Thursday, December 15, 2011

NOAA Overharvest Lawsuit

Lawsuit: Overfishing leaves salmon, whales hungry

Gotta love the statement about most of the harvest going towards farmed fish feed.... and some still believe farming fish reduces pressure on wild fish.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks Judge Redden

Sad news for fish.  Judge Redden will no longer be keeping the federal government honest in recovering Columbia River fish.

I do not fish the Columbia very often, but the impacts of Columbia fish runs impact us on the Northern Olympic Peninsula, especially saltwater anglers.

Thanks for your years of service and I hope the next judge follows your lead.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

With Friends Like These

"Rivers need friends.  The more people fishing the river the more advocates that river and fishery have."

I have always been troubled when I hear this common justification for overcrowded and over hyped fisheries.  It seems to make sense but I just cannot connect crowds and commercial hype with more wild fish advocates.

What I found interesting and quite sad after resuming going to meetings within the past couple years is that for the most part it has been a step back in time.  The same people that were fighting ten to fifteen years ago are the same people fighting today.  While seeing familiar faces was nice it also reminded me that the vast majority of fishermen do not attend meetings or write letters.  When it comes to the guide industry it is even worse.

I have always been awestruck and jealous of the wild fish advocates who continue to fight the battles year after year and decade after decade.  For every small victory there have been hundreds of losses.  I personally have wavered over the years with my activity rising and lowering like the tides.  Lately whenever I question whether to just enjoy fishing until it is all over and forget about getting involved I remember the faces that have been in this fight since before many of us were born and realize I have no right to be frustrated or impatient.

We've all seen the increasing pressure over the years on the wild fisheries we hold dear.  What we are not seeing is any kind of corresponding increase in attendance at important meetings involving our fisheries.  Our rivers need more friends but they need real friends who will get involved.  Regulations that impact overcrowding or the angling experience will not result in less people being involved in saving the rivers.  The same people in the fight now will be the same people in the fight in the future regardless of angling regulations.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Farmed Fish Disease Spreading

NY Times - ISA found in the Fraser

More evidence that fish farming is a dirty industry and more evidence that a large scale offshore farm in the Strait of Juan de Fuca should not even be considered.

With WDFW reducing the seasons on Strait of Juan de Fuca rivers by one month to protect declining steelhead populations we should not even consider raising steelhead in farms off these streams river mouths.  Where do the farm proponents think the escaped steelhead will go?  If we are concerned about Chambers Creek steelhead in the Elwha, we should be even more concerned about farm raised steelhead escaping and straying into the Elwha and other small streams along the Strait.

The Strait is a major feeding ground for both outgoing and incoming salmon.  How will the sealice, waste, and disease impact the populations of forage fish our wild fish depend on.  With the strong currents these negative impacts coming from the farms will be less localized and impact the entire Strait.

How much more evidence do we need to stop the expansion of fish farming?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Deep Wading

Seattle Times Article on Strait of Juan de Fuca Fish Farms

The corporate BS is getting deep on this one.  Just after the discovery of a major disease from farmed salmon in BC this quote from the article jumped out at me.

"Bielka, with Pacific Aquaculture, said he knows the company will face scrutiny, but "the science is behind us 100 percent," he said."

100 percent?  Your aquaculture operations are perfect according to all the available science?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Take Action for Wild Fish

Two important things to do for wild fish.

First up is the 2012-2013 Sportfishing Rule Proposals from WDFW.  There are important rule changes regarding wild fish protection throughout Puget Sound and the Coast.  Write or attend the meeting (or both) regarding protecting juvenile salmonids and resident trout.

2012-2013 Rule Proposals

Second up is the Wild Fish Conservancy's campaign against non-native hatchery fish in the Elwha River.  Help them help wild fish recovery after the dam removal.

Protect Wild Elwha Steelhead and Salmon

Friday, October 21, 2011

Summer's Last Stand

The call came late in the evening asking if I wanted to head out for some saltwater coho action.  I immediately answered yes without checking with the wife.  It was a good call as we ate fresh coho the next evening for dinner.

The next day was spent swinging flies on glacial rivers.  Bushwacking through the woods and exploring new water is always worth it regardless of getting skunked.  Enjoying almost 70 degree sunshine on the coast in October is a rare treat.

A couple days later spent a day exploring a favorite cedar stained creek for cutthroats.  Found a few beautiful specimens.  The coolest thing about the day was seeing stray pink salmon spawning in the lower reaches of this coastal creek.  Amazing to see the amount of straying that comes from the huge Puget Sound pink runs.

And to top it all off the fall colors on the west end of the Olympic Peninsula are just spectacular right now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Alexandra Morton is a Hero

Recent news of a european strain of infectious salmon anemia (ISA) being found in samples of sockeye salmon in British Columbia should be a final wake up call for anyone on the fence regarding the impacts of fish farming.

Of course with any negative news about the fish farming industry we will once again be treated to attacks on wild fish activists such as Alexandra Morton.  We need to stand up and not accept this.  The industry has attempted to attack her for years but she keeps fighting.  What she says has continually been proven to be true time and time again yet many still want to believe that farming fish will somehow help our beleaguered wild fish runs.  We need more people like Alexandra Morton, not less.   

With new farms being proposed close to the mouth of the Elwha River this recent news means we cannot risk giving away our marine waters to corporations who only care about the bottom line.

Links to ISA news

NY Times Article

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Shared Sacrifice

In this current era of racing to the bottom I have to ask why Bristol Bay thinks it is better than the rest of us.  We citizens in the lower 48 states have dammed, logged, developed, and mined every last one of our salmon and steelhead rivers.  Even our most protected rivers have been seriously degraded.

Why should Alaska be any different?  Come out of the 1800's and embrace fishing over 1-5% of historic salmon and steelhead numbers.  You too can enjoy the spoils of modern technological resource extraction and the smaller numbers of fish.  You will enjoy the additional challenges that come with tiny run sizes.  How hard is it to catch fish that number in the millions?  Try catching one when the run size is in the tens of thousands or hundreds.  That's a real challenge.

It is time to bring Alaska into the 21st Century.  That means degraded watersheds and less fish and wildlife.  After Pebble Mine and it's jobs are gone there will still be plenty of employment opportunities.  There will be jobs in cleanup, environmental restoration, and hatcheries. 

Embrace the environmental disaster that is Pebble Mine and join your fellow citizens in destroying the finest salmon producing rivers in the World.  Sacrifice the good of the many for the good of a the few.  It is the American way.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Rare Win

It looks like science and wild fish ruled the day when it came time for WDFW to decide on whether to renew the Snider Creek Program on the Sol Duc River.

Kudos to everyone who sent in letters in favor of managing the healthiest wild steelhead run in Washington State for wild fish.

A rare win for wild fish.  Let's keep up the pressure on WDFW and fish managers throughout the region.  Our voices as citizen lobbyists can make a difference.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Urgency of Fall

I awoke this morning to see a dusting of snow on the high peaks looming over the coastal town I call home.  The snow makes sense when looking at the calendar but my mind revolts against the very idea that winter is bearing down on us.

The urgency of the season we call Fall is a blur.  A blur because this season happens to be one of the best for outdoor pursuits, especially fishing in the Pacific Northwest.  The remnants of this past summer are still available.  Summer steelhead and saltwater salmon still give us one last taste of the warmer months that seem just like yesterday.  Salmon are now pouring upriver with every rain and high tide.  Sea run cutthroat prowl saltwater beaches and rise to dry flies in the fog draped river valleys.

There are too many options in the Fall.  As I try to decide where to fish later this week I feel an urge that cannot be fulfilled.  I still have places, rivers, and beaches I dreamed of fishing this summer and fall.  Those dreams are burned into my memories and as long as winter stays away I keep the delusion alive that I still have a chance to take advantage of them.  Like an addict I think if only the weather stays dry or the ocean breezes stay mild I could still take advantage of all that the Pacific Northwest offers.  It is a fool's errand.  Winter will eventually arrive.  There is no stopping it's steady march towards our shores.

I will eventually accept the truth and start looking forward to what lies ahead.  I just need another couple weeks.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hatchery Cuts

Due to budget shortfalls it looks like WDFW will be reducing some hatchery production.

"The September revenue forecast was bad and expectations are that November’s forecast will continue a downward trend. The Governor has called for a special session of the legislature on November 28th to take actions necessary to achieve another $2 billion in General Fund State (GFS) reductions. This will be very important since the earlier in the biennium we implement reductions in services, the shallower the cuts will need to be. The Governor gave us the assignment to produce 5 percent ($3.45 million) and 10 percent ($6.9 million) budget cut scenarios in our operating budget....
In responding to previous reductions to our GFS expenditures, we attempted to minimize impacts to the Department’s core conservation, commercial, and recreational activities. But the cutbacks have become so deep that impacting our critical activities is simply unavoidable. General Fund support to WDFW already has been cut 37 percent, dropping from $110 million in the 2007-09 biennium to $69 million currently....

Hatchery closures and reductions in fish production – $1.25 million, 4.3 ftes
Reduced Hoodsport Hatchery production (Hood Canal)—This would reduce Hood Canal area chum salmon production by roughly 50 percent (a reduction of 12 million chum annually); reduce area fall chinook production by 12 percent (a reduction of 800,000 chinook annually), and eliminate pink salmon production (500,000 pink salmon produced every other year). The cut would negatively impact local personal income generated by chum and associated fisheries in the Hood Canal region, estimated at $6 million per year. Total GF-S savings would be $253,112.
Samish Hatchery (Skagit County)—The hatchery would be closed, reducing Department-produced chinook in Puget Sound by about 20 percent. This would eliminate annual production of five million fall chinook (90 percent of the chinook produced in the Nooksack/Samish region). The closure would eliminate about $1.46 million per year in local personal income generated from Bellingham Bay area commercial fisheries. Total GF-S savings would be $267,400.
Nemah Hatchery (Willapa Bay)—The hatchery would be closed, eliminating production of three million fall chinook and 300,000 chum salmon annually. This represents a loss of 43 percent of the chinook production in the Willapa Bay region, as well as 38 percent of chum production. The closure will represent an economic loss to the region of nearly $500,000 per year. Total GF-S savings would be $727,300...."

I have a couple thoughts regarding these cuts.  I am not against the cuts but wonder why only 1/3 of the cuts come from hatcheries in areas with stocks listed on the Endangered Species Act.  Why are the cuts not made where you could not only cut the budget but help the most critical populations in our State?

Also, does anyone else notice that they give the production numbers in juvenile fish and not returning adults?  It makes it sound like we will be losing 21.6 million salmon, when in fact the numbers returning are far less than that.  According to 2011 forecasts the total returning adults for those hatcheries cuts are 4,106 pink salmon, 66,142 chinook salmon, and 114,660 chum salmon.  That is a grand total of 184,908 returning adult salmon.  That is a significant number and will have large impacts on fisheries but it is far less than the 21.6 million salmon the press release talks about.  WDFW does not use the word "juvenile" and I believe it is on purpose.

- 12% of area hatchery chinook is 4,603 returning adults
- 100% of pink salmon production is 4,106 returning adults
- 50% of chum salmon production is 112,798 returning adults

- 90% of chinook production is 33,736 returning adults

- 43% of chinook production is 27,803 returning adults
- 38% of chum production is 1,862 returning adults

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kelp Bed Coho

Until this past month the only water type I had fished for coho salmon in the saltwater was offshore.  A few weeks ago that changed.  I was fishing a rocky point surrounded by kelp.  I started by fishing the edges of the kelp and the rips that formed just offshore of the point.  I was having decent success but almost all of the fish were small chinook salmon and I wanted to find some of the approximately one million coho returning to Puget Sound in 2011.

The bait was concentrated inside the thick kelp beds.  As I was paddling through the kelp heading back to the launch I noticed big swirls deep within the kelp bed.  I stopped the kayak and formulated a plan to go after those fish.  I quickly realized that I couldn't fish a sinking line or weighted fly because I would be snagging kelp fronds on every cast.  I came to the conclusion that the only way to fish this area was with a floating line and a popper.  I rushed to switch out my sinking head to a floating head and a gurgler was plucked from the fly box.  I paddled into position and started to drift through the kelp.

I started casting.  What is different about casting in the kelp from casting in offshore rips is that accuracy really matters.  If your cast is off target you will be tangled in the kelp.  As I drifted I aimed for the clean pockets between the kelp.  It wasn't long before the first coho started following and swirling at the fly.  When fishing poppers for salmon the one thing you learn quickly is that for every five to ten boils or follows you will have one solid hookup.  Sometimes the hookup rate is better but not often.

It seemed like every two or three openings in the kelp resulted in at least a swirl on the fly.  Soon a coho came for the fly and there was weight.  What followed was an amazing display.  The fish was instantly in the air.  Not once, but four times the salmon came out of the water while at the same time wrapping the leader around numerous clumps of kelp.  The fly eventually pulled loose while I attempted to untangle the fish.  I continued to fish and rose numerous other salmon.  I hooked three other salmon that day and all of them put on amazing aerial displays along with hard runs into and around the kelp.  Amazingly I was able to land two of them.  Looking back I could not remember a group of hotter fighting coho salmon in my years of experience fishing offshore.

Of course, since that day I have returned to that location many times attempting to recreate that tide change.  The best I have done since is have four rises and two fish on.  But in keeping with the first day of fishing the kelp beds each fish hooked displayed the same great fighting ability.

This morning I returned after a bit of a drought at this location.  The recent windy weather hasn't helped but the fishing seems to have really slowed down.  This morning dawned very chilly with a brisk wind.  I paddled out and tried fishing the outer rips for a bit before coming back in to the kelp.  The wind was blowing a little stronger than I would have liked so I paddled up on top of the thickest clump of kelp I could find and just sat and observed the water for awhile.  I was convinced that the wind would likely die down at some point so I spent about an hour enjoying the sights.  It is amazing what you see fishing out of a quiet and slow watercraft.  Earlier in the morning a family of river otters was feeding out in the kelp.  The seabirds were dive bombing the abundant schools of herring swarming the area.  Herons were perched motionless on the floating mats of kelp waiting to ambush any bait that swam too close.  A large number of turkey vultures circled a thermal just inland. 

Soon enough the wind did start to diminish ever so slightly.  I decided to take advantage of it and start fishing the kelp.  Casting the gurgler to open targets resulted in nothing on the first drift.  I paddled back and started a little closer in to the rocks.  After about ten casts I saw a fish charge at the fly.  The slash came from the side.  The salmon missed but I kept the fly moving and he came at it again and missed.  I continued the retrieve with little hope the fish would come back for a third time.  Luckily I was wrong and the third time was the charm as the line came tight to a coho salmon.  After a couple surface head shakes the fish bolted.  He was on the reel instantly and instead of running underneath the surface I could see his back out of the water the entire time he was running away from me.  It was as if I had hooked him in a foot of water instead of the twenty foot depths he swam in.  Eventually the running stopped and immediately the line went slack.  I will never know if he started running back towards the kayak or if the hook pulled out but the fish was gone.  I eventually got the fly untangled from a piece of kelp the salmon wrapped the line on and started fishing again.

That was my only fish of the day but it was a memorable one.  I think I have a new favorite place to catch coho salmon in the saltwater.  I really enjoy fishing deep within the kelp.  Not only for the challenge of the casting but the extra fight the salmon seem to have when they have to battle from deep within the kelp forests.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Is Extinction Inevitable?"

About a month ago I wrote about what is happening to wild coho in Tarboo Bay on Hood Canal here.

Today Doug Rose posted on his blog more about the serious situation concerning the time, money, and energy spent restoring a creek may be for nothing due to what can only be described as "appalling" management of salmon stocks in Hood Canal.

Doug's post is a must read for anyone interested in why wild salmon struggle when fisheries are managed solely for hatchery fish.  Sometimes I am amazed at what continues to be done in the name of "fisheries management."  I must have gone back in time, because bad decisions like this still cannot be happening in 2011.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bad Timing...

The alarm clock went off early this morning.  I turned it off and stumbled out of bed.  I shuffled to the computer to check what the wind was doing.  It was blowing fifteen and gusting to twenty so I decided to head back to a warm inviting bed.

After waking up I decided to head out to the water anyways.  Rolled up to the spot and it was glassy calm.

"Perfect," I thought as I rigged up the kayak.  I rolled it to the water and started paddling out to the distant kelp beds.  I arrived in time to see that the bait was still packed into the kelp.  As I approached the start of my first drift it started to rain.  Along with the rain came a stiff breeze.  Both the rain and the wind continued to build.  I tried to fish but the wind and current were pushing the boat way too fast to have any chance of fishing effectively.  The rain started to die down but the wind kept building.

In approximately twenty minutes the wind waves built to around two feet.  I decided to head home knowing that I should have come out earlier in the day.  Next time I'm staying awake.

I guess I didn't learn the lesson from this day.

NY Times Elwha Editorial

NY Times The Return of The River

Nice quote at the end of it:
"The Elwha project is a reminder that there was a time when Republican leaders cared about the environment and understood that protecting it could also be good business. Where have they gone?"

Friday, September 23, 2011

More Elwha Woes

If you think the hatchery plans for the Elwha are bad, what do you think about siting fish farms and producing 1.7 million fish (either atlantic salmon or steelhead) along the Elwha salmon's migration path?

Aquaculture Proposed in Strait of Juan de Fuca

Looks like another example of our inability to learn from our mistakes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


It has been a fun week fishing a local spot where the kelp is loaded with small herring.  The herring brings in the salmon, birds, seals, and porpoises.

The fishing has been a mix of coho and immature chinook salmon.  Most of the coho fishing has been deep within the kelp forests fishing surface patterns.  So much of the saltwater game is fishing subsurface that one forgets what a visual smorgasbord fishing on the surface is.  You will have many salmon follow the fly swirling multiple times at it before either taking it or turning away.  Sometimes you will have fish that come out of nowhere and mug the fly.  Landing fish deep within the kelp is a challenge as every fish seems to aim for the thick kelp.  Tangles are commonplace as the fish continue running and jumping while you are focused on trying to get your fly line untangled from a mat of kelp.
Hopefully the Puget Sound coho run is as large as forecast and the fishing holds up through the end of October.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Elwha Hatcheries Helping

While the hatchery plans on the Elwha will now be sorted out in court I have to mention one positive part of the Elwha hatchery plans.  I believe that we have never seen the hatchery issue debated so much in the mainstream press.  The Seattle Times has run numerous articles about the dispute and mentioned the science behind the debate.  The local Port Angeles paper has even run an article or two about the issue.  While the end result may not be what wild fish advocates would like, the fact that so many people are learning that hatchery fish and wild fish are not interchangeable has to be a good thing.  This is especially true of the people who do not fish and would normally not even be aware of one of the largest issues in salmon and steelhead management in the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday evening I had the chance to attend an dam removal event which featured Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia.  Speaking ahead of Yvon was Dylan Tomine who brought the house down with an impassioned plea to let nature recover on her own and leave the Elwha hatchery fish free.  He was hands down the best speaker of the night and hundreds of people learned more about how wild fish can and will show us abundance if we just get out of their way and stop thinking we know the best ways to help them.

While the hatchery battle is likely lost on the Elwha the debate and public opinion is swinging in the right direction.  Twenty years ago who would have thought that planting hatchery fish would be the most controversial part of the dam removal on the Elwha?

Let's also not forget that next month Condit Dam on the White Salmon River is set to come down.  This restoration project will not be using hatchery fish and will rely on natural recolonization.  One out of two aint bad.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thinking Yourself Out Of Good Fishing

The internet is a wonderful resource for a fly fisherman.  Real time weather observations, creel reports, river levels, free online topo and satellite maps, and online marine chart viewers make planning a trip much easier than ever before.

I met up and fished with another kayak angler a couple mornings ago.  After fishing we were talking before loading up the cars and heading home.  We both shared the sentiment that had we not been meeting each other to fish we both would have looked at the weather observations and forecast and rolled back into bed instead of going fishing.

While the weather wasn't ideal we found really good fishing for salmon along the kelp beds.  I landed four on flies and he landed more fishing jigs.  It was windier than I would have liked but I might have learned more from the tough conditions and fish seem to really bite well in crappy weather.

I will still use all the tools available but this morning I'm glad I ignored the mountain of online information and just went fishing.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Elwha Hatchery Issue Heading to Court

“Restoration” Includes An Increase In Production Of Non-Native Steelhead

A sixty-day notice letter mailed today to federal and state agencies charges that these agencies are violating the Endangered Species by ignoring best available science and the needs of killer whales and native steelhead by funding a fish hatchery that will impede the recovery of the Elwha River ecosystem. Wild Fish Conservancy, The Conservation Angler, the Federation of Fly Fishers Steelhead Committee, and the Wild Steelhead Coalition served legal notice that they would file suit against the Olympic National Park, NOAA Fisheries Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife under the federal Endangered Species Act. The groups allege that the fish hatchery plan that the agencies are implementing for the Elwha River violates the ESA by harming Puget Sound Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout without the proper authorization.

The federal government has already taken steps to remove Elwha Dam and Glines Canyon Dam and open up miles of pristine riverine habitat in Olympic National Park, with actual demolition scheduled to begin this fall. But instead of relying on colonization of the habitat by wild salmonids, however, the federal and state agencies are going ahead with a plan that includes a new $16 million fish hatchery that will increase production of steelhead not native to the basin.

“This is the world’s largest river restoration project and the wild salmon deserve a chance to come back to the Elwha without having to compete with millions of hatchery fish,” said Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “The habitat is excellent and the wild fish would colonize it quickly if left alone.”

Will Atlas, chair of the FFF Steelhead Committee, said “The reality is that the annual release of four million hatchery fish means that the Elwha will not reach its potential. In the rush to harvest the abundant hatchery fish we will be repeating the mistakes of the past, depressing the productivity of the habitat we fought so hard to restore.”

Rich Simms, president of the Wild Steelhead Coalition said that the Coalition “hopes that the issue can be resolved for the benefit of wild, not hatchery, steelhead."

"This is a first time opportunity, unlike other dam removals, because the habitat is pristine,” said Pete Soverel, president of The Conservation Angler. “But we are going to compromise the recovery efforts by out-of-basin, Chambers Creek steelhead stock which NOAA's own scientists say is unsuitable for Elwha recovery."

The groups believe that dam removal is a giant step forward to restore the ecosystem but relying on artificial production is counter-productive. The agencies’ plan gives no timetable for ceasing the hatchery production.

My take is that the hatchery part of the Elwha Restoration Plan is not only bad for the fish, but is creating animosity among those who normally would support dam removal and wild fish restoration towards the Elwha dam removal.  A friend of mine recently said, "If they're going to spend $350 million to create another Quinault or Cowlitz hatchery fish factory they should just leave the dams in."  I do not agree with not removing the dams but the hatchery component is the one dark cloud hovering over this project.  Kudos to these organizations for taking the government to court and shame on our government for allowing this nonsense and creating one more example of government ineptitude.

Animated Dam Removal

Check out how the dam removal will occur.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why I C&R

I can only imagine the shape the rod and reel are in now.  Thirteen years being dragged along the jagged, rocky bottom of the Pacific Ocean by the daily currents can not be good to metal and graphite.

We've all dropped fishing gear into the water.  Most of the time it is not a big deal.  I've lost an uncountable number of flies over the years due to clumsy hands.  Last winter I came within a second of seeing my entire supply of sink tips vanish after fumbling my shooting head wallet into a glacial river as I changed tips.  The worst for me was losing an entire rod and reel overboard.

I was fishing right where the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean meet.  There are some shallow rocky spots north of Tatoosh Island that can be fantastic places to catch rockfish on the fly at the right tide.  The fish were finning all over the surface and the fishing was great.  I unhooked a rockfish and left the fly dangling in the water right next to the boat and the rod leaned on the gunwale.  As I was putting the rockfish in the cooler I heard a dragging noise.  The noise was the fly reel moving along the deck.  A rockfish had grabbed the fly sitting inches below the surface next to the boat and turned towards the bottom.  I started towards the rod being pulled towards the edge of the boat.  I felt like I was moving in slow motion as I swung around the console and saw the rod go over the edge.  It felt like it happened in slow motion but I know the time between the fish grabbing the fly and the rod being swallowed by the ocean was just a matter of seconds.

I look back and realize that the lesson of that day is that harvesting rockfish results in a severe financial consequence.  One more reason that catch and release can be a good thing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It Finally Begins

Elwha Dam Removal Finally Begins

This upcoming Thursday is when the concrete starts coming down.

While there has been tons of recent discussions about some of the problems with the Elwha River fish restoration plan this week will be purely about celebrating the opportunity to right a giant wrong.

Wish I had tickets to the actual celebration, but will be looking forward to getting back to the Olympic Peninsula in time for this historic dam removal and the talk by Yvon Choinard.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Selective Fishing

A recent post over at the The Caddis Fly's Blog (Salmon Slam 2011) not only got me going regarding my previous post on trolling flies but the comments got me doing some serious thinking about how our saltwater fisheries are managed.

Are the current selective fisheries helping wild fish runs?  I do not know for sure but I think the discussion needs to be had regarding the huge amount of catch and release involved in harvesting hatchery fish inside Puget Sound (From Tatoosh Island east).

The 2011 wild coho return for Puget Sound is approximately twice that of the hatchery return.  My take on selective fisheries is that they assist in harvesting abundant hatchery runs while minimizing the impact on smaller co-mingled wild runs.  What happens when wild runs are larger?

When selective fisheries first started I was a huge proponent.  It was like the diet advertisement that says you can eat everything you want and still lose weight.  All of a sudden we had longer seasons and all it took was releasing unmarked salmon.  While I feel that I was very gentle on the fish we released (especially compared to the average saltwater angler) we still were releasing huge numbers of unmarked fish to get our two fish limits as well as catch and releasing fish just for fun.

It seems like the current management regime results in huge numbers of released fish.  I can recall days where you had to release ten to fifteen fish to find one hatchery fish and current reports do not make it seem like things have changed too much.  Most people are also still fishing gear that takes a huge toll on released fish.  Two hook mooching rigs tear fish up.  I know that when I fished two hooks I could have more bleeders in a day than an entire season with clousers.

We are already seeing some changing of regulations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca regarding wild coho release.  In late September you can retain wild fish in Area 5 (Sekiu) and in October Area 6 is open for wild coho retention.

I like the idea of selective fishing.  I would like to think that it is helping wild fish but I am starting to pass on the selective fishing kool-aid.

Monday, September 5, 2011

In Defense of Saltwater Fly Fishing

Recently I have spent a good amount of time casting flies along our coastal salmon migration highways.  I have not always seen success but have found good fishing and have just started to scratch the surface in learning about some new places.  Learning these areas when you're dealing with tides, currents, and migratory fish takes time.  This is where it gets interesting.  Does the learning curve increase or decrease by using non-fly fishing techniques?

The technique most often used to search for salmon among "fly fishermen"is called bucktailing.  Bucktailing is trolling a fly behind a moving boat.  If you weren't familiar with this area you might wonder why a trolling technique gets so much attention and press in the Pacific Northwest fly fishing community and press.

When discussing bucktailing it comes down to one simple question.  What defines fly fishing to you?  For me fly fishing is first and foremost about the cast.  Whether the cast is aerialized or cast using water borne anchors we use the weight of the fly line and not the fly to deliver our flies to waiting fish.  We can argue for days about the definition of flies with all of the new synthetics and weights we use to construct flies these days but without fly casting we're not having any of those arguments.

Does bucktailing help someone learn how to become a better saltwater salmon fly fisherman?  Does bucktailing help a fly fisherman learn the water types salmon prefer?  My belief is that is answer to both questions is no.  No amount of trolling a fly around is going to help you become more proficient in casting or learning which retreives work.

Like most fly fishermen in the Pacific Northwest I had always heard that bucktailing was the way to fly fish the Pacific Ocean and Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It is how I started fishing for salmon at Neah Bay.  I quickly found out that I not only did not enjoy trolling flies but I wanted to actually fly fish for salmon.  I stopped trolling flies and my education truly began.  I slowly started to learn how to read the water and slowly started to have success.  As I gained knowledge of the fishery the good days started to outnumber the poor fishing days.  Not only did I not bucktail personally but I was able to successfully guide fly anglers for years with zero bucktailing.

What I find interesting in the fly fishing communities acceptance of bucktailing is the lack of acceptance of other methods that are far closer to fly fishing than bucktailing.  Bring up fishing beads for steelhead on any Northwest fishing forum and watch the sparks fly even though fishing beads is closer to fly fishing than motoring a boat with a fly dangling in the prop wash.

The only thing bucktailing shares with bead fishing is an attempt to speed up the learning curve.  Unfortunately it doesn't teach you how to fly fish and the only thing it helps with is hooking a few fish on a fly rod.  Of course, what is the point of using a fly rod if you are not going to fly fish?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Unconquering the Last Frontier

I've only watched half of this, but it is a fascinating portrait of the Elwha during the 1990's.  Hard to believe we're finally going to see the dams removed.

Salmon with Live Bait

This morning I decided to head out for some local saltwater fishing.  I didn't wake up early or rush to the water and missed my favorite tide change but sometimes getting out is enough.

It was a beautiful sunny day with not a breath of wind.  The rainshadow was in full force with low clouds to the west, thicker clouds to the east, and big puffy clouds building over the Olympics.

The fishing was slow for everyone but I did have a quick pulse of action.  I hooked a tiny chinook (eight inches) and as it got close to the kayak I could see six or seven coho swirling around it trying to eat it.  The coho were keyed up and after I slipped the hook from the shaker chinook I quickly flipped the fly ten feet from the boat.  One strip and I could see the coho take the fly.  I set the hook and felt weight but the fly did not stick.  I could still see the fish swimming under the kayak as I quickly flipped the fly back into the water.  Just as quickly as before I had a coho on the end of the line and just as quickly it came unhooked.  I so wanted to inspect the fly and make sure the hair wasn't fouled but I knew these fish would be gone as quickly as they appeared so I roll cast the fly back into the water.  One strip and another of the coho inhaled the fly and turned.  This time the hook held and I was able to quickly land the fish.  I wish I could say that the action remained hot, but that was the last I saw of any adult salmon.

I'll try to remember this beautiful warm sunny day on the water in a couple months when it is cold, wet, and gloomy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Rise

Sitting in the sun on that gravel bar seems like a lifetime ago.  It was blazing hot and buggy.  Almost hard to believe I was on a coastal river.  The sun was directly overhead which meant the tall mountains rising from each side of the river offered no escape.

The only refuge from the heat was standing in the river.  If you are forced to stand in the river to cool off you might as well be fishing.  The common wisdom is that bright sunny days with clear water are not ideal for steelhead on a floating line so I figured I would practice my spey casting.

I waded right into the main part of camp water.  There was no quiet approach to the water or starting at the top of the run.  There was no methodically working line out a few feet at a time until a comfortable length of line is out and starting to step down.  I stripped out the amount I wanted to fish and sent the riffle hitched muddler across the river.

The fly came tight and started waking across the current moving towards shore.  The bright light made tracking the fly easy and I casually watched it as it moved out of the fastest water and into a bit slower water mid way through the swing.  Then I saw it.

A chrome fish coming straight up towards the fly.  I could see the entire fish as it quickly moved up and engulfed the fly.  No hesitation in snatching the fly as it appeared to rise in a straight vertical line from the cobbles to the surface before turning back to the depths with the fly.

Years later I cannot remember how this fish fought.  All I can remember was the rise.

The photo of the fish brings back the memory of the rise as if it happened yesterday.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Appalling Tribal Fishing

"With $20 million invested in the restoration of Tarboo Creek, it is time to allow more salmon to survive the fishing nets, swim up the stream and lay their eggs to produce even more coho and chum salmon.

That's the bottom line for Peter Bahls of Northwest Watershed Institute, along with others who have worked hard for 10 years to make Tarboo Creek more hospitable for salmon. But Bahls worries that all the efforts to restore the Hood Canal stream in Jefferson County will be for naught if current harvesting practices continue."

The rest of the story is below:

Concerns Raised Over Tarboo Creek Salmon
A Salmon Stream Worth Protecting
Salmon Must Survive To Swim Up Little Streams Too

Truly a shameful chapter in harvest management that almost all of the user groups, including the majority of the tribal co-managers, agree with a simple rule change that would protect this small population but one tribe can override it all.

How is this stewardship?

Elwha Unplugged

The Opus of Dick Goin

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Urban Fly Fishing

Always nice to run into gifted fishermen and boaters on the water


The Osprey Steelhead News Blog recently had a great post about an article on the Elwha dam removal and hatcheries.

"Instead managers and the tribe appear willing to abandon the notion that wild fish, in a pristine watershed can support sustainable well managed fisheries." This quote seems to sum up my feelings about the over reliance on hatcheries not only on the Elwha but throughout the Pacific Northwest.

We seem to forget that wild fish can create abundant fisheries with little help from us. What seems funny to me is that it is an odd year which means it is the biannual pink salmon run in Washington State. While pinks have far different habitat requirements than coho, chinook, and steelhead they show us what abundance looks like. Not only do they show us abundance but they are showing us that wild fish can colonize and fill habitat very quickly. If you look at WDFW's SaSI reports you see that in 2002 there wasn't a pink salmon stock listed for the Green River. Now the Green has the largest pink salmon run in Puget Sound. A river with dams, major development, and superfund sites in the estuary gets a return of over two million pink salmon this summer.

Whether it is pinks, Oregon Coastal coho, Siletz summer steelhead, or Wind River summer steelhead the evidence of the ability of wild fish to recover in the absence of hatcheries is staring us in the face. It is too bad so many of those who make decisions ignore it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What We Have Lost

As a followup to the post about the Elwha hatchery hurting wild fish recovery after the dams come down you should watch this video about the wealth of natural abundance we once had along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Especially interesting are the comments about how many salmon used the lower five miles of the Elwha River before the spawning gravel eventually vanished with no upriver recruitment.

A healthy, intact Elwha can produce far more salmon than a hatchery.

Elwha River Hatchery To Hurt Recovery

It is sad that it doesn't matter that every scientist and agency is against the planting on non-native fish.  We seem to still be clinging to the old idea that our rivers can no longer produce abundant wild stocks if left alone.  We could never imagine how abundant the fish runs were prior to hatcheries that we can not imagine that wild fish can give us not only more fish but more harvestable fish if left to their own devices in intact habitat (like the Elwha).

Seattle Times Article

Some quotes from the article:

"Some, such as Jim Lichatowich, author of "Salmon Without Rivers," also see a bigger, fundamental wrongheadedness: Even using the language of "jump-start," he said, betrays a mechanistic view of what is actually a complex, resilient natural system, capable of recovery all on its own.

"The Elwha is not a dead battery," Lichatowich said."

"Scientists at every agency the tribe asked to comment on the program — from the National Park Service to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to the National Marine Fisheries Service — advised against it. They argued that nonnative fish have no role to play in restoring native stocks in the Elwha; they could hurt native steelhead and interbreed with resident fish above the dams."


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August Can Officially End

Now that there's important business on September 1st.

Looking forward to the show at Jazz Alley.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I no longer have the large saltwater boat that allowed me to enjoy the spoils of Neah Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The days of exceptional fly fishing that most people would not believe are mostly memories.

These days my saltwater fly fishing is limited. I am limited to wading saltwater beaches and fishing from a kayak. Being kept within the boundaries of where one can wade or paddle shrinks the amount of water one can fish in a day. I can no longer start up the engine and run ten miles to check out a spot. In the kayak I attempt to stay within a few miles of the launch and might even stay closer depending on the currents and weather.

While the memories of the past are always there, I think I really am enjoying these new found limitations.

Two days ago I launched the kayak from a local spot and paddled out to look for some pink salmon. I headed out into 150 feet of water and started looking around. I saw some fish rolling and occasionally a couple boils on the surface. I could also see numerous fish around thirty to fourty feet deep on the fish finder. I had on a heavy shooting head so I cast updrift and allowed the line to sink. I started stripping line back in and could feel light bites and taps, but no solid hookups. As the flies got closer to the surface I could see salmon following the fly. Finally after about thirty minutes and a couple fly changes I felt a strike and lifted the rod to solid weight. Of course, the pink salmon came loose after about ten seconds but I figured now I would start hooking more.

Well, I was wrong about hooking more. They continued to lightly peck and follow the fly but I could not get any more solid hookups. I left the water that evening itching to get to the vise and tie up some new patterns to increase the hookup rate.

Fast forward to this morning. I arrived at the launch armed with a box stuffed with new patterns to try out. The sun was just starting to rise over the distant Cascade Mountains barely visible through the summer haze. The water was as smooth as a backyard pool. My anticipation was sky high. I paddled out to where I started fishing two days before and started fishing. I saw occasional signs of salmon on the surface but nothing sustained enough to get close enough to cast to. The fish finder also marked fish at depths I could reach. The new flies were tied on and sent into the depths. While there were numerous signs of fish none of that translated to salmon at the end of my line. The only fish hooked was the smallest king salmon I have ever seen. Of course, I needed a fall guy for the lack of fish so I decided that it must be the bright sunshine. I’ll get to test that hypothesis over the next week as the forecast call for clouds to start moving in.

We all have limitations we impose on ourselves when fishing. Sometimes those limitations can make you feel like you don’t stand a chance. For me, the limitations have brought even more excitement into fishing. The fishing is more difficult and the successes are that much sweeter.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer Growth

Amazing to see the differences between April and August in the garden (click on pictures to see larger image). April

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No Progress

"'After considering the best available information, we concluded that all listed salmon and steelhead species in Oregon, Washington and Idaho will retain their listing classifications,' the agency announced Monday. NOAA Fisheries' Northwest Region evaluated 17 species in all, including 13 Columbia-Snake River basin and four Puget Sound stocks. The review addresses the status of the following “evolutionarily significant units” or “designated population segments” of, respectively, salmon or steelhead: upper Columbia River spring-run chinook; Snake River spring/summer-run chinook; Puget Sound chinook; lower Columbia River chinook; upper Willamette chinook; Snake River fall-run chinook; Hood Canal summer-run chum; Columbia River chum; lower Columbia River chinook; Snake River sockeye; Ozette Lake sockeye salmon; and upper Columbia River, middle Columbia River, Snake River basin, lower Columbia River, upper Willamette and Puget Sound steelhead."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back to the Bay

Decided to take the kayak out to Neah Bay yesterday.  i was hoping to catch some pinks in close to shore but decided not to take any chances on heading out too far with the strong outgoing current.  As I was heading back to the start of the drift I noticed some rockfish busting bait on the surface.  I should have rigged up the popper, but I was lazy and stuck with the sinking line.

Can't beat the saltwater when there is no wind or swell.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Some Days

Some days are really special.  Started this morning with some excellent fishing.  Thanks Doug.

And the theme of the day continued when I picked this up at the Post Office.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fish Porn

My saltwater fly fishing experiences in the Pacific Northwest are almost exclusively on a boat.  This morning I headed out to a well known point to see if I could tangle with a couple salmon with my feet planted firmly in the cobbles.  The fishing was slow for anything besides bullheads.  I hooked a couple tiny salmon and one eleven inch cutthroat.  Only two larger salmon were caught by the guys casting buzz bombs throughout the entire morning.

I learned a few things this morning though.  Fishing from a boat has given me an excuse to get a little sloppy with backcasts.  Years of muscle memory from water loading heavy shooting heads take some time to unlearn.  Within the first ten minutes I broke off two flies from letting the backcast get a little low.

The second thing I learned is that freighters have big wakes and it's a good idea to take a quick break from casting when they start rolling into the shoreline.

The last and most important thing I learned is that fishermen can be a weird bunch.  I reeled up and was getting ready to put everything away in the car when I started chatting up a guy parked in an older SUV that had been out fishing.  I like to talk about fishing and he looked like an old timer so I thought I might be able to pick up some useful information by talking to him.  He was a bit short on the conversation and started his rig and started to back away.  Right before he put it in gear and drove off I saw him quickly flipping through a magazine.  He was close enough and I have really good eyesight so I checked out what he was reading.  It was a porn mag.

Don't interrupt the dirty old men on their fishing break.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Can we get some good news?

About the Elwha Dam removal...

Labor Gearing up to Boycott Elwha Celebration

Wild fish advocates upset about planting non native Chambers Creek steelhead... and now we are learning the money being spent isn't benefiting the community as much as had been hoped and expected.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer Fun

Got to spend a few wonderful days on the coast fishing over the past couple weeks.  Mostly trolling for chinooks but got to spend a little time casting flies for silvers.

It has been six long years since I've been into a nice coho bite and I couldn't believe how excited I became.  It was one of the highlights of fishing since returning to the Olympic Peninsula about a year and a half ago.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Memories

A recent post on Doug Rose's great blog (Doug Rose Fly Fishing Blog) got me reminiscing about fly fishing out at Swiftsure Bank.

I've been thinking about what made Swiftsure so special for me.  As I look back I don't think it was solely about numbers of fish.  One can find large numbers of salmon much closer to port and without the pounding the kidneys took from the long run straight into the swells made steeper by the strong currents draining Puget Sound.

What made Swiftsure such a special place was the total package, which started with the base of the food chain.  The tiny krill is the base of the food chain out there and created the sights and sounds that made the fishing so wonderful.  There were many days where the krill were non-existent and the fishing was excellent drifting around blind casting flies.  While fun, those days were missing the total Swiftsure package.

The total package began with the krill but needed other ingredients to make an exceptional day.  You needed to find the krill and there were really two ways to find them, birds or whales.  Both required keen eyesight to spot on days with good visibility.  Foggy days are common offshore and finding them with no visual cues made discovering them even better.  I remember watching the depthfinder as one approaches the bank.  The depth slowly shallows to around 300 feet and the search begins.  The engine is shut off and I stepped outside the cabin to listen.  One could barely see twenty feet ahead but sound travels far.  The squawking of shearwaters was the primary sound I was trying to hear, but the other sound to find the krill were the humpback whales that shared the krill with the birds and salmon.  Often the first stop yielded sound and a direction to follow but usually it took multiple stops to finally find the krill. 

Once you are next to the large areas of krill on the surface you get a bit caught up in the visual feast of thick layers of krill, hundreds of seabirds sitting on the surface feeding, humpback whales working the krill, and last but not least coho salmon boiling on the surface.

The fishing was not always fast and furious because the salmon were keyed in on small krill and often were just swimming through the clouds of krill with their mouths open.  They were not chasing individual krill.  I still remember the days we waited for the sky to lighten up and the massive areas of krill to shrink as most of the krill moved vertically to deeper water.  The smaller amount of krill seemed to be worked by the same large number of coho salmon and the fishing became much easier as the fish were more likely to chase anything that looked like food.  It was a fascinating place to experiment with presentation, retrieve speed, and surface patterns.

My fishing exploration of the place took years as I learned a little bit more every trip out there.  The days of making the run to find nothing often were better learning experiences because you never learn the wrong times to fish a spot unless you go when the tides and currents are not in your favor.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pesticide Tea

The Tea Party might want to keep water clean, since water is an important ingredient in tea.

House Republicans Trying to Use Appropriations Process to Move Pesticide Permitting Bill

At least they are working on issues important to average Americans.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What a Difference

What a difference a year makes.  I went for a nice long hike a couple days ago to see if I could find a few summer runs.  The river was about twice as high as a week earlier last summer.  The fishing was poor with limited visibility, but sometimes the trip is as important as the fishing.

I sometimes think that those of us that live in the Northwest have short memories when it comes to weather.  The cold and non-existent spring and early summer faded from memory with the recent warm weather.  The heart pushed hard to do a summer trip even though the mind knew the folly.

The differences between years were not only noticeable in the increased river flows but in the vegetation on the hike upriver.  A year ago the thistle was head high and in bloom while this year the thistle was barely knee high and not even close to flowering.

The warm weather may have caused temporary weather amnesia in my head, but the stream-side vegetation and water level couldn't forget the cold spring and early summer.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Best Hatchery...

Northwest Voices - Elwha and Sol Duc

"Free-running rivers, always have been, always will be, the best hatchery."

"Hatcheries don’t mitigate dam devastation, they double it down."

Kudos to John Farrar for speaking out against damaging hatchery practices and for wild fisheries.  It is nice to see some guides speaking out.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Genetically Different

The common argument in favor of broodstock hatcheries is that the fish they put into the river are genetically the same as the native fish in the river.  These hatcheries use only wild fish for brood.

How genetically similar are these fish.  There is plenty of science stating that first generation hatchery fish are changed solely by being in the hatchery environment.

Taking away the changes from being raised in concrete, are wild broodstock a good place to start when looking to replicate wild genetics in a hatchery environment.  One study from Oregon shows how much we have to learn about wild steelhead and genetics.

Wild rainbow trout critical to the health of steelhead populations

This study shows that "up to 40 percent of the genes in returning steelhead came from wild rainbow trout, rather than other steelhead."  While the number may be higher in Hood River than in coastal rivers (it may be less) it shows how much genetic material is added by resident rainbows to the steelhead population.  Not only should this be a call for more restrictive regulations on trout fishing in all coastal rivers but it should make us rethink whether we can ever hope to recreate wild steelhead genes in a hatchery environment.  The Snider program on the Sol Duc is a prime example.  Like all hatcheries, they use a small number of adult wild steelhead to create many hatchery fish.  This narrows the gene pool in the returning hatchery fish which are allowed to spawn if not harvested (no trapping of returning hatchery adults happens) and pass that narrow gene pool on to future generations along with having reduced productivity.  If one of these hatchery X wild or hatchery X hatchery crosses returns and then is used as broodstock the genetics shrink even more.  By using only steelhead for the brood, one is excluding possibly 40% of the genes of the native fish.

We have a chance on the Sol Duc to remove a damaging hatchery program and designate the healthiest steelhead river left as a wild gene bank.  This is truly an opportunity we cannot miss out on.  We have until June 30th to send in our comments to  The Native Fish Society has also put together an easy way to support the removal of this damaging program.  Click the link below to comment.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Always Wrong

I attended the Snider Creek meeting in Forks earlier this week.  Testifying in favor of the guide welfare program was the city attorney of Forks.  I was reminded of a couple other fishery issues and the position Forks took (or pushed) and realized that they are always on the wrong side of the issue.

The wild steelhead retention moratorium was stopped because the City of Forks fought hard against it.  They were wrong as wild steelhead numbers continue their downward slide.

Then I remembered going to meetings regarding halibut when I ran a charter boat.  The City of Forks was actively pushing to open closed areas and start the season later in May.  All of the charter boats stated that these ideas would only work to shorten the season which wouldn't benefit anyone.  What happened since those rules were put in place.  First, the halibut fishery is often open for less than a week's worth of days compared to three weeks to a month when these meetings took place.   None of the charter boat captains who attended those meetings are running boats out of Neah Bay or La Push anymore.  Forks in this case was wrong again when it came to managing fisheries.

Now Forks is pushing to keep the Snider Creek broodstock hatchery program open without additional restrictions.  Seems to me we should look back at their history of being 100% wrong on fisheries management and totally disregard their opinion on this hatchery.

The City of Forks is incapable of making a good decision when it comes to our fisheries.

Also, how much of the Sol Duc runs through incorporated Forks?  None... which should be the amount of sway they have on this decision considering their past when it comes to fisheries.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lights Out

This morning at 8am the Elwha dams will no longer generate electricity.

One more step on the way to seeing the Elwha River flow free.

Elwha Dams stop generating electricity

Friday, May 27, 2011

Option 1 Please

Another meeting about the Snider Creek guide welfare (hatchery broodstock) program on the Sol Duc.

WDFW Snider Creek Link

At least this time they will have a meeting outside of Forks.  Let's make the Sol Duc (home of Washington State's most robust wild steelhead run) a wild steelhead sanctuary.

I cannot help but think these extra sets of meetings are just a ruse to renew this welfare program.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Running the Gauntlet

Finally got a chance to watch this documentary.  A must watch for all interested in wild fish.

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

My favorite quote was from David James Duncan about hatcheries when he compares hatcheries with replacing Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart with Yanni, Yanni, and Yanni.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WSC Event

The Wild Steelhead Coalition is putting on a great program about hatchery impacts in the Skagit basin.  Should be an interesting presentation. 

The details are below:

Three organizations, WDFW, Skagit River System Cooperative (Skagit Tribes) and Seattle City Light formed a partnership study to better understand how hatchery steelhead maybe effecting wild steelhead populations in the Skagit River watershed. By answering questions regarding genetic impacts of interbreeding wild/hatchery stocks, habitat competition while juveniles, and wild steelhead juvenile predations by hatchery smolts, hatchery steelhead programs can be adjusted to reduce these impacts, which should result in increased abundance of the natural steelhead stocks.

The second component of the study involves collection of basic genetic information needed to determine whether steelhead in the Skagit watershed are composed of a single homogeneous stock or if individual stocks of steelhead exist. The outcome of this genetic work may have profound effects on how federally listed steelhead from the Skagit are managed and hopefully recovered in the future. The third part of the study focuses on the collection of basic migratory behavior data from adult steelhead gained from acoustically tagging and monitoring the movement of steelhead prior to, during after spawning.

For additional information, an article highlighting this study, titled “Wild Steelhead Research on the Sauk and Skagit Rivers” was featured in on pages 5-6 of the November 2010 issue of The Adipose.

And we'll be drawing the winner for a Sage 12'6" 7-wt Spey rod. To enter, become a member or make a donation to the Wild Steelhead Coalition and  you will automatically be entered. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nature is all around

As I ran along the dirt fire road I spooked numerous deer and had to slow down to let a turkey get out of the way.  The hills were green with spring growth and the oak trees glowed with the new leaf growth that one only sees this time of year.  Below me, the reservoir sparkled in the morning sun.  It felt like I was a million miles away from civilization.

Of course, if I listened closely I could hear the subway train pass by down at the bottom of an adjacent valley.  If I looked to the distance I could see houses on the hills and in the valleys.  I was actually surrounded by millions of people in the San Francisco area.  I couldn't help but smile thinking about how close I was to so many people yet feeling so far away.

I also couldn't help but thank the foresighted individuals who decided long ago to set aside land for the public.  We often celebrate the Wilderness Areas and National Parks but I think we forget about the smaller parks that allow so many people to get a glimpse of nature.  I think of parks like Point Defiance, Cougar Mountain Regional Park, Forest Park, or the East Bay Regional Park System and think about how important these little blocks of forests can rejuvenate and inspire millions of people.  Not everyone can spend time in deep wilderness but almost anyone is close enough to enjoy a walk through the woods and feel refreshed.

Thanks to those foresighted individuals for allowing me the opportunity to clear my head in a time of stress.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Washington's Sandy River

There's been quite a bit of buzz over the work being done on behalf of the Sandy River's wild fish.  Here are some links to learn about what's happening on the Sandy.

Oregon Guides Fight for wild fish on the Sandy
Possible Lawsuit over Sandy River hatcheries

After reading this and seeing the focus on display at the Native Fish Society auction a little over a week ago I wondered if Washington State had a Sandy River.  Of course, in the Pacific Northwest almost every river faces issues much like the Sandy River but I think one Washington State river stands out. 

My vote for Washington's Sandy is the Elwha River.  Pouring out of pristine wilderness, its salmon runs have been blocked by two dams, the lowest one just five miles from saltwater.  These two dams will be removed over the next three years at a cost of approximately 325 million  of taxpayer dollars.  The tribes, Olympic National Park, and WDFW have agreed to a five year fishing moratorium during and after the dam removal.  It is an exciting time to be living in the area and the excitement over the dams coming down is real.  There are celebrations scheduled throughout this summer.

There is a "but" to all of the celebrations of the Elwha and the fish restoration.  The problem is the current hatchery plans during the restoration, specifically the Elwha Tribe planting non-native, out of basin Chambers Creek winter steelhead during the fishing moratorium.  There is a heavy reliance on hatchery production in the Elwha restoration that is not based on the best available science.

Does anyone believe that planting non-native stocks of fish is a good way to restore fish populations after dam removals.  The Elwha currently has wild winter steelhead returning and these fish along with the large numbers of native resident rainbows above the dams can be the building blocks for real restoration of native fish.  The current plan will allow Chambers Creek steelhead to be the first steelhead colonizing habitat above the dam.  This is a travesty!

How can we be serious about restoring wild fish when we continue down the path that has led to the destruction of our wild fish stocks in the past?  The rivers of the Olympic Peninsula once had large early timed runs of winter steelhead.  Chambers Creek plants along with the associated harvest pressure has destroyed almost all of the early timed fish.  Planting Chambers Creek steelhead means we are giving up on restoring the true diversity of the Elwha River.

Sacrificing a large component of a wild fish run on the largest fish restoration project in our Nation's history is bad for the fish.  Science should be guiding the way on the Elwha restoration and unfortunately in the case of winter steelhead science is being ignored.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Kudos to Oregon Guides

Oregon guides speak out:

Wild Fish Editorial

This is refreshing to see.  Too often those who spend the most time on the water making their living guiding are silent when it comes to conservation issues.  Kudos to these Oregon guides and I know that if I need a guide in Oregon I will be calling one of these conservationist guides.

Hopefully guides in Washington State will see this and realize that speaking up for wild fish is a good thing.  There are very few guides in Washington who stand up for wild fish, especially silent are many of the best known guides.

I will never forget the only fisheries meeting on wild fish that I've seen a large number of guides attend.  That was the meeting on the Snyder Creek broodstock hatchery last year and not one guide spoke out against mining wild fish to create a welfare program for harvest oriented guides.  Not one!

Speaking up for wild fish will not cost you clients. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gillnetters go Faux News

Newspaper Article

"...the gillnet is recognized as one of the most selective methods of harvest in commercial fishing today."

When the truth doesn't support your point of view, the answer is to lie.  The thought is that if you state the lie enough, people will start believing it.

Gillnets are selective like Obama was born in Kenya and Shirley Sherrod is racist.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Felt like doing something a little different over the weekend.

Friday, April 1, 2011

I'm a Believer

Beading is the revolution in fly fishing.  We are seeing a total shift in how we should be fly fishing.  It is the next step in the progression of winter steelhead fly fishing.   The best guides now favor these techniques because they put numbers in the boat and that is what matters.

The artisans are using amazing techniques to paint and lacquer plastic beads that rival anything done with feathers, floss, and tinsel by the old masters of fly tying.  The next Syd Glasso will be doing Picasso like work on plastic beads.  I am no longer going to hold on to ancient, unproductive techniques that are just holding my fishing back.  The "tug is the drug" is such nonsense when you can visually see a bobber get buried when a steelhead engulfs your bead.  It's like popper fishing for saltwater species on the river.

I can now dress lighter since I will now spend the majority of my time in a boat drifting instead of standing in the cold water.  Cast, swing, and step is like taking a sleeping pill while drifting beads is like playing an outdoor video game.  More action means less time staring at the scenery trying to make it seem like seeing wildlife and nature is as good as ripping some lips.

While traditionalists moan and groan about low fish numbers and supposed declining runs, the bead bro's came up with solutions.  They don't waste time going to meetings about wild steelhead and the problems they face.  Why deal with that unpleasantness when the simple truth is that traditionalists wouldn't be crying about declining run sizes if they just learned how to fish more effectively, and that's with beads.  The guides I talk to say they catch more fish than 20 years ago, so the idea that there are fewer fish is some enviro-nazi propaganda meant to keep us away from fish killing freedoms enshrined in the US Constitution.  Good fishing means there is no problem and beads equal good fishing.

Of course, the best part is that instead of spending time tying flies and dealing with conservation I can drink more beer and masturbate.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gold Rush in Thar Hills

Good thing we can damage our fish bearing streams for Chinese pallet manufacturers. 

Chinese demand boosting Peninsula log exports to ‘astronomical’ levels

"The phenomenon has boosted the wood products industry on the North Olympic Peninsula, he said, because it’s allowed for timber harvests that wouldn’t be happening otherwise.

It’s a bit of a gold rush mentality right now,” Stutesman said.

I don’t know when it will change, but let’s hope it doesn’t.....

The wood that’s going there . . . is primarily for forming material that they use to make the concrete housing units, also for packaging and pallet material.”

Saturday, March 26, 2011

No Sh** Sherlock

Another Hatchery Study shows Negative Impacts

Will this be the study that makes us rethink our reliance on hatcheries?

It is amazing how the science seems to be crystal clear on the impacts on all hatchery programs and yet it is the first thought that comes to mind to bring back wild fish.

If hatcheries were the solution we wouldn't have a problem.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sustainable Steelhead?

An interesting post on the Patagonia site about the Seafood Summit in Vancouver got me thinking about ways to work with tribal fishers and work around the current lack of action coming from WDFW.

Here's a quote from the above link:
"But, citing Patagonia’s experience with the cotton industry, Chouinard also talked about market-based solutions that work with harmful industries to force improvement from within. Still more grumbling, but it set a tone that made for lively discussion throughout the week. There seems to be strong agreement among many of the conservation NGOs I spoke with that the kind of market-based solutions Chouinard is promoting are by far the most effective way to create positive change. Certainly something to be hopeful about."

Could a market based solution be helpful in increasing steelhead runs?  I do not have the exact answer but it might be time to take a chance and change the dynamic.  Could non-profit groups work with the tribes to allow the non-tribal 50% to be used however we wish, including increasing spawning abundance?  Could we work to make sure fishing plans are in place before seasons begin?  Could we work to reduce interception on early timed fish and restore lost diversity?

It might be possible by using a carrot instead of a hammer.  Could tribes on rivers managed for steelhead abundance be allowed to sell their steelhead as "sustainable"?  With the decline of stocks all along the west coast and no steelhead stock currently defined as sustainable by any organization, could this allow tribes who work with non-governmental conservation organizations to sell their product without the protests and also sell it for a higher price.

Of course, selling this to the angling public will probably be just as hard as selling it to the tribes.  Wild steelhead are a holy grail of NW angling and many would like to see zero harvest on all sides of wild steelhead.  In my dreams I would like to see this too.  Of course, the reality is that the tribes will continue to net and sell steelhead commercially.  We will continue to send letters and e-mails to restaurants and fish buyers who buy wild steelhead.  This will continue and continue with wild runs continuing to decline.  It might be time to work with the tribes to create a situation that is perfect for neither side but might hold more hope for more steelhead than trusting WDFW to do anything to actually increase wild runs.

Something to think about at least.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How things have changed

I got a chance to read a recent article in the Tacoma paper about "fly fishing" for steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula.

Link to TNT Article

Here are some quotes.

"I could see it was a steelhead, bringing a smile to my face. I also noticed something amiss – I had foul hooked the fish in the tail. That explained why the fairly small fish was putting up such a fight....I was now 0-for-2."

"Fancy flies aren’t always necessary to catch steelhead. A plastic bead and a bare hook often do just as well."

You decide whether this type of article is good for steelhead, the pressure on the West End rivers, or gives an accurate picture of fly fishing for winter steelhead.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Steelhead Summit Alliance

Yesterday was the Steelhead Summit in Seattle.  It was a great meeting with the focus on concerns over the hatchery supplementation during and after the Elwha River Dam removal.

It was great to meet some new faces and BS with some familiar faces.  The highlight for me was listening to Bruce Brown speak.  I remember reading "Mountain in the Clouds" almost twenty years ago and it having a huge impact on my beliefs about wild fish and the important role they play.  In times where good news about wild fish is often hard to find, it was interesting listening to him describe the way fish managers and most people thought about salmon in the late 70's - early 80's.  This was a time where wild fish and genetic diversity were not even considered in management decisions.  Hatcheries were not questioned by the vast majority of scientists, managers, or anglers.  How things have changed.  Consumers are more educated about wild fish in the marketplace.  Wild fish are much more valued by all of the varying interest groups.  There's a long way to go in getting the actual changes made on the ground, but the battle of the minds has almost been won when it comes to wild fish and diversity.  I hope in the next few decades we see the on the ground changes in management that will actually help us restore some of the lost wild fish diversity.

As I was getting ready to leave I realized that the two authors who have had the most impact on me as an angler were standing only a few feet apart.  It was an honor to be able to speak with both Bruce Brown and Bill McMillan.

It was another great opportunity for interested parties to learn more about the issues and have questions answered by the sources.  Thanks to all involved for putting together another great Steelhead Summit.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Root for Wild Fish

...and root against me. 

I have decided to combine a couple passions, one of which I have been ignoring for far too long.  I have signed up for the North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon on June 5th.  I will be donating a dollar for every minute it takes me to finish (with one hour being equal to $100) to a group of native fish conservation groups (Native Fish Society, Wild Steelhead Coalition, Hoh River Trust, and the Wild Fish Conservancy).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Convenient Menace

Great documentary about the health, environmental, and political menace bottled water is. 

I woke up to the bottled water scourge about a year ago cleaning up our wilderness beaches.  Giving up bottled water is one simple thing you can do to make a difference.  Tap water is cheaper and cleaner.