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OUTDOOR JOURNAL
Washington steelhead rule not migrating south
Oregon has no plans to follow Washington's lead in requiring anglers to keep all the hatchery steelhead they catch

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By Mark Freeman
Mail Tribune
Posted Oct. 31, 2014 @ 12:01 am

When anglers release the hatchery steelhead they catch, only four things can happen, and all of them are bad.

For one, the stressed steelhead could go belly-up. If it survives, it could make it all the way to its hatchery of origin, which likely is already clogged with excess fish.

Or it could stray onto wild steelhead spawning grounds, where the genes from this coddled fish could alter things such as run timing and maturation rates in wild fish over time.

And last, some other mope could catch it, kill it and do a worse job barbecuing or smoking that steelhead than you would.

Now, in areas of Washington, there's fifth possibility: It could land you a $250 ticket.

Washington is looking to extend its new requirement that anglers kill all the hatchery steelhead they catch to a handful of southeastern Washington streams where stray rates by hatchery fish onto wild spawning grounds is deemed too high.

Already a handful of northwest Washington streams have the legal requirement of turning the eyes of hatchery fish into X's.

It's come with some growing pains for anglers occasionally forced to keep fish they otherwise would have released, and it's been tough on law enforcement shackled with a rule that's difficult to enforce.

But Washington fishery officials believe it's a tool they need in order to curtail the hatchery steelhead stray rates as high as 50 percent on some streams.

"It's taken some education, working with anglers and law enforcement, and people are getting used to it," says John Whalen, fish program manager for the department’s eastern region, based in Spokane. "I haven't heard of many, if any, citations so far."

You probably won't hear of any such plan in Oregon, where stray rates are far lower on streams such as the Rogue River despite its hatchery programs meant to mitigate for lost spawning habitat for summer and winter steelhead from the building of Lost Creek and Applegate dams.

There are currently no plans to join Washington in the mandatory program, "but that's not to say it might not be a tool in the future," says Bruce McIntosh, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's deputy administrator who runs the department's inland fisheries program.

Killing and grilling hatchery steelhead has been something of an ingrained civic duty on the Rogue for years, for a cornucopia of concerns.

Releasing wild summer steelhead has been the law of the land since 1990 to help recover what has been a sensitive wild species. Winter steelhead are more abundant, supporting a limited take from anglers of one per day and five per year as part of the two-steelhead daily limit.

So hatchery steelhead are like door prizes to anglers, even though they likely cost hundreds of dollars per pound if you factor in all the fishing gear bought to catch them.

Hatchery steelhead generally are released strictly as part of a numbers game. Kill two hatchery fish and your day is done, so letting a few fin-clipped critters swim away is simply the by-product of staying on the water for those few gonzo days that make up for the skunked ones.

This is most true this weekend, when the switch from flies-only to bait and/or lures on stretches of the upper Rogue will bring out anglers quite used to double-digit catch rates during the popular Nov. 1 rules flip.

Also, Oregonians have a salmon-steelhead catch card with space for 20 wild or hatchery fish. So an 18-inch hatchery summer steelhead could take the place on the tag reserved a more desired 30-pound chinook salmon when in season.

It would force anglers to buy separate $16.50 hatchery-only tags to stay legal and still save precious tag space for those wild 30-pounders Rogue anglers seek but don't always find.

In Washington, anglers can — and on some streams, must — keep up to three hatchery steelhead a day and 30 fish per tag. Almost the entire state is closed to the killing of wild steelhead, so anglers are pretty well versed there in targeting fin-clippers for their grills and smokers before calling it a day.

"If they catch three hatchery steelhead in a day, that's a pretty good day," Whalen says. "We want these folks to enjoy these mitigation fish."

But there would be no joy in seeing such a program migrate south, for no other reason than it means stray rates of hatchery steelhead onto wild spawning grounds would have soared.

Besides, it seems awfully un-Oregonian to fish under the credo that, if releasing hatchery steelhead is outlawed, only outlaws will catch and release.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-"
 

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I just can't do it! I know I'm not doing any good but they are amazing fish, hatchery or not... Even when I lived in AK I would only keep 6 fish a year, that's all my family needs. I used to go pike fishing and it's illegal to put a live fish back in the water and I just couldn't bring myself to bonking them.

All that said I don't have a lot of experience with hatchery fish and steelhead in general down here. All the steelhead fishing I did back home was for wild fish and they don't leave the water, unless it's an awesome jump to spit my fly of course! So my ideals may change in time...
 

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We bonk a bunch of hatchery fish in my boat, but its not without respect. Any fish that can go to the ocean and returns has my respect, but i do think its good to get them out of the system--I would rather see rearing boxes than a full blown hatchery. I think Its pure BS to mandate someone to kill a fish.
 

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Nothing easier than an "accidental" release at your feet if killing hatcheries is not your bag, so it sounds like crazy rule.
 

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seaterspey
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They would have to be lurking on the shore just to catch someone not killing a Hatch! I come from Michigan and have never killed a fish, to many other people there to do it for me.

Crazy stuff.
 

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fly fisher 'til it's over
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I'm with Nate on this one, although I don't whack 'em all. Only what my wife and I can eat or smoke do I take from the water, with a kind and reverent 'thank you'.
 

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Read the fine print, "in some areas of Washington" (emphasis added). It's for rivers that otherwise would not be open for fishing, such as the Wenatchee and Methow. The requirement of hatchery retention is part of the emergency openers for these rivers when sufficient returns allow. I'm not defending the practice, just clarifying.

I also retain hatchery fish for the smoker. Makes excellent Christmas presents and always is appreciated! It is done with respect for the resource and with careful thought because once you retain one, the work load increases.

Mark
 

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R J Ruwe
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I fish for 2 reasons: #1, it is fun and I enjoy fishing. #2, I love to eat fish. Keeping a fish legally caught and kept whether hatchery or wild does not bother me. Catch and release is fine when it is necessary and I approve of the practice. When allowed to keep and eat fish, I do so.
 

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I bonk any hatchery steelhead or salmon I happen to come across. I view it as doing my part to help ensure they don't compete for spawning habitat.
 

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It seems to me the better solution would simply be to stop hatchery production in those streams., however unpopular it may be.

I bonk nearly all hatchery fish I catch, if I know there is a hatchery just upstream and little opportunity for the fish to stray I may release it. The majority of hatchery fish that return to a hatchery are not used for brood stock, they are killed and often used for nutrient enhancement programs. If it's a chromer I feel that I might as well grill it up.
 

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In the area's affected, dropping an edible hatchery fish on the way home at a local food bank or soup kitchen, might be appreciated. Good deed for the day. Just a thought.
Bryan
 

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Or maybe we can just finally accept that hatcheries have been a complete failure and just have them go away completely?
 

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Unless keeping for table fare I revive and release both hatchery and wild fish and send them on their journey upstream. There's a good chance that another angler might enjoy the same thrill that I experienced, might even be a kid's first caught steelhead with memories to last a lifetime. Realizing there are special considerations for certain streams.

Seems to me the problem is hatcheries not fish. Maybe a $250 reward for bonking a bureaucrat...
 

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Release hatchery fish at the risk of losing the whole fishery. Seems like a no brainer. Those of you letting hatch fish go.... get control of your pansy ass emotions and do the right thing for the population.
 

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hatchery fish

I pretty much agree with the last statement! There was a time when I was a bit conflicted about killing hatchery fish. There have been a few good fighting hatchery fish that pretty much handed me my ass through the years and for that I sent them on there way. More of a respect thing I guess? But it was always followed by a WTF did I do that for. Those are the ones that probably have the best chance of spawning with wild fish stocks.

So these days I make a point of killing every hatchery fish I catch where it is legal to do so. I enjoy eating steelhead and so does my family and also my freinds. Smoked steelhead done right is pretty damn good, I could eat it for days.

The one thing I do have a problem with is the state of Washington mandating we kill all hatchery fish. Why would the state plant these man made fish in rivers where we have wild fish stocks that can sustain themselves in the first place? The answer is they plant them so anglers have fish to harvest and take home. This has been there main objective for the 35 years I have been fishing steelhead in Wa state.They do this with no concern for wild fish stocks. There has been no thought until recently about wild fish within the WDFW. I think thats pretty clear and if you object to that your lost or your really just not paying attention to whats going on right now.

So respectfully kill every hatchery steelhead you catch your doing the wild fish population a favor. And if you truly have issues with killing a hatchery man made fish because it kind of looks cool and it decided to eat your fly. You might want to just stick to trout fishing or take up golf. Be responsible kill the hatchery fish, take it home or donate it to someone who can use it.
 

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I pretty much agree with the last statement! There was a time when I was a bit conflicted about killing hatchery fish. There have been a few good fighting hatchery fish that pretty much handed me my ass through the years and for that I sent them on there way. More of a respect thing I guess? But it was always followed by a WTF did I do that for. Those are the ones that probably have the best chance of spawning with wild fish stocks.

So these days I make a point of killing every hatchery fish I catch where it is legal to do so. I enjoy eating steelhead and so does my family and also my freinds. Smoked steelhead done right is pretty damn good, I could eat it for days.

The one thing I do have a problem with is the state of Washington mandating we kill all hatchery fish. Why would the state plant these man made fish in rivers where we have wild fish stocks that can sustain themselves in the first place? The answer is they plant them so anglers have fish to harvest and take home. This has been there main objective for the 35 years I have been fishing steelhead in Wa state.They do this with no concern for wild fish stocks. There has been no thought until recently about wild fish within the WDFW. I think thats pretty clear and if you object to that your lost or your really just not paying attention to whats going on right now.

So respectfully kill every hatchery steelhead you catch your doing the wild fish population a favor. And if you truly have issues with killing a hatchery man made fish because it kind of looks cool and it decided to eat your fly. You might want to just stick to trout fishing or take up golf. Be responsible kill the hatchery fish, take it home or donate it to someone who can use it.
I'll add to this fine post one point of clarity. The mandatory rule of killing hatchery fish is two fold .
One, it eases overcrowding on the native spawning beds and does what it can to sustain the gene pool .( Please note , I said " does what it can " I don't want a debate. If you read Brian's post he goes to great length to note what killing hatchery fish will offer wild fish populations.

Two , when you have retained your three fish limit you must quit fishing for the day. This eases pressure on wild fish by taking those lures out of the water .
The ongoing discussion includes the Grand Ronde , Touchet and Tucannon ,however at present does not include the Snake . If implemented , the lower two miles of C&R water on the Ronde will be open to retaining hatchery fish which must be killed rather than returned to water . Don't be fooled by naysayers , the enforcement of this rule on the Methow has been very good since it was implemented there and it is fully intended to be enforced on the new waterways listed above.
 

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There is a great deal more that plays into the mandatory killing of hatchery fish that simply removing them from the system, which is a great benefit in and of itself. The damage of catch and release to wild fish is also being protected here. This protects wild fish by also limiting the amount that they are handled by catch and release fishing, especially with the increased popularity of the hero shots. Mandatory retention will keep people from releasing these fish and continuing to fish and handling multiple fish per day. Recent studies show that the amount of time that fish are handled out of the water has a direct correlation to decreased productivity. If people release hatchery fish and continue to fish for the rest of the day, the proceed to catch multiple wild fish after they have released multiple hatchery fish, they are decreasing the productivity of the wild run. Mandatory retention decreases impact on wild runs in multiple ways. If you care about wild fish, kill the hatchery fish, be happy with your harvest and the food you bring home, then go home and return another day.
 

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Releasing Hatchery Fish for the Bears

I've been bonking hatcheries lately and leaving them for the bears, eagles and other animals on the bank. I'm being very careful not to leave them too near trails where other anglers are walking in, but on the non-roadside bank in the open. I'm sure I'll get some snide remarks for this, but I don't care.

Salmonids are an extremely important food source for other animals and for the entire ecosystem. Salmon DNA has been found in the tips of Redwood trees as well (don't ask me how someone determined this fact). I think that's the best thing one can do for a human reared steelhead, give them to your surroundings. God knows I've eaten enough.
 

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Almost, not quite.

I've been bonking hatcheries lately and leaving them for the bears, eagles and other animals on the bank. I'm being very careful not to leave them too near trails where other anglers are walking in, but on the non-roadside bank in the open. I'm sure I'll get some snide remarks for this, but I don't care.

Salmonids are an extremely important food source for other animals and for the entire ecosystem. Salmon DNA has been found in the tips of Redwood trees as well (don't ask me how someone determined this fact). I think that's the best thing one can do for a human reared steelhead, give them to your surroundings. God knows I've eaten enough.
Had a Steelhead laying on the beach (50 yards down?) and MR. EAGLE flies down and took care of that. Had to grab the dog by the collar is MR. EAGLE would have made short work of him. They really can HISSSSSSSSS!:eek:
 
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