Time for a change

If you have been following the debate on north coast wild steelhead fisheries management at all, you have heard the term”Status Quo” thrown about pretty constantly.

From the head phrenologists at the “WDFW fisheries and palmistry lodge”, to the patriarchs of the “fair trade cuban tobacco, farm to table scotch, and helli-fishers association”, “Status Quo” is the buzz word du jour.

And these grand high wizards of steelhead management have a point.

We have been managing steelhead stocks pretty much the same way for about 60 years now, and our failure rate is an almost perfect 100%.

The suggested management “improvements” for my home river this year range from; no sport fishing, to sport fishing but not from boats, to “same as ever”, with variations in between.

None of these options, would in my mind, deviate in any way from our management status quo.

To be clear. They will have exactly zero impact on the success of steelhead in the Quillayute system.

New fisheries management tools save millions of tax payer $$$$

WDFW said again last week, in writing that 5900 hundred spawning native winter steelhead is plenty for the Quillayute system. And they have no intention of raising that goal.

That’s a problem. In fact that is THE problem.

Allowing more native steelhead to spawn is necessary, but so is improving the river and estuary habitat by keeping more salmon carcasses in it

Here is one weird trick that could save native steelhead.

Here it is. Ready?

Step 1. (Optional) Sit back, smoke a joint, or open a beer, or have a cup of chamomile tea, or whatever..

Step 2. (Essential) Relax, and let a whole bunch more fish swim upstream and spawn.
If we want to have a healthy river system, we need to let a whole bunch more salmon spawn and die in it. That is the one thing we could do that might improve the habitat enough to reverse the trend of loss of salmon, steelhead, and the 137 species that rely on healthy rivers here.

But to allow more fish to spawn, legally, we would need to scrap our entire management plan, rework fisheries agreements with California, Oregon, Canada and Alaska. And negotiate with the North west tribal fisheries council.

It’s a HUGE, maybe impossible job, so we better get started right away.

It’s very possible that salmon and steelhead could follow the path of white tail deer, striped bass, and redfish. From the brink of collapse to flourishing.
But they will need the same kind of help these other species had.

Letting more salmon escape to the river isn’t just good for anglers and tribal fishermen, its essential for these fish to spawn and die if we want a compete food chain

Step one. M.S.Y. management goes on the scrap heap.

If you belong to a fisheries conservation group, or subscribe to a fishing or conservation magazine, or go to fishing or conservation internet forums, start a conversation there about ending M.S.Y. management for salmon.
People will tell you it can’t be done. Tell them I said “bullshit”.

Jim Kerr
Rain Coast Guides
Forks Wa.

Posted in Winter Steelhead Fly Fishing Report | Tagged | 12 Comments

12 Responses to Time for a change

  1. glaw says:

    “From your lips to the phrenologists’ ears.”

  2. Webster B Hutchins says:

    Great post! Keep up the good work and the no BS analysis of the roadblocks in the way.

  3. Mike Gearheard says:

    Let the fish come home. 10 years with NO “harvest.”
    I won’t be around to benefit, but my kids and their kids might.

    • raincoastguides says:

      So this is exactly the conversation I would like to get have.

      We have to remember, that around 80% of directed salmon harvest happens in the ocean, and many, if not most of the salmon harvested from the Quillayute sytem get harvested in Canada and Alaska. If we stopped all, and I mean all ocean and river harvest from the sol Duc to Kodiak, you could probably see close to twice as many fish on the redds in two years.
      But you can’t just shut the river.That effects at most 20% of the impacts.
      And, if we as river fisherman decided we wanted to voluntarily forfeit our share of the fish, then that number of fish gets added on to some one else’s quota. Like the folks at the river mouth, and if they say they don’t want them, then they go to the folks in the ocean, and if they say they don’t want them, then they get given to the Canadian fishermen, if they don’t want them then the Alaskan fishermen get them. That is MSY at work. That’s the system we have to take a look at changing, and its gonna be super hard.
      If all sport fishermen forfited there chance to catch and release steelhead from now on, and the river was left totally empty. The fish we didn’t catch could be allocated to some one else to net.

      • glaw says:

        Precisely–
        “foregone opportunity,” explained by Doug Rose in “T.C.O.W.” in rare clarity for a complex (intractable?) problem.

  4. Mark LaPlante says:

    Thank you Jim!

    Well thought and written!

    Huge consequences at hand in this arena.

    • glaw says:

      Precisely–
      “foregone opportunity,” explained by Doug Rose in “T.C.O.W.” in rare clarity for a complex (intractable?) problem.

  5. Dan Hallman says:

    Eek.
    Let’s get the governator to pay the tribes to stop gill netting. They can catch and release while sports fishing like the rest of us.

    • raincoastguides says:

      Thanks Dan,
      Remember he tribes only are accessing about 10% of the allowable harvest at the river mouth. 80% + is being harvested in the ocean before they get near the river.
      We have to do something about that also. Harvest changes we make in river are good, but will not be impactful enough to make a significant difference.

  6. Paul says:

    Very well written Jim. I enjoy your editorials. I am preparing my self to fish…with lures and flies with no hooks…just feeling the grab and floating down the river is fine with me if it saves a fishery that we all need and cherish!

    • raincoastguides says:

      Thanks Paul,
      I think adopting your attitude of “whatever it takes to get me out there” is great. Its my hope that we can talk about ocean impacts, and the process that determines these fish “Must be harvested by someone”.

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