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Discussion Starter #1
Every July, once the Chilliwack/Vedder re-opens for the beginning of Salmon season, there's a rush of people to the river.
I am usually one of the people in that rush, and have -- in the past -- been really quite disturbed by watching some little family with tiny little fishing rods and a bucket of worms, yanking out the little 8 inch "hatchery rainbows". Usually, they appear to stick to their daily quota of 4 (but not always, unfortunately).

My old thought process on this activity was "Leave them alone! Those little "hatchery rainbows" are actually steelhead smolts, so fer christs sake, release them back! Come back in a couple of years and catch him when he's 12 pounds. No WONDER I have such a hard time catching any steelhead in the winter, these bastages are killing off the entire brood of babies"

Well, here I am a couple of decades later, with as many years under my belt on that river system, and I've been hearing alternate theories that I'd like to verify: (any fisheries people, please chime in)

Theory goes: The smolts are released in April or May, and should be OUT of the river system by July. Any that are still hanging around should not be there, they should be off to the ocean to start their steelheadedness. If they are still in the Vedder, they start to compete with the wild trout population, and result in an imbalanced ecosystem between hatch/wild. If you catch a straggler hatch in July, get him out of the river.

Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller?
 
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That sounds like an interesting theory. For the record, I am not a fisheries biologist but I do have a pretty good background in molecular biology. Based upon your theory, you would need to have some evidence that the food sources for both late steelhead smolts and hatch rainbows has reached a critical limit. The evidence that I would look for would be the relative size and number of the smolts compared to the same genetic stocks in another river system where the food is not limiting. (Essentially, you are measuring the biomass of the rainbow and steelhead smolts). If the steelhead were actually competing (or out-competing) the rainbows for the available food then there should be a corresponding decrease in smolt size for both species. I haven't seen any evidence that this is the case on the Vedder but then again I am not a fish biologist and have not read the literature thoroughly. Anyone out there with a background in fish biology that could help us out here?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I just spoke to the dude up at the hatchery, asked him about the theory. He's not sure, but he's looking into it.
First week of May is the release, by the way, and I just noticed in the regs that downstream from the Vedder bridge, it's catch/release ONLY on any hatchery "trout" under 30cm. After July 1st, that changes to a 4 per day quota, so it may have some merit.
 

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I encountered a similar problem last year. I was fishing for reds and the trout were eating my roe.(mostly stripping it off my hook). But a couple little guys I hooked, and it was so deep in the mouth it was through the gill plate. Felt bad knowing they were immature steelies. Stopped fishin for the trout. And looked for deeper water where the big springs may be. But keeping them is ridiculous. Let them get big and smart, them try and fool them
 

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Discussion Starter #5
yeah, I had to keep a couple last year too. Voracious lil buggers. I was using a #4 hook, globs of roe about the size of those collosal olives, and the freakin little trout totally INHALED it. I could barely make out the shank of the hook, 2" down its throat. What was he thinking? The bait was bigger than his head.
Anyways, him and a friend of his both ended up in the pan later that day, as they were basically dying as I was trying to get the hook out. :(
Ended my day too, didn't want to chance any more of that action.
 

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Every July, once the Chilliwack/Vedder re-opens for the beginning of Salmon season, there's a rush of people to the river.
I am usually one of the people in that rush, and have -- in the past -- been really quite disturbed by watching some little family with tiny little fishing rods and a bucket of worms, yanking out the little 8 inch "hatchery rainbows". Usually, they appear to stick to their daily quota of 4 (but not always, unfortunately).

My old thought process on this activity was "Leave them alone! Those little "hatchery rainbows" are actually steelhead smolts, so fer christs sake, release them back! Come back in a couple of years and catch him when he's 12 pounds. No WONDER I have such a hard time catching any steelhead in the winter, these bastages are killing off the entire brood of babies"

Well, here I am a couple of decades later, with as many years under my belt on that river system, and I've been hearing alternate theories that I'd like to verify: (any fisheries people, please chime in)

Theory goes: The smolts are released in April or May, and should be OUT of the river system by July. Any that are still hanging around should not be there, they should be off to the ocean to start their steelheadedness. If they are still in the Vedder, they start to compete with the wild trout population, and result in an imbalanced ecosystem between hatch/wild. If you catch a straggler hatch in July, get him out of the river.

Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller?
It's an interesting question Scoobydope...I've seen attempts to answer it in various other places, from casual conversation on the river bank to various websites in discussions much like this one here. Sometimes the explanations are quite good, often times they are quite poor and not well presented imo.

I'm not a fisheries biologist per se, more of a genetics guy, but I do have a great deal of the background course work and core knowledge the fish bio's do, including a lot of population ecology, fisheries management strategies, etc., so I can offer a reasonably qualified explanation. It will involve some ecological concepts of course, and some basic biology like residualization, etc and we might have to touch on some federal and provincial fisheries management policies as well.

Unfortunately I'm just diving into a big day of work here, (yes, it does suck, I certainly don't want to be working today), but I will sit down and put something together for you either tonight or tomorrow, depending on how my day goes.

:cheers:
 

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Back in the day we used to hold steelhead in the tanks for longer periods as they spend a fair amount of time in the fresh. giving a better survival rate.

Now as far as I know the steelhead are released as fry because the cost is too high for most volunteer style hatcheries to hold them for a better part of a year. I am not familiar with the chedder hatchery and their procedures but I have a hard time believing the released fish will migrate out in a few months? I would think that the fish people are catching would have been released the year before and haven't gone out yet?
 

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Back in the day we used to hold steelhead in the tanks for longer periods as they spend a fair amount of time in the fresh. giving a better survival rate.

Now as far as I know the steelhead are released as fry because the cost is too high for most volunteer style hatcheries to hold them for a better part of a year. I am not familiar with the chedder hatchery and their procedures but I have a hard time believing the released fish will migrate out in a few months? I would think that the fish people are catching would have been released the year before and haven't gone out yet?

Up to 6 million salmon smolts, of five salmon species including two Chinook stocks, Coho, Chum, and Steelhead are produced annually for the commercial, sport and First Nations fresh-water and marine fisheries.* Adult salmon are received into our fish ladder and trap or are angled or netted and transported from the river to the hatchery for brood stock. Eggs are fertilized and incubated on site. They hatch and emerge as fry which can either be directly released into the river or are held for rearing and feeding which can be for one month and up to a year to the smolt stage (smolts are the stage of sea water readiness). Steelhead are transported by truck at this stage to be released in the lower river. You will see several styles of rearing containers from troughs, circular tubs, concrete ponds, and earthen channels.


http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/sep-pmvs/projects-projets/chilliwack/bg-rb-eng.htm


As to wether or not its better to srart culling out remaining smolts a couple of months after their release date because they are residualizing is not something I could easily find on line nor do I have any first hand knowledge of such things.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
If I recall correctly, the hatchery dude said they release the smolts in the first week of May. But what I didn't mention was that he said they're usually 80g when they're released.
Not sure what that means, I can't co-relate the weight to the size / activity, but there ya go. If that means anything to anybody. :)
 

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scoobydope said:
Every July, once the Chilliwack/Vedder re-opens for the beginning of Salmon season, there's a rush of people to the river.
I am usually one of the people in that rush, and have -- in the past -- been really quite disturbed by watching some little family with tiny little fishing rods and a bucket of worms, yanking out the little 8 inch "hatchery rainbows". Usually, they appear to stick to their daily quota of 4 (but not always, unfortunately).

My old thought process on this activity was "Leave them alone! Those little "hatchery rainbows" are actually steelhead smolts, so fer christs sake, release them back! Come back in a couple of years and catch him when he's 12 pounds. No WONDER I have such a hard time catching any steelhead in the winter, these bastages are killing off the entire brood of babies"

Well, here I am a couple of decades later, with as many years under my belt on that river system, and I've been hearing alternate theories that I'd like to verify: (any fisheries people, please chime in)

Theory goes: The smolts are released in April or May, and should be OUT of the river system by July. Any that are still hanging around should not be there, they should be off to the ocean to start their steelheadedness. If they are still in the Vedder, they start to compete with the wild trout population, and result in an imbalanced ecosystem between hatch/wild. If you catch a straggler hatch in July, get him out of the river.

Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller?
Sorry for the delay...

Well Scoobydope, your old thoughts on the issue are fairly common amongst us fishermen and women, I too felt this way at one time...it is a natural reaction I think for those who care about the fish and want to see more of them return each year.

Some of the reasons you see given when attempts are made to explain the opening on these little guys is that these juveniles become predators of the wild fish, or to remove those of small size because they arent likely to survive anyways, this is not really correct. Your more recent understanding of the theories are more accurate. Typically hatchery produced steelhead juveniles are raised to the yearling stage in the vedder, more specifically labeled as "yearling smolts" in the data as they are of a size and age group that is expected to smoltify and head out to the ocean relatively quickly.

http://pacgis01.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Docum...DValue=107#Steelheadreleased fromChilliwack R

Part of the problem is however that hatchery supplementation is quite complicated for many reasons.... Those released do not always do what they are supposed to do, increased numbers of released fish does not always equate to more returning adults and other various factors come into play in fisheries management decisions, not the least of which are the impacts that hatchery supplementation can have on all of the wild stocks, in the different species, both salmon and steelhead, and in the varying age groups and stages of development that you might find in the river at this time.

The negative effects our interference can have is reasonably well studied and there are a large amount of papers out there. In addition to that, studies of wild populations and ecological "truths", like the concepts of carrying capacity, competition and predation factor in as well. All of these things together help shape fisheries policies and in turn dictate the strategies for hatchery supplementation. On a river like the vedder which has a large wild steelhead population, (but this applies to pretty much any hatchery supplemented river in BC whether the wild populations are large or small), policies are very clear to minimize impacts on wild stocks. Some of the strategies in place to facilitate this policy include manipulating release age and size, release location, imprinting, etc, etc.

Now one of the impacts despite all of these efforts can be in how some of the fish we produce interact with wild stocks after their release. As scoobydope mentions, they are then expected to head for the salt and begin their "steelheadedness", but some do not, they residualize. Now residualization is not fully understood, but it does occur in both hatchery stocks and wild populations...


This large hatchery clipped residualized fish was caught on the vedder river during steelhead season,
but they are a relatively rare find for the most part.


Residualization basically means that a juvenile steelhead, wild or hatchery, does not migrate to the ocean but stays in river becoming a resident fish. The frequency with which it happens does vary quite a bit, but on average it is expected around 5-6% of hatchery stock try to stay in river, but some reports have it as high as 17%. as such you might see anywhere from roughly 5000-20,000 hatchery juveniles trying to stay in river in any given year, of course not all of these will survive, but a percentage will, so you can see how it might be desireable to remove those from the system. Many strategies are employed to minimize this occurrence, including releasing fish further downstream, using acclimation ponds, etc., but suffice it to say when these fish residualize and stay in river they can have a negative impact on wild populations mainly through competition, but also to a small extent through piscivory/predation, etc especially when rivers are already operating at or near carrying capacity.

So what we see are strategies in place like those regulations on the vedder that encourage harvesting of hatchery individuals after their migration period was expected to have ended. This removes them from the system, relieving some of the competitive stressors on wild fry and parr in both salmon and steelhead that are also in the river at that time.

It is not a perfect system of course. Much of the problem arises when those partaking in this fishery indiscriminately harvest fish regardless of wild or hatchery status. This can result in some detriment to wild fish in the same age group and thus begins another argument against this opening for the hatchery juveniles. Of course, one is considered the lesser of two evils but arguably most of the wild stock that had been in river and ready to begin their smoltification would have left by now as well, so those that remain might have been the wild version of the residualized rainbow so it still will have been good to remove them anyways.

Lastly I will point out to anyone who didn't know it already, the vedder is one of the best steelhead rivers around with a healthy and large wild population that fisheries managers have managed to keep that way despite large returns of hatchery fish, so it would seem that the strategies are effective in minimizing the negative impacts of our interference. Considering the extreme fishing pressure, heavily populated area the river runs through and all our other influences on the ecosystem, clearly fisheries managers and hatchery staff are doing an excellent job on this river. So although it is perhaps counter intuitive at first to remove fish from the system in order to ensure more return, it does seem to be working and has proven itself time and time again over many, many generations. The most likely reasons people have a hard time catching steelhead in the vedder are inexperience and competition from other anglers, not lack of fish. This usually also proves itself true as each generation of angler gains experience fishing for them and starts to catch more and more fish as they become better anglers over the years.

I hope that helps explain things a bit, and I've linked a few pdf files here for additional reading if anyone is interested, some more recent articles on residualization, etc, etc, a little bit dry reading in places but if you sort through a bit and read some of the discussions and other subsections it's not too bad.

Here is some additional reading of interest on survival rates and release strategies as well, not exactly this question about harvest of these juvenile hatchery steelhead, but potentially an interesting sidebar for some...

http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0014779

Don't forget to see the attached papers as well for more reading if you find this stuff interesting, there are lots out there, these are just a few that were easier to find and are representative of the many of the details.

Cheers,

Rib

:cheers:
 

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Great post Ribby, lots of information and as this is a subject I care about I appreciate the links.
First things first ... the Province pays nothing of the estimated 100k required annually to raise these steelhead; the cost is covered entirely by the DFO. The Chilliwack River hatchery has a mandate from the Province to release 80 g juveniles ... these parr (most of these fish are not smolting when released) come from an average of 70 wild adult broodstock, fish caught and donated by selected anglers who have proven fish handling skills. Fish are transported to the hatchery where they are placed in individual, covered compartments, held until sexually mature, and are treated with a weekly dose of formalin to combat bacterial and fungal infections. Even so, on average about 10% die before they are air spawned, but that’s another post in itself.
This hatchery has met the required release size requirement only once in the past 4 years. The reason is simple ... money, or more properly, the lack of it. Raising steelhead to 80 g in one year requires warmer than ambient river water and more food, which results in a faster metabolism and faster growth. Generally (but not always), the larger the released fish, the better survival to adult ratios, even when the residualization factors are considered, and generally (but not always) smaller released steelhead become merganser and heron food before they starve, or are caught by anglers.
Thing is, pumping this warmer well water and increasing the food ration costs more money than DFO can afford during this time of budget constraints ... as well, other species raised at this site require their share of this well water.
Imo, this hatchery program needs a major review. That review should include all players, especially tax paying and licence buying steelhead anglers, and it’s time the Province started paying it’s share of the costs to do it right.
 

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Hi Dave, welcome to the forum, and very glad you appreciate the links, there are many more available out there, and as I come across ones which add to the subject I will in turn add them here.

I see you posting "first things first" and am not quite sure how to take it, (I'm not one to leap to conclusions), but it implies you are starting by correcting points I made. I won't take it as such however as I never said the province paid for anything, It is provincial management policies for freshwater fisheries and steelhead that impact the way the hatchery programs are run and determine regulation for this opening. This is regardless of who is paying, dfo or otherwise. One need only look at the various privately funded programs to see a similar effect. That and your assertion that the hatchery "has a mandate from the Province to release" fish of a certain size. So it's not about who pays, it is the research & data that form the policies. The red tape and political forces that exist around this fishery are another parallel topic as I am sure you will agree.

Regardless, I do appreciate what you have added to the discussion. There is some evidence in the literature, (and hopefully i posted all those relevant), that suggests a correlation between smaller release size and increased residualization. Yet size is still not the reason they are targetted by this opening, but rather the fact that a percentage of released stock are expected to residualize. It is a fine difference, and the two are closely related, but ultimately whether they are large or small or not, it is the likelihood that newly residualizing fish will be in the river at this time that governs the action, not the size of the released fish themselves. Clearly despite small size many do smoltify as the hatchery returns on the vedder are excellent, relatively speaking.

Now, I do also very much appreciate your correlation between environmental rearing factors and release size, it makes perfect sense. I will look into further research on this so as to provide documented references for the BCFR membership, and for yours and my interests sake of course. The papers are there, but I chose not to go into that really because it was residualization and policies that governed this opening, release size was and is still just a parallel but secondary issue to the major reasons for the opening.

Now as for the point about the hatchery program needing major revision...it does seem unreasonable to me that dfo is stuck solely footing the bill, but I imagine the province is just fine with that. It seems reasonable to expect also that there may be room for improvement in the hatchery programs and policies in play here, but as far as returns go, the hatchery returns on the vedder are quite good, so it's not quite all doom and gloom here.

It seems we are talking about two slightly different things. You are arguing for an improvement of the system, political, financial and on the ground in the hatcheries to get better returns, whereas I am providing the explanation for the policies and opening for retention that are designed to remove any and all hatchery planted yearlings that did not smoltify.

I have no doubt funding is an issue as it often is on our fisheries...but despite that, even if all the funding were available and all fish were released above and beyond the specified minimum weight requirement there would still be a percentage residualization and an opening to remove them from the system each summer would continue nevertheless.

I am interested to hear more about the on the ground politics and shortcomings in the rearing process if you are inclined. As you have stated you have a particular interest in it, perhaps you are studying fish culture or in some other similar program, and/or work in a hatchery yourself?

Again, thanks for joining in and welcome to the forum.

:cheers:
 

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I certainly wasn't trying to correct you Ribby and I apologize if that't how that sentence sounded. I have fished the Vedder for over 50 years, caught my first steelhead in 1960. I am a retired DFO guy, spending 37 years at the Cultus Lake Salmon Research Laboratory. Although fish culture was not my main focus I have experience rearing salmonids for past contaminant bioassays.
I guess my main point is there are opportuniies to do a better and more effective job of raising these fish ... but it takes money. But before any of that is the need for wild steelhead stock assessment. I find it hard to accept that virtually no data on numbers of wild steelhead are available for this, the most heavily fished river in the province, and yet we still take 70 wild fish from this system with no questions asked.
Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to participate in this discussion.
 

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i,m pretty sure the numbers are available in the system somewhere on anglers catch records. Seems to me the wild stock is healthy on the chilliwack system. I do remember seeing a 50/50 split hatchery to wild in previous angler catch records. my own catch records indicate a 90percent wild to 10 percent hatchery rate.
 

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i,m pretty sure the numbers are available in the system somewhere on anglers catch records. Seems to me the wild stock is healthy on the chilliwack system. I do remember seeing a 50/50 split hatchery to wild in previous angler catch records. my own catch records indicate a 90percent wild to 10 percent hatchery rate.
The only numbers available are data generated by the steelhead punchcard ... and that is not reliable.
 

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I certainly wasn't trying to correct you Ribby and I apologize if that't how that sentence sounded. I have fished the Vedder for over 50 years, caught my first steelhead in 1960. I am a retired DFO guy, spending 37 years at the Cultus Lake Salmon Research Laboratory. Although fish culture was not my main focus I have experience rearing salmonids for past contaminant bioassays.
I guess my main point is there are opportuniies to do a better and more effective job of raising these fish ... but it takes money. But before any of that is the need for wild steelhead stock assessment. I find it hard to accept that virtually no data on numbers of wild steelhead are available for this, the most heavily fished river in the province, and yet we still take 70 wild fish from this system with no questions asked.
Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to participate in this discussion.
No worries Dave, I figured I was misreading that.

I'm all for a more efficient system, certainly a more accurate stock assessment too...I am surprised there isn't one. Didn't the bccf do fairly extensive assessments quite a few years back on many of the systems? Part of the steelhead recovery program? Sorry, I am on my not so smart phone, so I will have to look through my records later to see what they have.

Glad to have you here.

:cheers:
 

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Yeah, it is hard to believe but there is near zero stock assessment information for wild steelhead on this jewel of a river, one hour away from nearly 2M people. Myself and a few other retired DFO’ers have for the last few years done live counts at a few known spawning sites but these only measure trends and run timing, not total numbers in the system. Hell, we don’t even know all the spawning areas ... but trust me, they are few and far between as there is very little suitable spawning gravel in the main stem river above the fishing boundary at Slesse Creek. The BCCF has not been involved in any recent enumeration efforts, but has, until this year, administered a nutrient enrichment and subsequent monitoring program on this and other lower mainland rivers. A few concerned people are attempting to raise the necessary money to continue this science based and proven program on the Vedder, by canvassing societies, associations, clubs, tackle stores, and private individuals for cash donations ... and to their credit many have donated money but to date I understand the fund is short about 5k.
I don’t want to come across as all doom and gloom with my posts because the fact is good people are working hard to continue the nutrient program and add spawning gravel to the upper river, and even change some hatchery procedures, but I do think most anglers are being far too complacent with the status quo on this system and should be demanding better management.
Rant over.
 
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