Hatchery Steelhead

a wild steelhead in hand nothing comprares

Well I have had this subject on my mind for a long time,  and I am going to say a few word about hatchery Steelhead.  The opinions that are about to be elaborated on are my own I am not trying to persuade or damn anyone for there own opinions, I just need to speak and this blog is sometimes my soap box.

Lets start out with the view as presented by the Native Fish Society, and some of the other conservation organizations. The Idea of conservation is hard to put next to the lets play god mentality of some of these guys ( whom I speak of I will keep name less).  Kill every hatchery originated fish that comes to your line in an attempt to cleanse the river of undesirables, sound like what happen to a group of people around the 1940’s.  The next best part of the propaganda is that they attempt to convince you that by killing these fish that you are now a foot soldier in the war against hatchery supplementation.  Now I am all for  better fishery, and more wild fish.  I also believe that each one you or for that matter anyone of us kills you are just reaffirming the hatchery programs to produce more of these fish because that is what we the resource users are telling them with our harvest cards.  It is just the simple concept of supply and demand, hatcheries are a multi million dollar businesses nothing more.

Now I have done some Ideology bashing lets talk about good conservation and great science in the world steelhead.  The newly added weirs on the east side Deschutes river tribs.  Have been nothing short of amazing in the amount of good, real, accurate data on the river drainage.  It show us things about the river we before had only speculated at.  The weirs gave us light as to what spawning grounds yielded the best returns and where now we can effectively focus our money and efforts.  And you know what 3 cheers for Buckhollow the highest wild fish producer on the lower Deschutes rivers.

In conclusion I would like to say in the end,  the choice is yours.  The law gives you every right to kill.  The fact of the matter is when you and your next hatchery fish meet,  and you think about the fact that this guy made the same epic journey as all the other fish and survived all the same strife.  Be it you kill for the table or you think you have been called to a higher power, or you release because you believe in the sport the choice is yours…  Tight Lines

1 reply
  1. Spencer
    Spencer says:

    First of all, it’s worth pointing out that the NFS funded the three new weirs on the Deschutes: http://www.bendbulletin.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090430/SPORTS05/904300401/1191/COM05&nav_category=SPORTS.

    Second, it’s flat out misleading to conflate harvest of hatchery fish with overharvest of wild fish in the 1940’s. It is a scientific fact (reached by ODFW, WDFW, OSU, NMFS and other fish biologists who are much more intelligent than I), not merely opinion, that hatchery fish compete for valuable spawning habitat with wild fish and adversely decrease our wild runs. In addition, the reproductive fitness of hatchery fish can be as poor as 10% of that of a wild fish. In a study by ODFW Fish Biologist Mark Chilcote from this year (currently in press, will be out in a month or so), he determined that hatchery fish cause the same damage to wild stocks as overharvest. In other words, if 80% of a run of steelhead (as it is on the Deschutes in many years when strays are taken into account) is comprised of hatchery fish, this results in the same damage as if 80% of the wild run was harvested every year.

    And it’s not like these findings are new, although this new Chilcote study is unique in that it found this same impact for Chinook, steelhead, and coho, not just a single species. Fish biologists have known for years that hatchery fish are outcompeting our precious wild fish and causing wild runs to collapse.

    As head guide for the most famous fly shop on Oregon’s most famous river, it disturbs me to think that unknowing clients are being misinformed on this issue – that killing a hatchery fish is the same as the overharvest that took place in previous decades. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

    If you’re curious, here’s a list of countless studies on the impacts of hatchery fish: http://www.nativefishsociety.org/conservation/


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