Columbia basin-wide phenomenon - Spey Pages
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-15-2016, 12:17 PM Thread Starter
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Columbia basin-wide phenomenon

The past couple of months have been less than stellar for me. As we are given to do, I started looking for an excuse. I have found numerous references on the net and from "stream-bank biologists" to a Columbia system-wide shortfall of one salt steelhead. There seems to be strong agreement for the phenomenon, but little agreement as to the cause.

Has anyone on this think-tank come up with a strong, credible, or consistent theory as to why the Columbia system has yielded fewer than normal one salt fish?

I'm not sure this is the right heading to post this request, but it apparently is destination specific.
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-15-2016, 01:15 PM
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Well the cause is dependent upon your view of things.

however this is the cause for this years steelhead shortage... We have totally and completely destroyed the habitat. Varieties of quality habitat are the buffer against wide fluctuations in steelhead runs. when one piece of habitat get hits hard another mat be doing well and taking up some slack. Steelhead anglers of the last 60 years have been living in a bit of a bubble. The fishing has been better than we deserved in the 80's as populations were unnaturally high due to over planting of hatchery fish. During the 90's we had a little bit of a reality check but not much of one. This century so far things have fallen pretty flat. Numbers of fish seem better but we have done little to address the core issues keeping steelhead numbers low. in short we have not done the hard work to deserve better runs therefore we do not deserve better fish runs.
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-15-2016, 01:18 PM
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I believe a lot of people are looking at the water tempatures from last year. Leathal temps during the outmigration of smolts means that most of the fish likly perished. Steelhead already have to win the lottery to retun as an adult, so to cut the population of fish reaching the ocean has a much bigger effect on returning numbers. There are also river specif issues like on the Deschutes where temps and water quality are an ongoing issue.
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-15-2016, 02:15 PM
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Several of the WA and OR biologists I have talked to all seem to agree and point to the extreme low snowfall of winter 2014 and drought conditions from the summer 2015. They also reference "the blob" out in the Pacific. Tough conditions for smolt/juvenile fish.
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-16-2016, 12:13 PM Thread Starter
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While I don't disagree with Roballen's idea in general, I would think that a decent two-salt and a pisspoor one-salt return would indicate something specific to a particular brood year.
That the one-salt shortage appears to be system-wide for the Columbia might reflect a regional climate issue, or perhaps a Columbia (dam?) issue.
I don't have hard numbers in front of me, but I don't believe Oregon's south-coast, nor Washington coastal stocks have shown the same pattern.

If I were Bill Gates or Phil Knight, I would fund a couple of graduate studies to look at the mountains of data available and come up with a theory that satisfies this particular set of circumstances!
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-16-2016, 12:39 PM
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Poor one salt return this year, would indicate a poor two salt return for next year. If the one salt fish fail to return next year, you can more or less right off the Columbia tributaries. Time to pull down some dams, starting with the three in Idaho.
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-16-2016, 03:05 PM
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Perhaps not germane to this discussion, but occurring in the same time frame, is the incidence of fish that by appearance are jacks/jennies, but are actually 2 salt fish (scale reading confirms). WDFW is taking scales on returning fish in the desire to quantify this condition. Marine feeding, the influence of the thermal 'blob' is at the root of this sampling.
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-17-2016, 09:38 PM
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Scientists seem to be focusing on two factors: awful conditions for outmigration and high ocean temperatures. Right on, Marty. Time for the 4 dams on the Snake to go. It makes no sense that we spend millions of dollars to try and get juvenile fish around these dams. Last year, because of how early our runoff happened, they actually missed most of the smolts, because the barging program started too late.

As of now, numbers were a little better for outmigration this year, slightly below average, so hopefully the one-salt return is better next year.

Not just the steelhead though. Sockeye numbers were once again terrible, I think something like 25% of average. ID Sockeye are going to be extinct soon if nothing changes. Those reservoirs are death traps for smolts. The numbers drop substantially with each dam.
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-28-2016, 03:04 PM
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No idea on cause, but this fall was the slowest steelheading I've ever encountered. With 30+ seasons under my belt, I have many hot spots down, such that I can call a hit within one or two casts. Seven days on the Deschutes (late Sept/Early Oct) with one hit/on/landed. A great native fish that was all over the river and a miracle to land. Four subsequent days on the Grande Rhonde with nary a tug. With the dam counts being about 30% of the 10-year mean, I was thinking "OK, maybe a fish in every third run." Boy, that was a far from accurate assumption.

Word was out, and angling traffic was about 10% of expectations, so I can most certainly not blame angling pressure. Glad I'm not getting paid by the pound. For sure praying for a better season next year.
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-29-2016, 02:08 AM
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For sure praying for a better season next year.
AMEN!

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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-29-2016, 01:16 PM
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The good side to this year if there is one. We are seeing mainly larger fish. 8 plus lbs. If conditions correct themselves enviromently and it looks like that are. I'm not sure if the ocean blob is gone. We also having a bit weater summer/ fall season. We should be looking at more small fish next year and less large fish.
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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-29-2016, 09:52 PM
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Question Killer Whales?

There was an article in (Medford) this mornings paper about Killer Whales at the mouth of the Columbia staving to death for lack of Salmon. Someone in the scientific community is advocating removal of some of the dams, starting at the bottom & working up river. Thought being the dams are responsible for reduced numbers of smolts surviving the outgoing journey to the sea.

Not sure I agree with attempts to feed the Killer Whales Salmon. I thought their favorite food was sea loins. So why aren't the KW's helping us out by scarfing down sea lions? But I'll welcome any & all advocates for dam removal.
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-30-2016, 01:53 PM
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There are none, zero, zilch Chinook spawning in the low water of Oregon tributaries right now. This time last year, there were hundreds already rotting. I have released one wild Coho, though. More than I can say for the past two years combined. Weird year, for sure.
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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-30-2016, 09:34 PM
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Chinooks in the CWater

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There are none, zero, zilch Chinook spawning in the low water of Oregon tributaries right now. This time last year, there were hundreds already rotting. I have released one wild Coho, though. More than I can say for the past two years combined. Weird year, for sure.
I don't have much of a frame of reference for numbers, as this is just my first year over there, but there are quite a few on the lower Clearwater spawning. Found a few dead ones the last few days and saw a flock of seagulls harassing a bunch in a shallow tailout.

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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-30-2016, 10:04 PM
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I don't have much of a frame of reference for numbers, as this is just my first year over there, but there are quite a few on the lower Clearwater spawning. Found a few dead ones the last few days and saw a flock of seagulls harassing a bunch in a shallow tailout.
I have no idea what is happening much further up the Columbia basin, but it's good to hear there is something spawning somewhere.
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