Tell me something about SKAGIT RIVER - Spey Pages
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-06-2012, 09:55 PM Thread Starter
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Tell me something about SKAGIT RIVER

I want to know all there is to know about the skagit river
,how big are the steelhead

They shall give up their spent bodies to the river,dark cold spirits nourish thy young.
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-06-2012, 10:24 PM
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Sorry but the Skagit River is closed for the season due to low native returns... perhaps next fall when the Silvers and Chums show up and you have to weave though the bait fishermen and guide fleet!!! Read here: wdfw.wa.gov
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-06-2012, 10:51 PM
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So sorry

Skagit River = Used to be...
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-06-2012, 11:02 PM Thread Starter
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sad
very sad
thx guys

They shall give up their spent bodies to the river,dark cold spirits nourish thy young.
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-07-2012, 06:42 PM
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I'm hard pressed to recommend the Skagit River as anyone's travel destination river these days. The wild steelhead run has been consistently less than the spawning escapement goal in recent years, and the river closes before most of the wild fish enter the river. So there isn't even a catch and release season.

I lived on the Skagit from 1977 to 1992. The late season fishing closures began in 1977 to protect the diminishing wild steelhead run. Freshwater and ocean survival were good, and runsizes were not much larger than at present, but were good enough to begin the CNR season in 1981. Fishing was fairly good through the 80s because of some really good runs as the population rebounded, and angler numbers weren't so high that I couldn't easily find an uncrowded place to fish. Runsizes dipped in the 90s but remained fishable, but dropped significantly around 2005 or so.

The wild steelhead come in all sizes, as a diverse and healthy population should. I've caught two wild steelhead there were 4 pounds each, and I've caught them up to 26 pounds, with the vast majority between 8 and 12 pounds. Larger fish have been caught.

Most Puget Sound rivers have low steelhead returns apparently due to very low early marine survival. Unfortunately we don't know what the usual survival rates were before the present decline. We don't know what the cause is, so we don't even know if it is reversible. We do know that the low run sizes are not do to over-harvest in any commercial or sport fishery, as targeted wild steelhead harvest fisheries of any consequence have not occurred in most Puget Sound rivers for years now. While freshwater habitat is far from pristine, it is not much diminished in productivity or capacity from what it was when the runs rebounded so well in the 1980s. Consequently, if whatever seems to be limiting the runs presently were to reverse, I reasonably expect the runs to rebound again.

Sg
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-08-2012, 01:25 AM
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I live in Mount Vernon, which is on the lower portion of the Skagit where the river is effected by tides to a small degree, eventhough it is some 6 miles from the salt.

Salmo_G hit the nail on the head about the Skagit. A beautiful river with very low wild fish returns that have resulted in little to limited fishing opportunity when the wild fish are in the river and its major tributary the Sauk. The last fairly good return I remember was in 1999. I keep hoping the marine conditions will change and the runs will improve, but I've been waiting for this change since 2000. I sure miss fishing for those late winter run wild steelhead.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-08-2012, 01:38 AM
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He's nailed it?

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Originally Posted by wizardoftheness View Post
Skagit River = Used to be...
Pre-Bolt it was Washington's fish highway. No interest in a rant, but one year later ...... bails of hay could cause a lot of damage (or so I'm told) to a river net.




Fred Evans - White City, Oregon

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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-08-2012, 11:55 AM
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Fred

We should try hay bails on the Klamath and trinity this next summer
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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-08-2012, 03:16 PM
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Or so I'm told.

A loose bail will really mess up a nets mesh; an intact bail weights around 500 # when it hits the bottom of a net.

Some very good (current) info above. When the Bolt Decision went into effect 'Punch Cards' were already a 'given.' The year before netting the Skagit has just a touch short of 20,000 fish taken from same. (19,800 some).

The following year ..... 1,900 some; or if you will a 90% drop. Even if 50% of the folks fishing were whistling through their teeth the result was staggering. Law allowed for a net to go 3/4's the way across the river, the other quarter was to provide for 'escapement.' No big deal .... right?

What in fact happened is the nets were strung from both beaches so they (effectively) over-lapped. Three/four of these blocked the river; nothing got past them. Worse yet the nets were usually only pulled-checked a couple of times per week. You can cast an educated guess as to the condition of the trapped fish.

And not a damned thing the Game Department could do about it. Only thing they can do (at this point?) is just close a river/river system down for any/all fishing regardless of how its done.




Fred Evans - White City, Oregon
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-08-2012, 05:24 PM
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Hey Fred, do you know if the river is also closed to netting?
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-08-2012, 05:56 PM
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you were told wrong, along with many others

Fred,

You may have been told some wrong information, which is all too common concerning things about fish and fishing. While the Skagit had been the king of steelhead rivers, runs were already trending downward when treaty tribes began fishing after the 1974 Boldt Decision. My data show peak steelhead returns, hatchery and wild fish combined, and expressed as harvest occurred between 1968 and 1972. Sport fishing pressure increased significantly after the steelhead hatchery program began at Barnaby Slough around 1962. Catches were astounding, and much credit was given to the returning hatchery fish. In all likelihood the hatchery steelhead returns, while significant, were less than predicted, and more of the harvest consisted of wild steelhead than might have been expected. Of course when all this happened, no distiction was made between hatchery and wild steelhead, and hatchery steelhead were not marked.

The treaty tribes took a large steelhead catch one season, the winter of 1974-75, with the combined treaty and recreational catch comparable to some of the previous high year sport catches. After that, total combined catches collapsed. You can point to the treaty net catches of 74-75 if you know nothing about steelhead life history and biology. But the runs from 76 to 79 occurred on fish whose brood years had not been netted by the tribes. It would be ignorant, if not racist, to blame the reduced run sizes and catches of those years on treaty Indian netting.

While I cannot prove it, I can reasonably infer that the very high sport catches of the late 1960s through 1974 unknowingly over-harvested wild steelhead runs while everyone was caught up in the mania over the Barnaby Slough hatchery returns. That over-harvest led to low spawning escapements through the early 1980s. Ending late season steelhead fishing by treaty tribes and sportsmen beginning in 1977 allowed escapements to increase, and resilient as steelhead are, the runs rebounded very well due in large part to good ocean survival of smolts.

This led to the heyday of CNR fishing for late season wild Skagit steelhead beginning in 1981 through the 1990s and until the bottom sort of fell out as marine survival declined. No matter what the escapement, most years the spawners have produced only one recruit (subsequent adult fish 4 or 5 years later) or even less. The freshwater habitat remains much the same, although like everywhere it continues to suffer the slow death of a thousand small cuts. Harvest is all but non-existant. For all the blame heaped on the treaty tribes, in part from posts like yours, it likely would surprise you to know that sportsfishermen have caught many times more wild steelhead in the last 50 years than have the treaty Indians. Not that they wouldn't like to harvest them, but they cannot catch fish that are not there. And they did not target wild steelhead from 1976 until they began some limited fishing on the rebounded stock in the 1990s.

Regarding some of your other remarks, a hay bale dropped into a river set net will remove the gear, but usually it then gets lost and is never recovered. Some of that lost gear becomes ghost nets, pieces of which continue to fish unseen, unknown, and unaccounted for whatever they do catch.

The length limit on tribal drift or set nets has nothing to do with the width of the river. The length limit is 35 fathoms, or 210 feet. Most set nets are significantly shorter because the effective length is determined by the characteristics of the specific set net site. Fishermen check their nets at least daily if they are intent on earning any money. Poachers, treaty and non-treaty, may not check their nets or retrieve them at all if they think the gear has been spotted, and they might get caught.

You did get it right that the state Game Dept. or WDFW these days can't do anything about it. Right or wrong, the state effectively prohibited treaty Indians from exercising their federally protected fishing rights from 1935 until 1974, effectively reserving about 96 to 98% of the salmon and steelhead for us non-treaty folks. In hind sight, was it worth it? Since 1974, through numerous federal court decisions, the tribes have become self-regulating co-managers of the state's fishery resources. The good side is that a higher degree of transparency and accountability has accrued to all parties. The downside IMO is that maximum sustained yield has become institutionalized as the core value of fishery management at a time when social and ecological circumstances are least served by it.

WDFW can't shut the tribes down. But they don't need to. There is no fishery that targets the harvest of wild steelhead today. WDFW cannot will early marine survival to increase so that steelhead will return in greater numbers. What WDFW can do and is doing, is closing most of the sport fishing opportunity that had remained on the much diminished return of wild steelhead.

I guess the one message I would like you to take home from this post is that the treaty Indian tribes do not now, nor have they ever, been the limiting factor of the Skagit River wild steelhead run. For at least the past three decades, harvest by any party has not been the limiting factor for the steelhead return. And the only time in history that harvest has limited the wild Skagit steelhead return, it was due to the unknowing over-harvest by white sportfishermen. Pretty amazing, eh?

Sincerely,

Salmo g.
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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-08-2012, 06:30 PM
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Thanks for that, great info as always SG.

Mark
FRSCA-North Umpqua and Northern Norway Chapter President
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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-09-2012, 04:44 PM
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Does anyone know what side of Vancouver Island the smolts travel on? Just a thought here, maybe they are swimming past all the fish farms on the inside of Vancouver Island? That might explain the low marine survival if they are being inundated by sea lice from swimming by the fish farms.


Troy
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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-09-2012, 09:53 PM
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Salmo,

Thanks for your great post. I was going to post something similar because I'm very tired of hearing the tribes getting blamed for the lack of fish in the Skagit system and NF Stilly. Heck, I've even heard some folks up here in Skagit Valley blame the tribes for the fishing closure on the Samish, despite the fact that the tribes never fished it.

willj,

The three treaty fishing tribes (Swinomish, Upper Skagit, and Sauk-Suiattle) that fish the Skagit use nets, but they don't target the wild fish in March and April (i.e. they aren't fishing then). In fact, the tribes have more law enforcement on the river than the WDFW. And despite popular misinformation, the tribes enforce the law on their members who net the river. Also despite popular misinformation, there aren't very many tribal members netting the river for either steelhead or coho salmon.
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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-10-2012, 01:35 AM
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Originally Posted by willj View Post
Hey Fred, do you know if the river is also closed to netting?
Actually willi, most of what I know about the Skagit is 'from the Good Old Days.' And I realllllllly mean the 'Old Days.' For context, moved out of Washington in Mid-1984 and other than the odd time never been back.

Waaaay back in the day, rape and pillage via river netting, was a given. Strongly suspect, as posted above, that the Tribes know they're dealing with a rapidly declining resource. Will Washington (and some Canadian) rivers ever come back to what they once were?

I can only hope, but it won't be in my life time. The only real answer may just be a several generations of total closure to fishing, be it commercial or sport.

I'd hate to see that, but it may be one of the few viable alternatives? California coastal waters is/are a working example of where this may end up?

fae




Fred Evans - White City, Oregon
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