For about a decade ODFW and a few guides on the Sandy River have been harvesting between 10 and 15% of the wild run annually to provide brood for an integrated hatchery program. While the department and guides will try and sell these types of programs based on their conservation benefits the bottom line is, there aren't any. ODFWs own science has show that the reproductive fitness of hatchery fish declines significantly after one generation in the hatchery AND that large numbers of hatchery fish spawning in the wild is extremely detrimental to the productivity of wild runs.
The myth that we can somehow build runs through hatchery supplementation has been in place for nearly 100 years, and throughout its history its been a failure. The hatchery system we live with today is a vestige of the long held American delusion that we can control natural resources and engineer our way around proper stewardship. Public perception about harvest and habitat has come a long ways to the point where hatchery programs like these are limiting the ability of wild fish to recover and in many cases may be threatening the future of the wild stock. There isn't a single example of wild broodstock programs actually helping wild fish.
The damn shame of it all is that this shit is going on in the Sandy, one the greatest steelhead rivers on the face of the earth. Given the opportunity wild steelhead on the Sandy would very likely recover to levels unimaginable to most in the angling public. NMFS identified hatcheries as the most important factor in limiting the productivity of wild fish in the Sandy. It's time for a paradigm shift, the public is ready but we need progressive management from out state agencies not more waste of tax dollars to ensure that native runs stay permanently in the tank. Imagine for a second if MOE decided to build a massive hatchery on the Dean? Are you kidding me. These rivers need to be valued for the natural wealth they already provide, wild steelhead. The department's own mandate dictates they must first and foremost protect native fish. With a quarter million hatchery smolts released into the Sandy annually, they probably outnumber wild smolts 10:1. That's unacceptable and until that changes we're going to see the abundance of wild fish on the Sandy hover at 2-5% of historic abundance.
Spencer Miles has put together a bunch of really great information on the Sandy on his blog