Why The Wild Fish Conservancy Needs To Rethink Its Threatened Lawsuit

Last week’s announcement by the Wild Fish Conservancy that they plan to sue WDFW over the agency’s use of Chambers Creek steelhead, which power Puget Sound fisheries, is troubling.

Now, I am all for recovering wild steelhead stocks, for catch-and-release fisheries only on them, for figuring out what’s wrong with runs in this basin asap, for repairing and protecting as much fish habitat as possible.

But at the same time, I’m also all for steelies you can knock on the noggin and take home for dinner without a damn bit of guilt.



Always have, always will.

I’ve been reporting on the plight of the basin’s steelhead since well before 2007’s listing, documenting the reduced fishing opportunities ever since, and I question the group’s thinking.

They argue that Chambers fish — 1.3 million of which are planted mostly as winter-runs annually in the Nooksack, Skagit, Stilly, Snohomish, Green and Dungeness systems — hurt native steelies.

The science may show as much — then again, in a couple months, new research might have a different take — but tell me, purists, where has the end of hatchery releases resulted in a big resurgence of native winters and summers in Puget Sound?

In Hood Canal rivers?

South Fork Stilly?

Canyon Creek?

North Sky?






Are streams that haven’t been planted for decades and that we have metrics for — like, say, the Nisqually — seeing massive runs of wild steelhead these days? Or are they limping along at a quarter to half of escapement, despite strong smolt outmigration and the absence of their evil clipped cousins?

What is your end goal here, actually?

There are a host of factors keeping Puget Sound steelhead down, the vagaries of ocean production being one of the biggest, but it’s beginning to look like the sound itself may be having a pretty serious impact too. As we reported in our January issue, scientists estimate that only one in five wild smolts are making it from estuary to ocean, one in eight hatcheries.

That’s after they’ve survived living in rivers with much less fish-friendly woody debris and big boulders, much more silt and sand, and now suffering from low summer and fall flows.

The problems steelhead face are more than a few of the “highly domesticated” production fish shacking up with wilds instead of going back to the hatchery like most do, or being bigger bullies when it comes to feeding time.

(Unfortunately an integrated broodstock program is not an easy option because it wouldn’t separate run timing like using Chambers does.)

But this threatened lawsuit seems not so much aimed at helping steelhead as it is about hurting anglers and a storied fishery — and by extension, could hurt the wild fish themselves.

Did you guys think about that, or did the recent Sandy court case cloud your vision?

THE LITIGIOUS NATURE OF NATIVE FISH FOLKS we’ve seen in Oregon and Washington recently is not unlike the blindness exhibited by the hardcore wolf lovers in the Rockies, the people who used the courts to get the species well beyond recovery goals, and in doing so basically said to hell with locals, ranchers, hunters and government agencies, fracturing relationships with the people who share the same basic goals.

There’s nobody bigger on habitat and big numbers of wapiti than the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and yet in their arrogant overreach, the fringe wolfies managed to antagonize the till-then moderate organization that has invested massively in making sure the herds stay strong — which helped the wolfies’ cause, by the way.

Are the purists about to do the same to those of us who love steelheading in Puget Sound rivers for wild fish that we now recognize deserve to go back as well as for hatcheries to put on the grill every now and then?

Let’s say this lawsuit goes to court, and — worst-case scenario — a judge orders WDFW to not release the spring’s smolt crop. Two winters later, we Seattle, Monroe, Auburn, Arlington, Concrete and Everson steelheaders — seething mad about a lack of local fish — head over to Forks, pack the rivers, maybe a few more guys keep wilds in protest.

Many more give up, and overall the purists ultimately lose partners in the battle for the species in Pugetropolis.

I would ask them, are you ready to bear that weight by yourself?

Do you have the resources to do that?

Don’t you think it would be smarter if there were more of us fighting for the fish?

Is it also a bright idea to piss off a fair number of Puget Sound tribes, the guys who have some pull on these things?

Do our steelhead really need fewer allies these days?

That’s what you risk losing: You are just a small slice of the public that cares about this resource — way out at the end of the spectrum. By potentially killing hatchery releases here, you alienate a much larger group of riverkeepers.

There is strength and passion in our numbers.

You lose the drift boaters who might spot a landowner illegally altering river bank with a bulldozer.

You lose the bankees who might find a gillnet or call in poachers clipping fins.

You lose the guys who carry garbage sacks along with their Corkies to clean up litter.

You lose the fishermen and -women who might spot pollutants surreptitiously being dumped at a takeout.

You lose the guides who have the pulses of the waters.

You lose the letter-writers who might have sent missives to their Congressman to protect a stretch of wild and scenic river, the forest supervisor that that proposed clearcut will put too much silt into the stream, the energy commission that that new dam will drown spawning habitat and stop the migration downstream of gravel.

You lose the weekend volunteers willing to rip out blackberries and reed canary grass and plant trees on the shores instead.

You lose the agency dollars and government interest that would otherwise focus on Oncorhynchus mykiss.

And the fish themselves lose.

So maybe, wild fish purists, you just sit tight.

Maybe you withdraw your massive steelhead PDR filed last week and let WDFW get to work on the species instead of chasing down that mountain of paperwork.

Maybe you just grit your teeth and bear releases of the Chambers fish.

For the good of all the steelhead.

That’s assuming you really care about the fish.

What do you say?

57 thoughts on “Why The Wild Fish Conservancy Needs To Rethink Its Threatened Lawsuit”

  1. Well said Andy!

    NFS and WFC pose the biggest threat to Native Steelhead and Salmon that the species has ever encountered. With no anglers on the rivers; who will carry on the stewardship of the watershed?

    I still have yet to see any NFS or WFC member working along side of us fellow anglers in tributary and estuary rehabilitation and restoration projects…you know projects that require, rolling up your sleeves, getting your boots muddy and possibly getting a callus/blister (or two, or three) on your hands. Wild Steelhead and Salmon recovery will take hard work and lots of effort; riverside, bayside or oceanside….it definitely won’t happen in a courtroom.

  2. I agree that we should let ODFW take care of our fresh fish and keep these sun of guns away from the harming our natural steelhead stock. Let’s get our return numbers up and let our children know what it really means to be an outdoorsman, instead of drunk or drug abuser !!!

  3. Let’s keep these bureaucrats away from controlling our fish and look and let the return numbers grow so that all of us can enjoy this natural bounty. Also we can teach our children what it is to be an outdoorsman instead of letting them fall prey to being drug abusers and drunks. If more people cared about our environment and our fish we would have the numbers that we need!!!!!

  4. And we loose the young steelheader who will not bother fishing in wild only, low fish number, close to home steelhead rivers.

  5. Keep wild fish in protest? You guys are so clouded by having to keep a fish. Hatcheries are supplementing diminishing runs of fish. It’s not working. Instead of trying something different and, god forbid, not being able to have your meat shot, for the sake of possibly having such a viable wild return you could keep a wild fish, you guys will ride the hatchery train until there will be no wild steelhead for your hatcheries to continue. Instead of reading actual data, cold hard facts from fisheries biologist, guys that go to school for many years to understand fish and their environments, you guys spew ignorant guess work. Do your research.

    1. “You lose the guys who carry garbage sacks along with their Corkies to clean up litter.

      You lose the fishermen and -women who might spot pollutants surreptitiously being dumped at a takeout.”

      Ahahaha, yeah… Thats what the average angler is doing. Picking up garbage and ‘spotting pollutants’. Give me a farkin’ break. (Good for you if you’ve done this a couple times, now pause and think about how many garbage bags the mono you’ve lost to snags alone could fill).
      And a call to harvest wild fish in protest? Man, what a truly awful and low-iq article.
      People are in such a desperate spot, but they aren’t willing to make sacrifices to fix anything. And is anyone even talking about the habitat, which eclipses all of these issues? Why do you think we need hatcheries to begin with? Hint- It has little to do with commercial or sport fishing pressure. Many puget steelhead aren’t even bothering to leave the rivers; they’re content to live resident rainbow life histories and skip all the pollution and ship canal entirely. Just look to the Cedar. All the cleanup and closures in the world aren’t bringing those runs back with the sound in present condition.

      1. Do you have catch, population survey or any other stats to back up that smolts aren’t leaving Puget Sound rivers these days vs. the past? Anything? Don’t think I have heard of anything along those lines. The Cedar is a different kind of watershed than almost if not all other Puget Sound systems and you know it — there is a giant lake that is more productive for smolts or residualized rainbows to feed in than generally colder rivers, which force most steelhead to sea to bulk up. There is a big difference between Oregon’s Deschutes and Washington’s Sky, Stilly and Sauk.

  6. All the rivers listed as not recovered after hatchery plants were removes are still part of systems with hatcheries. Not sure how those are good examples to help his point.

    We live in a time where we’re at a crossroads. We can try the same failed policies from the last 100+yrs, or try something new on just a couple rivers. None of us are advocating 100% hatchery removal. But let’s stop the few who are huge drains on tax dollars with very little return, and try something that the best available science supports.

    When non-angling tax payers find out how much ONE harvested hatchery fish costs, they’re going to start speaking up.

  7. After the 1980 eruption of St. Helens the Toutle River was destroyed. Yet in only 5 years after the eruption, wild steelhead were returning. In 1987, returns to the Toutle exceeded what many thought wasn’t possible pre eruption. The neighboring Kalama River with a big ol’ hatchery connected had 248 steelhead return, just 22% of escapement. The destroyed Toutle returned 2,588 wild steelhead. To help out Mother Nature, a hatchery was placed on the Toutle. In a few short years returns were back to “normal” and escapement was similar to that of the Kalama. This info was taken from The Flyfish Journal volume 3.2. A hatchery steelhead I caught last Sunday cost you about $2,700 in tax dollars for me to catch. THANK YOU!!!

    Get to know the 4H’s, harvest, hatcheries, hydro and habitat. Selective harvest, close the hatcheries, bust the damns and restore the habitat…problem solved. Don’t do what has happened on the Elwha, bust a damn and build a hatchery!

    This article suggests it best to maintain the status quo. Hatcheries should be closed as a service to the tax payer for simple poor performance!

    How are the wolves doing? I would hope the wild steelhead coalition pisses off EVERYBODY so that wild steelhead will go the way of the wolves in the articles example. Trust me, the saddest thing for the next generation of steelheaders is to get deep into nature and only catch hatchery fish.

  8. We are having the same issues in SW Washington. The East Fork of the Lewis, Toutle, Wind and Green rivers are all under attack. With NO hatchery fish to harvest, why even spend all the money it takes just to gear up for fishing.

  9. I believe that the rivers you listed that have stopped recieving releases are all tributaries to systems with substantial releases of hatchery fish still. And I know of at least one of those rivers that dumps in very low on a system whose wild runs have rebounded very quickly. I do not see that as a viable arguement. Im not saying there isnt other factors, we all know there is several and puget sound having its ecosystem completely changed over the years is very high on the list. Yet these hatchery fish are just compounding the problem.

    1. As for the rivers listed above they have no fish the pilchuck river is a joke it has one of the best watersheds in Snohomish county the only river that it connects with is the snohomish river which doesn’t have a hatchery on it as for the other hatcheries they pose no threat to the native steelhead population there is a huge watershed above most of them for native fish

  10. Yeah,the WDFW has a terrific track record when it comes to working on the species. Their own plan mandates wild steelhead management zones yet any and all efforts to implement said plan results in hatchery advocates screaming bloody murder. The State of Washington puts more hatchery fish into the ecosystem than anywhere else on the planet. If the pro hatchery constituency truly cared about wild steelhead they would be willing to accept certain Puget Sound watersheds be set aside for wild fish. The basin wide lawsuit threat is a legitimate tactic to force the WDFW to implement some sort of wild steelhead management plan for the sound basin.

  11. “As we reported in our January issue, scientists estimate that only one in five wild smolts are making it from estuary to ocean, one in eight hatcheries.”

    This is why. Despite thousands and thousands of dollars thrown at failing hatchery systems, the cost is too high all around – to taxpayers, to wild fish, to all sportsmen who enjoy fishing and catching. The very science you use in your argument is the very science that calls for making a change to the way that hatchery and wild fish runs are managed.

    You call for protecting wild and scenic rivers, yet advocate to have them stocked with hatchery fish?

    Killing wild fish in protest is not the answer.

    1. You want fish abundance? What a remark! How about the nets in the Skagit River. Until we do something about the nets nothing will change. How many spawned out wild steelhead do you believe are caught in the nets while the tribes are netting springers?

  12. Adding to my response: I want fish abundance as much as anyone. The truth is, hatcheries in most rivers aren’t making that happen. The science doesn’t support their continuation, period.

    If harvesting meat is all you care about in fishing, then let’s work together to make the rivers a place where more fish return. You can’t possibly look at winter hatchery numbers for places like the Skagit and tell me that’s worth having. Yet, as the hatchery numbers go down in there, the wild fish populations are climbing.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where bonking a wild steelhead wouldn’t be any more an issue than bonking a wild coho? We’ll never see those types of numbers until we change something. And, unfortunately, to get to that point, we have to make some short term sacrifices.

  13. What turns young anglers like myself off the sport is the feeling that steelhead fishing is standing shoulder to shoulder with 100 other guys at Reiter, Tokul or Blue Creek. If that’s what we’re giving up for even a few more native fish to be caught and released in wild places, I’m happy to pay that price. I think you’d be surprised at the number of young, passionate anglers who go to the river for wilderness, solitude and adventure, not just the chance to bonk a hatchery brat.

    1. Chase, I’m a “young” angler. Mid 30’s. And I respectfully disagree with most of what you say. I love to fish, heck, I’m addicted to fishing. But I’ve gotta be honest, I’m not out there to catch and release. I mix my hobby/passion with filling my freezer with vacuum packs of smoked fish that I enjoy with family and friends throughout the whole year. I keep smoked fish vacuum sealed and in the freezer as an emergency food source if, God forbid, a calamity ever does happen.

      I’ve heard the argument, “it would just be cheaper to go to the store and buy fish”. But I’m sure you know just as I do…there’s nothing like being connected to your food source. There’s something about catching and killing your own food. I don’t want some salmon fillet that’s sitting in a bacteria ridden butcher’s case at some department store. I don’t care whether it says “wild caught” or not. I don’t want some mass processed fish that’s probably weeks old, has been frozen and thawed, and I honestly have no idea where it came from or how it’s been handled. My freezer is stocked with fish that I can say exactly what body of water I got every one from, I know that I bled it, handled it, and prepared it properly…and yes, I can taste a difference between my fish and the crap that’s in the stores. And I believe those like me outnumber those like you. Not saying that in any sort of negative manner, but I just believe that to be fact.

      Do I enjoy the shoulder to shoulder “combat” fishing? No…that’s why you venture away from fishing the hatchery areas and learn how to read water and find stretches of river that are not packed with other people. How hard is that? You can still have hatchery fish and solitude at the same time. What gives you the feeling that steelhead fishing is all about flocking to the hatchery with 100 other guys? If you like solitude so much, those rivers are HUGE rivers…find some water that’s void of other humans! It’s out there! Just gotta take an adventure and do some hiking. That should be a bonus for a guy like you who wants some solitude in wild places.

      So what happens when you take away hatchery fish? Well, like the article states…you lose much needed resources. The tribes pull funding (as much as I crap talk their netting…LOL), and anglers such as myself stop donating to any extra causes, and I guarantee you see a decline of license sales…which in turn gives the state less revenue to protect the wild fish that this lawsuit is supposedly trying to further protect. What are the true intentions of this group filing the lawsuit? I think it’s along the lines of exactly what you stated in your post. I think it’s a bunch of elitists/purists who want the rivers all to themselves…but guess what? Take away the hatchery fish and you’ll see the fishing seasons get cut shorter and then the purists won’t be allowed to be on the rivers anyways!

      Where is the scientific evidence showing hatchery fish hurting wild numbers? This season is a perfect example…even with all the hatchery plants that were released, something happened in nature to where less than 1% of the hatchery fish released actually returned to spawn…yet the wild fish are outnumbering them! Go on all the popular fishing forums and see how many guys/gals have landed wild fish this season versus hatchery fish…and it’s not even February yet! The wild run is just starting! The wild run will eclipse the hatchery run this year. How have the brats hurt the wild stock? A guide on one of the popular forums posted a perfect example…the Cascade got less than 100 hatchery fish back this year, before February. The wild fish almost all come back after February! The runs barely overlap so how do the hatchery runs hurt the wild runs if the hatchery fish have already returned (or not returned) and spawned out by the time the wild fish are just coming in? What evidence is out there to back up the claims that hatchery brats hurt the wild numbers? Have wild numbers got any better on rivers that have eliminated hatchery runs? NO NO NO! The problem isn’t hatchery fish…the problem is a whole slew of other things…mankind’s destruction of nature in general, pollution, mother nature (weather, ocean conditions, temperature, low river levels, etc). All of those combined are not helping wild numbers…has nothing, or let’s say VERY little to do with hatchery fish…but I maintain it has nothing to do with hatchery fish.

      If you want a stretch of river to yourself, it’s not hard to find, even on the local Sound rivers. You don’t have to support a lawsuit filed by a bunch of snobs looking to force others to give them what they want.

      I would venture a guess that 70-80% of sport anglers want to bring home a keeper or two at the end of the day. Take away hatchery fish and you’re alienating the majority of the angler base…and more importantly, the revenue source that’s funding the conservation programs that are in place for wild fish.

      It is NOT a wise move to end hatchery programs. But go ahead and eliminate them and then come back crying when there isn’t enough money left to protect the wild fish who keep declining even after the hatchery fish are gone.

      Off my soapbox…

      1. In my second paragraph I meant to say I don’t want some salmon or steelhead fillet…original just says salmon. I know the article is referencing steelhead. Didn’t want some internet nazi jumping all over that because I left a word out. Same ideology applies to that paragraph no matter the species I’m referencing.

        1. Mike – I think we agree on a lot more than we disagree on. I have a freezer full of chinook fillets and a fridge full of smoked duck. I too take a ton of pride in harvesting my own food as much as I can, even more so when it means bonking a hatchery fish and taking it home to eat.

          But killing fish is not why I fish.

          Hatchery fish are part of the problem when it comes to wild fish conservation. The science is sound on that despite what hatchery advocate crowds might say.

          If I need to give up bonking (and eating) a few dozen steelhead and salmon a year in order to bring back even a few more wild, native fish, I’m happy to pay that price and everything that goes with it. It seems a small sacrifice for wild fish.

          1. I have to agree with Mike 100%…I don’t combat fish but manage to fill my freezer with quality fish that I caught. I LOVE to fish and a beautiful, native fish simply takes my breath away. I hope for the day we can fill our freezers with “native” fish. HOWEVER, and this is a big one, we have impacted native habitat too severely to expect this without intervention. I’ll concede that native fish do perform slightly better in the wild over hatchery although impacts from hatchery fish arguably do not factor in until native populations are at or near capacity…the science you are touting is far from sound in the favor of eliminating hatchery programs. Supporting better hatchery programs that would have funding for scientific monitoring, staggering of smolt releases, developing ways to better mimic natural feeding patterns, etc, would be wiser than the time and effort spent arguing over who is “right”.

  14. So let me get this strait, you think we should base our hatchery process on your need to “bonk” some fish? this is the most self centered, selfish bullshit I have read in a long time. You sir should be ashamed of your self.

  15. At some point it comes down to what’s best for the wild fish, not the fisherman. “We” (meaning all of us) got ourselves into this situation; only “we” can get ourselves out of it. That means we need to set aside selfish interests for the betterment of the fish that are on the brink of going away forever.

  16. First off, it’s a good thing that people are passionate about the topic of steelhead…no matter what side of the fence you’re on. As in life and politics, I think most people are moderates on this issue…there is a need and a purpose for hatchery fish in this day and age, but also a serious need to support wild steelhead more than they currently are. Be it through regulations, gene banks, reduced hatchery plants in quality habitat, etc. We’ve created an illusion of two ideologies that simply doesn’t exist…we are all anglers that want to enjoy our resources and make sure those resources exist in the future. It would be hard to argue that there’s not a more intelligent way to achieve that goal beyond than the status-quo we’ve seen in place for decades now. That said, I’m not sure that lawsuits are the way to achieve such goals…but it is a method that gets people to stand up and take notice for better or for worse.

    Lastly, I think the wording of your paragraph about people potentially going to Forks and killing more wild steelhead was unfortunate. I believe it has the unintended consequence of sounding almost like a “call-to-arms” on an already struggling resource…quite frankly, one of the last “bright spots” that we anglers in Washington have left.

  17. Their end goal will be to reduce the number of fisherman I think. They are tired of sharing the river with drift boaters pulling plugs, walking up to some fly water to see a couple of gear guys throwing spinners etc.. in their favorite run. They want the resource to themselves and this I believe is the real issue but using the ESA as a smoke screen and tool to keep us blind. They would rather throw a fly all day, possibly hook 1 fish, no one around and call it a good day on a 150 total return of wild (escaped hatchery fish bred in the wild).

  18. Andy! Amen to you! Thanks for saying what a lot of bank and boat anglers are saying. I want to see the references/ proof of these claims here in Washington state. This is not the Sandy River, all systems are unique to the fish that have evolved to there environment.
    The Nisqually is a great example!
    Thanks Again!

  19. Andy,

    WDFW was planting all the listed streams in 2002 with hatchery steelhead. In 2004, plants started to become discontinued in the listed strems in the article. 10 years is 1 decade and in terms of the life history of steelhead, that isn’t very much time to give up on wild fish recovery.

    A simple search online allowed me to gather this data.


  20. Wild fish advocates don’t care. They think if we just get rid of the hatchery fish they will all come back. Sorry guys its much too late for that. Besides the steels need that mixing to stay strong. If they are reduced to just one wild strain they will weaken as a result.

    Wild fish advocates have blinders on and I doubt if anything will make them take’em off.

  21. On the surface and perhaps with a little deeper digging what really is at issue, as is patently obvious with the wolf recovery advocacy, is something not stated.

    The real agenda of this movement is not to enjoy “wilderness, solitude and adventure at any price.” The agenda is to reduce freedoms and take away rights from people. Period!

    The Fish Conservancy (as with other animal rights advocates) typically disguise their agenda distracting misguided lovers of wilderness from their true agenda and goals. Cloaked in the moral armor of self-righteousness, these advocacy groups utilizing litigation simply demonstrate the contempt they have for the rest of us. The fish bonker.

    Just another ho-hum elitist group attempting to impose their superior ideological world view on us commoners. Ask yourself one question: what is the Wild Fish Conservancy’s contribution to state and federal wildlife and habitat conservation each year?

    I bet us commoners, fish bonkers and hunters, voluntarily pay for 50% or more of all state fish and wildlife programs. But wadda hell do I know?

    1. If the WFC would put their litigation money into actual “wild fish” enhancement programs, those programs would go A LOT further to enhance “wild fish” populations. We “fisherpeople” POUR hundreds of millions of dollars into State coffers for “Fisheries Enhancement”. I LOVE Native Steelhead! Don’t get me wrong. I have the UTMOST respect for Natives and hate to see them lifted from the water for “pictures” . But fact remains – WE have TONS of money wrapped up in boats, trucks, gear, etc and EXPECT to be able to go fishing and BONK fish. What is going to happen when WE stop paying all that money (revenue) to the State because there simply ARE NO bonkable fish? Sure ALL that money is supposed to be earmarked for use by the WDFW (which has NOT been doing a very good job of “enhancement” or even management) but in fact, most of it ends up in the State’s General Fund. When the State LOSES all our money from license fees, taxes from gear purchases and taxes on purchase of boats etc. what will they use to help Native fish!?! The WFC should “rethink” their narrowminded position on litigation for “Wild Fish Restoration” and put that money into ACTUAL efforts with scientists and biologists to restore those Native fish, in COOPERATION with the WDFW. No one will win in this “fight”. Native fish CANNOT be restored in a Court of Law. J M O

  22. You really want to put an end to steelhead fishing as we know then we dont need to change a thing. The status quo is going to end it all pretty quick if we dont try and address recovery and set aside some wild rivers that are not flooded with hatchery fish that fail to comeback.

    Have you looked at the plant per harvest ratio in the past 15 years on Washingtons rivers?

    Is spending 1-2k per fish harvested money well spent?

    Do you think its working? Would you invest your own money into the current hatchery system?

    Is it a coincidence that Washington gets planted with more hatchery steelhead then anywhere in the world yet it has the worst fishing. It’s time to wake up and accept change and address recovery. There is currently no balance and look where it has got us.

    We can live in a world with hatchery rivers and wild rivers but the chambers creek stock is not working. Its time for major reform and a shift of balance.

    1. The great lakes steelhead came from our skamania hatchery stock and they have a great fishery. So there is likely something else at work. Since the great lakes has great returns of hatchery steelhead and we have poor returns, might be something in the sound, ocean..

      “Then in 1971 Washington’s Skamania strain was introduced to Indiana tributaries. For the next decade the DNR struggled with the Steelhead, but found that the Skamania could handle the rigors of a managed fishery and adapted well to the hatchery environment. Increased funding and the deployment of new hatchery and management facilities gave the Indiana DNR the boost they needed. By 1982 the Indiana Skamania program had become a success, providing its tributaries with good numbers of returning fish, and Lake Michigan fisherman with a great summer sport Fishery. Today, Indiana’s Skamania program is unmatched and provides the best summer Steelhead fishery in the Great Lakes. Their efforts and resulting success has positioned Indiana as the premier source for Skamania eggs, fry and fingerlings in the Great Lakes, if not in the entire US”

    2. SHANE – how many of those hatchery plants “fail to come back” because they are caught as bycatch by commercial fishing and gillnets?? Ever factor that into the “equation”?

  23. “Maybe you withdraw your massive steelhead PDR filed last week and let WDFW get to work on the species instead of chasing down that mountain of paperwork.”

    Don’t you think the WDFW “working on the species” is what has helped lead to this situation? They are being sued because they are failing at what they are mandated to do and are furthering the longterm destruction of the species. Also, dismissing the best science we have because “new research might have a different take” seems highly irresponsible.


  24. It’s overzealous, uninformed folks that put us in these situations. We won’t have catch and release fisheries. Not for ten or twenty years. Because stopping the hatcheries won’t do one damn thing for the native fish. These zealots don’t care about fishing. Frankly, I don’t care if I ever kept another steelhead, but I sure would like to fish for them.

  25. My apologies to all whose comments got hung up in our blog’s pending file while other more regular commenters’ thoughts were posted. It was inadvertent. Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to respond. That’s great.


  26. Have any of you guys been fishing down low in the S systems lately? The water has been low but I will tell you this, there are more native steelhead returning in late January than there have been in many years. I started in the mid seventies and I saw 5,000 to 8,000 a winter on these rivers as well as the Green, Puyallup, and others. These were hatchery as well as wild. Spawning 4 to 6 lb. hatchery brats year after year certainly isn’t the answer. But closing these rivers down at the end of January is starting to make an impact.

  27. I have been doing a little looking into what I already knew about the WFC…here is what I found:
    The Wild Fish Conservancy is not in this for the sake of “wild fish”. This outfit has been lining their pockets for years on the tax payers dollar. Here is how they operate:

    The WFC creates a project, then applies for and receives local, state and federal dollars to fund the project. Once the project is approved the WFC pays itself to manage the project.

    In this instance; The hatchery fish will be removed and the wild population wont improve. When that happens the WFC will be quick to point to habitat as the key contributor to the failure of increased wild returns. This allows the WFC to create more projects and be funded by all party’s that are willing to save our wild fish. Its simple, these projects are the gift that just keeps on giving $$$$$.

    Take a look at their website and note the size of the projects the WFC manages.

    I did a little math for you below:

    The WFC lists twenty-one projects on their website, of those twenty-one, eighteen have a dollar amount attached to them. The total dollar amount for all eighteen projects is $4,787,391. That makes the average project that the WFC takes on about $265,966.

    The point is that the WFC is not in the just for the sake of conserving wild fish. The WFC is in this to collect money with the ruse of conservation.

    Follow the money….in 2011 payroll expenses for WFC was $1,048,477.

    That is just over half of their total reported revenue of $1,999,164.

    This outfit is a complete waste of government money.

    Take a look at their balance sheet at http://www.nonprofitfacts.com/WA/Wild-Fish-Conservancy.html#balanceSheet

    1. Exactly Backtrollin – Selfish fatcats lining their pockets with TAX dollars who have little concern for ACTUALLY improving Native fish run numbers. Look at the Cedar river (for one). We have NOT been allowed to fish this river for more than forty years and how ARE the numbers of Native fish returns?? Incidentally, there are NO Steelhead hatcheries on that river, and never have been (although they introduced a LARGE run of sockeye salmon, which we are NOT allowed to harvest) CASE IN POINT?? Sea lion predation was the MAJOR factor in the killing of this Beautiful rivers Native Steelhead run. It also happens to be my “home” river and I watched with dismay and disgust and a broken heart as this river “died” (as far as Native Steelhead are concerned)

  28. The WFC & NFS are a bunch of False Research False info pushing Thiefs who care about Nothing but them selfs and making money

  29. Sadly, Backtrollin is correct. The Wild Fish Conservancy (formerly known as Washington Trout) long ago traded ethical conservation goals for job protection/growth and fatter salaries.

    This is exactly the same type of action they used back in the mid 2000’s with the release of PS Chinook. They settled out of court and shortly after that, many tax dollars went in their pockets for projects they won bids on.

    We need a state Attorney General that will stand up to these shysters and tell them it’s time to investigate them for fraud.

  30. These groups are more dangerous than most realize. They are trying to apply east coast fly fishing ethics to our salmon and steelhead. They do not care about what happens to everyone involved in sport and commercial fishing. They want and have talked about a complete end to catch and keep. They look down on anyone who doesn’t think the way they do.
    This is what fly fishing has become. They care about nobody but themselves and pretending to care about wild fish is a crock!

    Go read their forums on fly fishing websites. I never thought I would have any care about seeing a fly fisherman, now if I see one on a river, I will wonder if he is one of them!

    Want to fight back? I would like a public initiative to ban catch and release on all waters where there is not a catch and keep fishery. They have no idea the monster they have awaken.

  31. You will lose, just like you did on the Sandy, just like you did with wolves. You will lose in court because the science is the truth. End all hatchery programs, restore habitat, end gillnetting. When we evolve beyond this 1950’s mentality and let nature be nature, looking back on the hatchery era, we will see it for what it was. It will be seen like a lobotomy, antiquated and doing more harm then good…..

    1. You are incorrect. The science will show that our rivers are in no way capable of EVER reaching historical abundances; that the runs in most Puget Sound streams cannot rebuild on their own; that pinnipeds and birds are having major impacts on smolt survival thru the salt; that Skamanias are more problematic than Chambers; and that unicorns, “let nature be nature” and 1970s-era thinking doesn’t cut it anymore.


  32. the steelhead programs were started years and years ago and not by any staff of the wdfw that work today wfc will target hatchery steelhead today and chinook and coho later without asking to come to any negotiation table to talk about remedies or possible solutions, many of the native stocks are not recovering at all, even if we got more broodstock past the hoards of seals and sea lions, which in some cases eat half of the returning female broodstock dosent mean that our river systems are in good enough shape to let them reproduce, after four cycles of non cishing on a stock you should see some increase but we dont, some stocks we havent fished on for 30 years.

  33. Are there any organized efforts that are responding to the WFC ? Opposing litigation ? Lobbying efforts in Olympia?
    Please publicize.

    Sportsmen and women in Washington need to get organized and take action. I was able to fish before the Boldt in local Puget Sound rivers. If sportsmen and women do unite and organize, the fishery and the sport will soon be a thing of the past.

    Retailers should should exercise some leadership and sponsor these efforts or their business will end aswell. Dismayed that the upcoming Washington Sportsmen Show did not have a presence or booth to organize efforts against the WFC.

  34. I agree with you Rob, very much so on sportsmen and women must unite. Such as the NFC &NFS have done so. I understand that the lawsuit is all done with and the NFC has accomplished the part of their goal. Yet soo many of us sports fishermen & women, sports retailers, guides, the small towns that look forward to a great season of fishing on what so ever stretch of river is near. Why? Because their livelihoods depend on that $2700 hatchery/ wild fish!!! I personally am one of many, infuriated by the circumstances at hand, and a future that might not hold any such strain of fish whether wild or hatchery!!! I’ve yet to research the science behind the matter, but in all I sense I state of urgency for more than just the “weekend warrior” , but the tribal committee as well as well as the big commercial guys have to unite somewhere down the line and fight for our passion too fish !!!! I’m clueless on whether or not an organization/ group already exist, if soo please do tell! As many hours spent on the river I have dedicated for the thrill of the bite and drag screaming on my reel. I don’t see why not dedicating my time to stand for what I’m so deeply passionate about. So much soo my significant other tends to question whether or not I even go fishing as much as I boast about!!! Lol anyhow I’d like to end on the note that the WFC/ NFS their opinion and found a solution, soo why not WE do the same. Last night I read all the comments and only to conclude all who oppose the matter, bicker amongst one another on whose right or wrong. In turn WE, sports fishermen and women voiced our opinions, but have yet to a solution… I seek not only to fulfill my own yearnings, to give a voice to those who cannot speak . The FISH who know no more than what Mother Nature intended for it, eat, swim, reproduce and SURVIVE!!!

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