Monday, April 12, 2010

The Difference is Obvious

A piece on another blog got me thinking, and how often do we compare wild v. hatchery fish on a merely aesthetic basis? Obviously there is ALOT more to it than that but the differences are often stark. Every wild fish is unique, beautiful, locally adapted, however in my experience a hatchery fish which is a decent substitute when considered on a purely aesthetic basis is fairly unusual. Of course this is entirely my opinion, and certainly reflects my natural inclination to dislike hatcheries because of their impacts on our beloved wild salmon and steelhead. Still a side by side comparison is useful in proving my point. Check out these photos.

Two Hatchery Fish

Two Wild Fish From the Same System

Now granted the composition on the photos with wild fish are obviously better, the fish are kept in the water, etc. Still, if you've caught any number of 3-4lb hatchery summer drones in the Columbia system you know far too well how much sweeter their wild counterparts are. I didnt even post any photos of Skamania summer runs here, mostly because I dont catch very many. Hatchery returns in the Puget Sound range from nothing to a shade above nothing meaning many summers I might catch one or two hatchery summers on my local rivers. Wild summer runs in Puget Sound are another story all together. There may not be a sweeter fish in the world, but they're so rare anymore they might as well be ghostly apparitions.


  1. I would agree that a wild fish is better in every way that counts. However, I can't seem to summon up the hatred for hatchery fish that many seem to have. A deep and abiding hatred for the corporations, governments, and fisheries managers that put us in this predicament, yes. But not the hatchery fish themselves. They are merely doing the best they can with what they have, responding to a genetic code that even the idiot aquaculture types haven't been able to completely destroy. It is not the fishes fault, and no one in their right mind would hold it against them. Here on my home river (the Clearwater) hooking any steelhead at all is something of an event most days. And a wild fish is an experience to be treasured. But even a hatchery fish has had to make the perilous 500 mile journey down river to the sea, spend a couple years in the ocean with all it's dangers, then fight and struggle it's way back home where it ate your fly. Taken in that light there is a certain beauty and asthetic to even a hatchery "brat."