Friday, January 28, 2011

Fish Photos

When it comes to fish photos I'm pretty particular. I like a photo where the fish is the subject and since I usually fish alone its all about making the call, can I get a photo of this fish without risking its survival? Last weekend in the last run of the day I hooked and landed a nice wild buck, around 7 or 8 pounds. Chrome but for a faint blush of pearl and purple on its cheek the fish would've made a great photo subject but I opted not to take it. In the small river where I'd caught it the fish never really had a chance to run a long ways meaning that when it came to hand it wasn't really all that tired. Instead of laying the fish in shallow water for it to flop around while I fumbled for my camera I opted to slip the hook out and release the fish quickly. Winter steelhead are hard to come by, and while I would've loved to have a photo of the fish it just wasn't the right situation. That happens, and besides, the fish is forever etched in my memory.

I see alot of fish photos where the fish is just a tiny splash of white and chrome and the angler is really the subject. It seems like a wasted opportunity since you cant really see the fish very well and save for the blurry lump in the anglers hands the photo ends up looking like any other picture of a dude on a river. Another type of photo that I can't stand are those where the angler is pointing the fish at the camera. They look like shit and you cant see the fish at all. Instead it looks like any other hero shot but significantly more idiotic because the angler has decided to use the fish as a gun/weapon. Maybe someone can explain to me why these photos have grown in popularity over the last few years?

I would post a picture demonstrating what I mean, but I don't have any. I'm not trying to start a shitstorm by calling any specific individual out, but if you take a quick look around the internet you'll find the type of photo I'm talking about. Generally its a fish with its mouth agape, gasping for air being held absurdly close to the camera while the angler either scowls or smiles like a cheese dick. Guess its just not the angling aesthetic I'm going for. The thing is, holding fish out of the water does affect their survival and studies of C&R mortality have shown that anything beyond 30 seconds out of water and mortality increases exponentially. So keep them in the water, and take a picture of the fish. They're beautiful animals. And besides we've all got more photos of our ugly mugs than we know what to do with anyway.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Old Man River

Wandering around in the forgotten corners of the rainsoaked hinterlands over the weekend I ran into my good friend Old Man River. It was a pleasant surprise seeing him although I should have known I'd see him there. He spends most of his time fishing and the river was in shape. With one day to fish I woke up at 4AM Sunday and drove in the dark to the river. Pressure was a little more than I like but a little bit of walking was all it took to get away from the crowds. Also encountered a couple of fish.

first of the day

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thanks Ray's

Wild winter steelhead where it belongs, in the water

Glad this situation ended up so well. As Spencer Miles says, we can only keep playing "whack-a-mole" for so long. Time to go after some bigger prizes. Steelhead should be on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch List and more needs to be done to discourage distributors from buying steelhead.

From Ray's:

Thank you for your additional feedback. We are no longer serving Steelhead. We will continue to work hard to find truly sustainable sources for our products and appreciate your comments at any time. Thank you for your time and passion on this very important issue. Best, Peter Birk, Executive Chef | Ray’s Boathouse, CafĂ© & Catering 6049 Seaview Avenue NW | Seattle, WA 98107

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jims Weigh in on Science

A few days ago the peanut gallery at a popular online fishing forum got wind of the Native Fish Society's work to reduce the impact of hatchery programs on the Sandy. While there are some seriously misinformed people out there it is also good to see the issue of hatcheries and their impacts on wild fish coming before the mainstream. It is also encouraging to see the number of people in the angling public who understand the role hatcheries have played in depressing wild runs. One common problem people seem to have is understanding that scientists never talk in absolute terms. As scientists we're trained to acknowledge our uncertainties and limit our inferences to what the data can address. For individuals accustomed to politicians and cable news broadcasters that type of equivocation is all the ammunition they need to dismiss it as nothing more than theory, or even attempt to discredit the researchers as biased. Natural systems however are inherently complex and the decline of wild fish will never be attributable to a single cause. Some love to blame commercial fishermen despite the fact that very few Sandy River steelhead are caught in commercial fisheries, others blame habitat destruction and while they lament the past they dismiss the possibility of improving conditions for the future. Blaming something other than your own consumptive use is always the easiest way forward, but as anlgers we can and must do better. The bottom line is people will believe what they want to believe regardless of the strength of the evidence, but for me the dozens of scientific papers which point to hatcheries as a major driver of wild population declines are more than enough evidence.

From the way alot of those dudes talk you'd think they had read a great deal of the literature on hatchery wild interactions.

Get the facts, hatchery/wild literature on the NFS website:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Wild Steelhead on Ray's Menu

Rays boathouse in Seattle is serving wild steelhead caught on the Olympic Peninsula. What a load of crap. Write them an email and tell them how you feel about their fine dining establishment.


My Letter:


I am writing you regarding your decision to serve wild steelhead in your Seattle restaurants. Perhaps you are unaware but wild steelhead are now listed under the endangered species act in 5 of 7 Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs) in Washington State. While the fish you are serving come from the Olympic Peninsula, these stocks have been in decline for more than two decades and at present populations are hovering around 10% of their historic abundance. More concerning is the fact that over the last 5 years many of these rivers have failed to meet even the modest escapement goals set our by WDFW and the tribes. In each instance run sizes were large enough to meet escapement goals however irresponsible overharvest of wild steelhead in tribal commercial fisheries resulted in runs failing to meet conservation levels. Wild steelhead are an integral part of our state's cultural, economic and ecological heritage and to serve them on your menu despite the fact that populations are extremely depressed statewide represents gross negligence on the part of your business. The future of the seafood and restaurant industry depends on sustainable practices and well managed fisheries and your decision to serve wild steelhead demonstrates your lack of awareness. Instead it appears you are out of touch with the biological realities of fisheries in our state and are willing to harvest until the last fish has been sold on your menu. Until wild steelhead is removed from Rays menu I will absolutely not patronize your restaurant and will do everything in my power to divert restaurant goers in the Seattle area to establishments with a higher environmental standard.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ten Seconds to Save the Sandy

I posted last week about ongoing hatchery practices on the Sandy which are undoubtedly depressing the productivity of wild stocks. Despite the relatively good habitat of the Sandy and the millions of restoration dollars spent in the last decade the department continues to treat the river like a put and take hatchery raceway. Well folks at the Native Fish Society have set up a quick and easy webform for fish lovers to submit email comments to ODFW and Governor Kitzhaber. It only takes 10 seconds to fill it out and let the department and governor know how you feel about the Sandy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reading Bruce Brown

For Christmas this year my mom bought me a copy of Moutain in the Clouds by Bruce Brown. She'd read an interview with the author in the Seattle Times and thought I would be interested. While I'd long known the book existed I'd never managed to get a hold of a copy but I'm glad I did. The book, first published in 1982 walks readers through the history of salmon declines in the Pacific Northwest. Full of historical fact and natural history the book tells the story of wild salmon in Washington State through vivid accounts of historic and contemporary attitudes towards the natural world and in specific wild salmon. Brown writes with a unique style that seamlessly weaves a keen understanding of natural history and Native American culture with political and economic realities that have long motivated the destruction of wild salmon and their habitats. What he delivers is a truly tragic account of the shortsightedness of our forebearers in the region as well as some important context and history for those who would quickly blame the Boldt decision and its reinstitution of Native American fishing rights for declining salmon in our waters. The book is damning of fish management in Washington and it is sad to see that many of the paradigms which lead to the decline of wild fish persist today hampering their recovery. Despite the sometimes bleak facts surrounding salmon the book manages to strike a chord of hope, identifying progress which had been made to halt the destruction of wild salmon habitats and areas in Washington where wild salmon still remained relatively robust. At the time of its writing the book offered a revolutionary view about salmon , criticizing the idea that hatcheries could sustain salmon populations and the people and ecosystems that depend on them. Today many of the facts remain as true as ever and Moutain in the Clouds and the ideas it embodies provide a foundation for the conservation and recovery of wild fish throughout our region. Fish lovers shouldn't be without a copy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

January Warm Rain and Rising Rivers

Thursday night the river was on the rise but flirting with cresting right around perfect. I woke up around 6:30 to find that rain overnight had the river spiking again, but a forecast of a falling snowlevel had me hopeful that the river might just be perfect. Warm rain after a week of hard cold always gets cold blooded creatures like myself moving.This time of year conditions are so tempermental and a few degrees, a quarter of an inch of rain or a thousand feet of difference in the snow level can be the difference between the best day of the season and a blown out river. Rising water means fresh, bright fish and on the relatively unconfined rivers of puget sound the range of flows at which fish can be taken on the swing is tremendous. There are certainly a few fish in the river now, although you wouldn't know it from my fishing yesterday. That said, with about a foot of visibility and the occasional log floating by my expectations were pretty low but it was definitely good to get out. Over the holidays I was experimenting with some real crittery flies, trying out some new flash material and straight eyed shanks I bought. Char seem to like them so I'm guessing odds are, a fresh steelhead will also find them appealing.

Sandy River Broodstock Part of the Problem Not the Solution

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

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Sea-Run Angle

Checking out Jeff Bright's website last night I found a link to his regular column in a new online magazine called the Contemporary Sportsman. The magazine is an attractive publication covering a wide range of outdoor pursuits from bill fishing to wing shooting, sort of in the Grey's sporting journal tradition. Jeff's column though stands out as the highlight. For those who haven't met him, he's a gifted photographer, writer and generally amiable fellow. He's devout worshiper of wild salmon, capturing the primal essence of the fish and their native ecosystem in his words and photography. Not only that but his writing reflects a deep understanding of the need to protect and restore our magnificent wild salmon. Jeff's column can be found on page 36 of the latest issue of the contemporary sportsman: