure you have a net big enough to hold the size fish you are targeting.

In many cases netting the fish would be a two man job. Often the guide or person rowing will net the fish for the angler in the front or back of the boat. This scenario however is not always possible as sometimes guides will need to stay on the sticks to keep the boat in the right position. As an angler you should always learn how to net your own fish as well so you don’t need to always rely on a second person. A good swipe from downstream of the fish or simply holding the net downstream and steering the fish into it will yield the best results. If the water temps are cold enough as they often are in winter, then it’s easiest on the fish if can play it an extra few seconds so it’s tired enough that it won’t totally thrash around once it’s in the bucket. To calm the fish down, raise the rim of the net so it’s above the water but the fish is still totally submerged. Keep it facing head first into the current. Once it’s calm you can lean over the rail of the boat or raft and gently remove the hook while the fish is in the water. If a photo is warranted, lift the fish gently trying to keep it’s gills underwater. Have the other angler or driver ready with the camera so the photo happens quickly. Or use and under water camera like a go pro. Be careful not to over tip the boat in one direction. While leaning over the rail the other boat mate or mates might need to lean the other direction to compensate for the weight balance.

What you should try to avoid is bringing the fish into a dry boat and laying it onto dry metal. If a the fish thrashes around and bashes onto the hard metal floor it can cause head trauma. Fish are used to floating in a weightless world so even slight head bumps can cause severe damage. Also if you remove the hook while the fish is in the boat and then hold it up for a photo or two that process will take a minimum of 30 seconds and usually much more. That’s too much time for a wild fish to be exposed to oxygen which can cause immediate or eventual damage to the fish. Try holding your breath from the time you take the fish out of the water as a reminder so fish intended for release are able to recover.

- M. Wier

Curits Knight Photo.

Curits Knight Photo.

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CalTrout: to learn more about California winter run steelhead

Keepemwet Fishing: to learn more about Keepemwet priniciples

Lost Coast Outfitters: blog on many things fly fishing related

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Wild and Wet Winter1/9

It’s Wednesday’s Wild and Wet Winter … a CalTrout, Keepemwet Fishing and Lost Coast Outfitters initiative celebrating California’s wild winter steelhead.

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This week Jeff Hickman, Keepemwet Fishing Ambassador offers some thoughts on photographing winter steelhead.

“Taking good pictures while fly fishing can be difficult. Throw wild winter steelhead in the mix and it becomes on par with winning a Powerball jackpot. Challenging weather and challenging fish make for a tough combo. Fogged and / or a wet lens, low light and fish that are legendary for being elusive, tough to predict and rarely cooperate for a photo. That is why I love it. 

I’m an amateur cell phone photographer. It is an enjoyable side hobby for me while on the river guiding. I keep my iPhone in a Lifeproof case as it gets wet daily on the river. This compact setup fits in my chest or wader pocket and is easily accessible for me to take photos when I see the right moments. I also keep a small micro fiber towel handy to keep the lens and my glasses clean. 

My number one priority is treating and handling the fish with care and respect. This comes before getting a photo. Some fish don't want their picture taken, and I don’t force it. If they want to go or are acting defiant or stressed, I will simply let them go. If they are calm and cooperative, I will take photos until they are ready to swim free. 

When people catch steelhead they are always ecstatic. It is important to calm down and relax before handling a steelhead. Don't forget to breathe! If you are calm when handling them, they are often calm. If you are rushed and panicky so too are they. Often times putting the palm of my hand over their eyes can relax them also. 

My motto is to keep the fish submerged in clean water pointed upstream, breathing. I use a wide basket, soft rubber net. This helps me land fish sooner to minimize fatigue.  Some nets damage the fish, splitting their fins etc. This is unacceptable to me. 

It is possible to take great pictures with fish in the water or right on the surface of the water. Often times the water’s surface adds a really cool look to the photo. After all, fish look best in their natural settings.

If and when it is time to lift the fish (camera person is ready) I like to only see the eye come out of the water and only briefly, this keeps water moving through the gills. I try to focus on the fish's eye making that the main subject. I tap the shutter button very rapidly. Maybe one in 20 is in focus. It is better to do two or three quick partial lifts than holding them out of the water where they can’t breathe. 

Each fish has unique qualities. I always look for those and if possible enjoy photographing them. I also try to move the camera around and capture different angles all while rapidly tapping the shutter. Often times the photos that I like the best are ones I didn't expect to come out at all.

As a guide with a very keen interest in wild fish conservation, I take it upon myself to help educate and inform clients about the importance of keeping fish in the water. Winter steelhead populations are under pressure up and down the entire Pacific Northwest. By helping convince more folks to commit to Keepemwet Fishing fish handling best practices, I hope we can lessen the pressure on these spectacular fish.”

Jeff and his wife Kathryn are the owners and operators of Kimsquit Bay Lodge on BC’s Dean River and Fish the Swing, an Oregon based operation focused on swinging flies for summer and winter steelhead.

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CalTrout: to learn more about California winter run steelhead

Keepemwet Fishing: to learn more about Keepemwet priniciples

Lost Coast Outfitters: blog on many things fly fishing related

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Wild and Wet Winter 1/2

It’s Wednesday’s Wild and Wet Winter … a CalTrout, Keepemwet Fishing and Lost Coast Outfitters initiative celebrating California’s wild winter steelhead.

Mikey Wier photo

Mikey Wier photo

A case can be made that California’s Eel River represents the best opportunity for large-scale wild winter steelhead (and Chinook salmon) recovery on the entire west coast. Once home to an annual return of 1,000,000 wild steelhead and salmon, today a return of 25,000 is considered a banner year with most recent years tallying considerably less. The Eel is a massive watershed with outstanding habitat and one of the few west coast watersheds with no hatchery threatening wild fish genetics. Projects focused on improving estuary habitat, removing numerous fish passage, and addressing large-scale dam removal will take many years, if not decades, and countless millions of dollars…all daunting, but achievable.

To learn more about CalTrout’s Eel River efforts within this stakeholder group see their recent film “Return to Abundance”.

Anglers overall are a pretty generous group offering both voices in advocacy and financial support to the many conservation organizations fighting the good fight.

One could argue that as long term conservation efforts play out, the most immediate and meaningful impact conservation minded anglers can have on wild fish recovery is to simply handle fish carefully and respectfully.

Keeping fish in the water and eliminating air exposure, not only will help minimize mortality, but limit any potential secondary impacts on spawning effectiveness and fry production. Everything we do today to benefit and protect wild fish can only help future wild fish recovery efforts.

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CalTrout: to learn more about California winter run steelhead

Keepemwet Fishing: to learn more about Keepemwet priniciples

Lost Coast Outfitters: blog on many things fly fishing related

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Wild and Wet Winter 12/19

It’s Wednesday’s Wild and Wet Winter … a CalTrout, Keepemwet Fishing and Lost Coast Outfitters initiative celebrating California’s wild winter steelhead.

Fight ‘em hard, release ‘em fast!

Fight ‘em hard, release ‘em fast!

Catch and release angling is unquestionably one of the most effective conservation tools in protecting wild fish regardless of species. Over the last few weeks we’ve posted links to a few scientific studies that indicate keeping fish wet and eliminating air exposure helps minimize both fish mortality and potential sub-lethal effects including spawning effectiveness.

For those of you interested in taking your catch and release practices to the next level, here are Keepemwet Fishing’s recommended practices:

https://www.keepemwet.org/tips#keepemwet-tips

There are a couple of practices that are particularly relevant when fishing for wild winter steelhead.

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• Reduce Angling Duration: Play fish quickly without playing it to exhaustion. You’ll be in a better position to achieve that by matching your tackle to the targeted species. A single-handed 8-weight or a double-handed 7-weight would be a good place to start. These rods will give you better leverage especially when matched with at least 12 pound tippet although 15 or even 20 pound is preferable.

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• Fish Barbless Hooks: They cause less damage, are easier to remove, and minimize handling time. Of course, we all fish barbless hooks, but every now and then we get caught up in the excitement and forget to pinch down a barb.

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• Photograph Wet Fish: Ideally you keep the fish fully submerged. If not, keep it partially submerged or as close to the water as possible. Fully submerge a fish between pictures. Make the entire process short, and release the fish quickly.

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CalTrout: to learn more about California winter run steelhead

Keepemwet Fishing: to learn more about Keepemwet priniciples

Lost Coast Outfitters: blog on many things fly fishing related




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Wild and Wet Winter 12/12

It’s Wednesday’s Wild and Wet Winter … a CalTrout, Keepemwet Fishing and Lost Coast Outfitters initiative celebrating California’s wild winter steelhead.

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With January approaching California anglers in search of winter steelhead begin to pay close attention to river flow and rain forecasts…all in search of the perfect window of opportunity. And, while we hope you have a chance to come tight to a fresh chromer, we also hope you’ll handle your catch carefully.

To learn more about Keepemwet Fishing principles and tips for handling fish carefully:

Last week we shared some basic scientific evidence pointing out the short term mortality rates associated with catch and release (CR) steelhead angling using bait, lures and flies. Most of the early catch and release research focused on mortality, but recent research has begun to focus on the “sublethal” impacts of catch and release. While that research is not specifically focused on steelhead, the evidence gathered on other salmonid species like Atlantic salmon makes many of us wonder about a similar impact on steelhead.

Some key findings of a Canadian Atlantic salmon study:

• CR salmon spawn at a rate similar to non-angled fish.

• Larger CR fish (over 31 inches) produced significantly fewer fry than same size non-angled fish. The same was not observed in smaller fish.

Reproductive success as measured by the number of fry produced for fish kept in the water can be 2-3X greater than fish held out of water and varies with water temperature.

Again, it’s important to recognize that genetic and regional differences between species caution us in applying these findings to other species. That being said, it does make many of us think about minimizing fight times and keeping fish in the water.

If you’re lucky enough to come across a wild winter steelhead this season, please consider keeping your fish in the water, minimize (if not eliminate) air exposure, and handle the fish carefully.

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CalTrout: to learn more about California winter run steelhead

Keepemwet Fishing: to learn more about Keepemwet priniciples

Lost Coast Outfitters: blog on many things fly fishing related

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Wild and Wet Winter 12/5

It’s Wednesday’s Wild and Wet Winter … a CalTrout, Keepemwet Fishing and Lost Coast Outfitters initiative celebrating California’s wild winter steelhead.

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High and turbid winter flows, especially during migration and spawning, make it difficult to accurately assess Northern California’s winter steelhead population. The optimistic estimate is less than 20,000 fish, a mere 10% of historic annual levels, ranging from just north of the SF Bay Area to the Oregon border.

With fewer fish and steady, if not increasing, angling pressure, it’s imperative that we learn how to handle fish carefully and minimize our angling impact on wild fish.

Odds are, if you’re a winter steelhead fly fisherman, you’re also a dedicated catch and release angler. Today there is a small but growing body of scientific research into the impact of catch and release angling not only on mortality, but also on post-release impacts on things like spawning and behavior. And, while little research to date has focused specifically on steelhead, we can extrapolate some generalities from research on other salmonids.

So a few things to keep in mind:

Releasing a steelhead and watching it swim away doesn’t necessarily mean the fish is in optimal shape. And, while that fish is likely to survive, our collective impact is not zero. It’s generally accepted in the angling community that bait is the most effective method to catch a steelhead, followed by lures which in turn are more effective than flies. It’s generally accepted in the scientific community that mortality rates for bait caught fish are higher than lure caught, which in turn are higher than fly caught fish.

A summary covering a number of steelhead mortality studies published in 2002

assumes the following mortality rates: bait 10%, lure 3% and fly 1%.

These differences are primarily driven by how frequently a fish is deeply hooked, and make sense when you think about how a fish eats a bag of roe versus takes a fly.

A recent study on British Columbia’s Bulkley River wild steelhead showed a survival rate three days post-capture at 95.5%.

This study also demonstrated that fish held out of the water for ten seconds or more

suffered impaired equilibrium and an immediate downstream movement compared

to fish kept in the water. Learn more about the research here.

If you’re lucky enough to come across a wild winter steelhead this season, please consider keeping your fish in the water, minimize (if not eliminate) air exposure, and handle the fish carefully.

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CalTrout: to learn more about California winter run steelhead

Keepemwet Fishing: to learn more about Keepemwet priniciples

Lost Coast Outfitters: blog on many things fly fishing related

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Welcome to a “Wild and Wet Winter”

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Welcome to a “Wild and Wet Winter” … a CalTrout, Keepemwet Fishing and Lost Coast Outfitters initiative celebrating California’s wild winter steelhead. Our goals are to build awareness of the environmental threats and opportunities impacting sustainable population recovery, as well as, to educate the angling community on the rationale for Keepemwet fish handling practices, and to encourage anglers to follow them.

Each Wednesday through the end of the winter season, we’ll focus on one or more aspects impacting winter run steelhead. You’ll hopefully better understand the winter run life cycle and population distribution, top three threats … (major dams, estuary alteration, and agriculture), and conservation efforts ranging from the Smith to the South Fork Eel.

We’ll help you understand ways in which anglers can minimize their affect on fish. We’ll provide insight into the science supporting Keepemwet practices. You’ll understand the impact of landing time, landing practices (netting versus tailing), and barbed hooks, what happens when you take fish out of the water, how long is too long for a fish to be out of the water (and why), thoughts on ways to hold fish to minimize harm, and lastly how to take pictures that celebrate your catch while keeping fish wet.

Hopefully, we’ll help minimize fish mortality and the negative impact some practices can have on spawning efficacy.

See you next Wednesday and have a Wild and Wet Winter

CalTrout: to learn more about California winter run steelhead

Keepemwet Fishing: to learn more about Keepemwet priniciples

Lost Coast Outfitters: blog on many things fly fishing related

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Thoughts From John McMillan- Wild Steelhead of the OP

No better way to start the new year than with a hen less than 100 yards from the ocean. And while I wish everyone a happy New Year, and some chrome this winter, I also want to raise awareness about the plight of Olympic Peninsula wild steelhead.

No better way to start the new year than with a hen less than 100 yards from the ocean. And while I wish everyone a happy New Year, and some chrome this winter, I also want to raise awareness about the plight of Olympic Peninsula wild steelhead.

By Keepemwet Fishing Science Ambassador John R McMillan

Populations of wild steelhead are in long-term decline in the Hoh, Queets and Quinalt. In fact, since 1980 (when they started collecting data on annual run sizes) populations of wild steelhead have declined by 33% in the Hoh and 48% in the Queets. The Quillayute system has fared a bit better, but it too has been in decline since the mid-90’s and it has experienced some of the smallest runs on record in recent years. In fact, just a couple years ago the Bogachiel escaped only 733 wild steelhead. That’s it, 733 fish. Last year was the smallest run size on record in the Queets, and the Hoh River steelhead have met the escapement goal less than 50% of the time in the past 15 years. That bad news: it looks like the trend will continue this winter. Managers estimate the run size will be only 7800 steelhead in the Quillayute, which includes the Bogachiel, Sol Duc, Calawah and Dickey Rivers. The forecast for the Hoh is a paltry 3,000 fish. Of further concern, ocean conditions don’t appear to be getting better in the next year or two, in fact, they may get even worse. During these poor return years it is incumbent upon anglers to play their part in conserving the fish. We, as anglers, are no longer harvesting wild steelhead in these streams. But, we are catching them, and catching them quite often. Data from 2014 in the Hoh indicates on average, every fish that escaped the tribal fishery was caught 1.44 times. And that is an underestimate, and does not include fish that were hooked and lost. Similar results were found in the Sol Duc. We don’t know what such high encounter rates do to wild steelhead. All I know is I love these fish. I love snorkeling with them. I love fishing for them. So, this year, my New Year’s resolution is to fish a bit less to give them a break, and make up some of that experience with snorkeling. It isn’t easy, but its better for the fish. 

John McMillan is the Science Director for Trout Unlimited's Wild Steelhead Initiative

Explore more of John's work here.

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Thoughts From John McMillan- Salmon & Steelhead Part 1

From the Instagram account of Keepemwet Fishing Science Ambassador John R McMillan. @rainforest_steel

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Let’s begin! Steelhead are a species of #PacificSalmon, which includes sockeye, coho, chum, pink, chinook, steelhead and cutthroat trout – in addition to cherry/masu salmon. They all descended from a common ancestor millions of years ago. Despite the shared genetic heritage, each species has evolved a unique set of characteristics, such as optimal range of temperatures, metabolisms, age at smolting, time spent in ocean, size at maturity, and whether or not they go to the ocean. These attributes differentiate the species, in addition to a variety of other features. The challenge with steelhead is that they are often managed in the same way we manage salmon such as coho, sockeye and kings. In those management schemes we tend focus almost solely on abundance, aka: How many fish do we get back each year? Though an important metric, for a species like steelhead their abundance does not exist within a vacuum, it is partly – and sometimes strongly so – a function of their diversity. The question is then: What is the big difference between steelhead and salmon?

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The Skagit River in Washington state provides a good starting point for comparing salmon and steelhead because it has so many species of salmon. I start with #pinksalmon. Here we have the total annual run size of pinks, the number of fish for pinks is on the axis on the right. Below we have #chumsalmon, and their abundance is depicted on the axis to the left. I separated pinks from other species because they are incredibly abundant and make it almost impossible to see the variation in lesser abundant fish. In any case, wow, that is a tremendous amount of variation from year to year in both species. In some years you have over 1.5 millions pinks, in other years you have less than 100k. Similar variability with chum. In some years over 500k return to the Skagit, in other years it is less than 20K. The point is we see a lot of variation among years in terms of run size for these two species. This is probably not a surprise to most anglers. Chum and pink – and sometimes sockeye – have evolved to rely heavily on their abundance as a means of sustaining themselves. Next post I focus on the other species of salmon, and then finally, steelhead, before we get into looking at the diversity within the diversity.

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Day 2 of the presentation. Here we have all the other species of salmon and steelhead for the Skagit. The abundance of #cohosalmon#kingsalmon, and #wildsteelhead is found on the left axis. We can see there is more variation in coho annual run sizes than there is for kings and more variation for kings than there is for steelhead. For instance, coho run sizes have exceeded 400k fish in one year, but are lower than 10K in others. For kings we run sizes from about 7k up to 25k, rarely more, while steelhead are basically going from 3k up to 12k. Essentially, steelhead display the least amount of variation year-to-year in terms of population size. The big question is: Can we attribute any of this variability among species to some aspect of their biology? That is what I will cover in the next slide.

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time to look for potential explanations. Life history diversity is one feature that could help explain such variability. For example, in recent years scientists have coined the term “Portfolio Concept,” which basically means that different life histories survive at different rates at different times and places. Such diversity can potentially help dampen annual variability in run sizes by spreading risk across time and space. To determine if that is one cause, we first must identify how many life histories each species displays. Here is a table that describes the number of life histories found in each species. First, I have freshwater life histories: the number smolt age classes in each species. Steelhead have four because smolt ages range from 1-4 years old – though one-year olds are rare in the Skagit. Kings have two, yearlings and sub-yearlings. There is only a single strategy for all other species, sub-yearlings for chum and pink, and yearlings for coho. Next I considered ocean ages, which ranges from 1-4 years for steelhead. For kings we have 2,3, and 4-salt fish, though historically there were also 5-salt. Chum and coho also generally have about 3 age classes for adults, though they tend to be younger than kings. In contrast, all pinks do the same thing – go figure! They are putting all their eggs into one basket each year. Last we have run timing. There are two for steelhead, summers and winters. Same for kings, summer/spring and fall, while there is only one run timing for coho and chum. I gave pinks two run timing because while most are odd year fish, there are a few even year. I was being generous. I think multiplied freshwater life histories by ocean life histories, and then that number by run timing. The result is a total number of potential life histories for each species, excluding repeat spawners for steelhead. And what we see is that #wildsteelheadhave many many more life histories than the other species. Back to my original question: Can this diversity help explain the variation in annual run sizes? I dive into that tomorrow, until then, may the diversity be with you.

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If You'd Only Ever Seen One Wild Steelhead Video...

... then you'd have a pretty good grip on our impact to steelehad habitat if this is the one you'd watched. After first hearing about Pass Creek from veteran Umpqua guides years ago, I pull up this gem every few years and it moves me to the core each time with it's scratchy audio, flickering images and priceless narration. Only Running Down The Man and a few other Felt Soul films impress me this much.

  Click to play.  "Provides a penetrating account of a once-rich steelhead trout stream threatened by careless logging practices. Focusing on Oregon's North Umpqua River Basin, the film portrays the impact of clearcut logging on the small tributary streams where most of the river's steelhead are spawned and reared. The subtle interdependence of land and water and the disruption of the aquatic environment caused by stream-clogging debris and warming water are dramatically presented. Hal Riney and Dick Snider, advertising executives and fishermen, produced the film and donated it to Oregon State University. It was widely distributed and viewed in Oregon and throughout the United States through the 1970s and was influential in changing logging practices in the Northwest.

 Click to play. "Provides a penetrating account of a once-rich steelhead trout stream threatened by careless logging practices. Focusing on Oregon's North Umpqua River Basin, the film portrays the impact of clearcut logging on the small tributary streams where most of the river's steelhead are spawned and reared. The subtle interdependence of land and water and the disruption of the aquatic environment caused by stream-clogging debris and warming water are dramatically presented. Hal Riney and Dick Snider, advertising executives and fishermen, produced the film and donated it to Oregon State University. It was widely distributed and viewed in Oregon and throughout the United States through the 1970s and was influential in changing logging practices in the Northwest.

Easily the most moving, well-connected piece I've ever seen on the topic, the kicker is that this film was made in 1968!!!

Give yourself time to watch this piece. It's about ten minutes long, and the first minute or so is silent so don't try to troubleshoot your speakers. Pour a drink, silence your phone & sit back for a bit of watching and thinking.

Thanks.

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