This is the time of year when many fly anglers start to feel overwhelmed. Fly anglers with ADHD can be found curled up in a ball under their desk, rocking back and forth and mumbling. Why? There are just too many options and the clock is ticking.
October Caddis are sealed off now and will begin hatching soon. Big trout all over the west will be feasting on this bug to bulk up for winter. Hope you’re stocked up on Yak Caddis.
Steelhead are moving into the “dry side” rivers in good numbers. The Dechutes River fish are in and it won’t be long until runs start in the John Day, Grand Ronde and move on up to Idaho’s Clearwater River.
Advocate: a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a cause.
Yup, I’ve been doing a lot of that this past several months. I can’t pinpoint exactly what triggered it for me, but it happened. Maybe it’s because I’m turning 50 this year. Maybe it was something I heard at the Wild Steelheaders United kick-off meeting. Maybe it was Dylan’s first steelhead – a 38″ wild buck from the Little North Santiam. Most likely, it was a combination of the three that flipped the switch in me. Whatever it was, it pushed me from lurking in the shadows into the full light of day. I started reading studies, digging deeper and jumped head first into the world of advocacy. I became a wild fish advocate.
I learned the story behind so many great things that have happened in the past few years – dams being torn down, reforms in hatchery programs and harvest methods, agriculture and forest practices revisions, etc. etc. Everyday people have been fighting these battles for years, behind the scenes, to effect change and I’ve been mostly oblivious to it.
I’ve been constructing a soap box and testing it’s stability. I’ve made some bold statements about hatcheries, hydroelectric power, the logging industry and more. I’ve attended meetings, spoke at a few, went to film screenings, made donations to specific groups and withdrew my support from others. I’ve put my money where my mouth is.
Earlier this week a clogged inlet stopped flowing water from entering the raceways containing 400,000 juvenile salmon at the Rock Creek Hatchery along the North Umpqua River. All of the young fish were killed. My 1st thought was “there’s goes a half million dollars!”.
Those juvenile fish were set to be released into the North Umpqua next spring, to begin their 3-5 year life cycle, with the final stage being a return to where they were released to start the process all over again. 400,000 fish sounds like a lot, and it is, but generally, hatchery returns are around 0.7%- 1.2%. So in the end, we lost 3,000 – 4,500 returning adults 3 to 5 years from now.
What happens to the other 395,000 fish that are released each and every year? I’m guessing that a whole lot of them don’t survive the first week after being released. Let’s jump back a little and look at the process.
The representatives of the 4 H’s (Hydro, Harvest, Hatchery and Habitat) are working overtime to paint a pretty picture here in Oregon. Lately I’ve been seeing lots of TV ads from groups like the Associated Oregon Loggers, Oregon Forest Resources Institute, Northwest River Partners, and others. The commercials feature shots of lush, green forests, and crystal clear mountain streams filled with salmon and steelhead making their way upstream. (Must be buying stock footage from video shot in Alaska). They tout the benefits of the Oregon Forest Practices Rules, Clean Hydropower, Commercial Fishing and other “great” things that those industries provide.
The rules and regulations put into place in the 1970’s were great … for the 1970’s. It stopped the wholesale destruction of Oregon Forests and Farmland, the watersheds within, and the fish and wildlife that resided there. Those 40 year old policies did some good. It probably kept several anadromous fish runs from extinction. (See prior blog post here)
“Clean Hyro” is that latest label used by the Hydropower Industry. In my mind, it’s just lipstick on a pig. We’re talking about dams that were built as far back as 90 years ago! Just how clean can that be. Sure, Hydro doesn’t produce toxic waste in vast quantities, so in that regard, it is clean. But it does have some serious, permanent, long term effects on a river system. The most obvious of course is cutting off access to spawning grounds. Grand Coulee Dam blocked 1,100 miles of natural spawning habitat for Chinook, Sockeye and Coho Salmon, Steelhead, and Lamprey Eels and flooded 21,000 acres of land. It also opened the door for building dams elsewhere on the Columbia and Snake River systems without regard for native fish runs. Today it’s estimated that between 40 -60% of Columbia Basin spawning grounds are inaccessible to anadromous fish. Continue reading →