Lack of Fishing leads to Thinking

Obviously, I need to get out and do some fishing. Without it, I end up with time on my hands. With time on my hands, I start surfing the web and end up reading about fishing. This week I spent some time reading the ODFW 2015-2017 Budget. (You can lead a former accountant to water, but he’s still going to look at the numbers….)


The Oregon Inland Fishery budget is around $152 million for the period 2015-2017. The Federal Gov (taxpayers) kicks in about $84 million, the State Gov (taxpayers) kicks in $17 million, the Lottery another $3 million and “Other” (Sportsman Licenses and Fees) covers the rest – $49 million.

The Oregon Marine /Columbia River Fisheries budget is around $36 million which is paid for as follows: Federal Gov – $15 million, State General Fund – $3.7 million, “Other” (Commercial licenses and fees) – $16.8 million.

Next I dug through the data regarding Hatchery releases and returning fish and discovered that each year, approximately 4,750,000 – 5,000,000 spring Chinook and around 600,000 summer steelhead are released above Willamette Falls. The past 5 years, the average returns have been about 40,500 chinook and 21,600 steelhead (counted at Willamette Falls). That works out to less than 1% of the spring chinook released make it home to and less than 4% of the summer steelhead find their way back.

What happened to the 4,700,0000 chinook and 579,000 summer steelhead that were released ????

I would guess that a lot of them didn’t last more than a few hours after being dumped out of the truck.  After that, they spent some time in the rivers, working their way out to the salty sea where many of them were consumed by Merganser Ducks, Cormorants, other fish and even by anglers thinking they’d caught themselves a small trout.

Those that make it to the ocean spend the next 3 years or so cruising around eating whatever they can, while being a target for other fish, birds, killer whales, sea lions, seals, etc. etc.  As they grow and begin to mature, they become targets for US and International fishing fleets using gill nets, drag nets, etc.

Again, I wonder why only 1 out of 120 chinook and 1 out of 28 steelhead find their way back to the Willamette River System?

I assume that a whole bunch of those fish are caught by commercial fisherman.  Which leads me back to the budget numbers above. Why are sportsmen paying $48 million in licenses and fees to have a shot at less than 4% of the fish, when the commercial fishery industry is paying  $17 million for a shot at a whole lot more than 4% of the fish released?

Call it fuzzy math if you like, but I’m guessing that commercial fisherman are taking at least 8% of the hatchery raised fish.  Twice as many as sportsman.  But the recreational angler is paying 2.5 times MORE for the fish that they get to knock on the head and put in their freezer.

When I think about that too long, I start to wonder why we even bother with it.  Maybe we should take a page from the Montana plan.  Do away with the entire hatchery program, make all fisheries “catch and release” only, and put Mother Nature in charge.  Stop spending $200 million every year.

BTW – of the 780,000 spring chinook and 123,000 steelhead released in the North Santiam – 3,000 chinook and 1,860 steelhead completed their life-cycle and returned to the Minto Trap below Detroit/Big Cliff Dams (the end of the road for those fish).  1% overall make it home – to be the source for the next round of releases.

For those of you that made it this far into this post, take heart!  I have a guided trip on Monday and will stop pondering the political stuff.  I’ll get my wading boots wet, watch over some clients as they swing bits or fur and feather through the clear waters of the North Santiam in hopes of hooking a Unicorn.

Tight Lines.