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 !