In the 1980s we, a small group of fly fisherman from LaGrande failed to stop the state and Feds from constructing and dumping hatchery made Steelhead into the Grande ronde river and its tribs. The effect was instant as 1.2 million mutant hatchery, genetically inferior Steelhead smolts were set loose to make their way to the pacific ocean some 300 miles away.
The goal was to hope that 10 percent would return as adults and the rest well...they would be destroyed by natural causes , Dams and a percent would stray into other systems that did not have hatcheries , like the John Day river.( A side note: the John Day has no hatcheries and has the biggest return of wild Steelhead in the lower 48 states around 25 thousand return to this amazing system). When you start to compare other totals of wild Steelhead this is a huge run of fish ! The Hoh gets under 5 thousand wild fish a year , we are fishing about 2 to 5 percent of historically robust runs. Makes you stop and think ? A great case study right here in our NW backyard...Hatchery VS. Wild and Nets in the rivers , Dams etc...
As most Biologists agreed, there are many unknowns...what about strays , the impact on the runs of wild fish as smolts trying to survive while dumping millions of factory smolts on top of them...food source and habitat...genetics. Hatcheries have created a genetically inferior fish that has spread its mutant seeds all over the PNW rivers... bad for wild fish...No shit!
As a fly fishing guide since 1990, this is going to affect me and friends directly in terms of making a living . So the answer , no more wild Steelhead can be kept in any drainage. Also single barbless for all , no bait , re-address the needs and economics of the Native fisheries , and educate the anglers just getting into the sport to be river stewards . Also increase guide fees / general licenses and limit the number of guides on a given river . Increase out of state guides fees and limit how many can guide in WA. Need an example... Look at B.C. taking control of their rivers and resource.
Bill McMillian told me 20 years ago that we all need to stop angling for at least 10 years and let mother nature take over...I think I might need to start booking more Bass trips !
Pictured . I leased a huge ranch on the lower John day river for 10 years as I was a permitted guide for almost 20 years . The largest run of wild Steelhead in the lower 48 states !
November is usually a wet month here in the PNW and this year was'nt much different. While the rivers on the O.P. had record numbers of salmon mostly Coho returning for the big dance, the river levels had us fishing from the trees. When the rivers were in shape the fishing was amazing with fresh salmon for all !
My thing as far as being a guide is all about sea run fish . I spend most of my efforts fly fishing and guiding for Steelhead and SRC (sea run Cutthroat). I think they are just so special , their life cycles , environments they live and die in , the mind blowing power and sky high leaps . Not to mention the beauty of these fish, and the freedom and quality of life they represent for us all ! Without quality waters and clean environments we might as well take up golfing and sneaking a cast to those pond bass on hole 4. Thats not the case if you live anywhere in the PNW...and if you live by the largest city north of San Frisco , the options to throw a fly are endless. ( Yes...I have played a round of golf just to make a few casts )
Seattle , more importantly where i live, Kitsap county host miles of beaches. With the basic understanding of tides and flies, this offers fly anglers a unique fishery year round . With not much equipment , 6/7 wt rod and some waders, and a few flies ...your ready to start casting off the beach for SRC. A good idea is to grab a map and locate public beaches and access .Then, I like doing this drive by style of fishing off the beach. Fish hard and move around the beach for a half hour if nothing is going on ...no fish jumping no bait being pushed or too much shit in the water (grass etc) I will move and drive to another beach. This way you will find a beach that hold SRC and you then can start to focus on that area and start to understand feeding times witch are directly connected to the tides and seasons.
I have been guiding for over two decades and have found those beaches...and the SRC are just getting bigger and more of them ! Its a single barbless , catch and release fishery thats open year around in Puget sound. So the next time the rivers are in the trees and things are looking like you can't go fish...think again and hit the beach !