Archive for the ‘conservation’ Category

Elwha recovery

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

We posted a bit about Elwha in February, but it’s been coming up more and more frequently lately. I particularly enjoyed this article in the Seattle Times about plans to stock both salmon and non-native steelhead strains to “jump start” the fishery.

Some great bits like: “Genetically related to wild winter-run Washington steelhead, those trout may be a descendant of native Elwha River steelhead, locked up behind the dams like jewels in a box, waiting now more than a century for a chance to once more express their genetic capacity to go to sea as steelhead.”

And: “‘Were treaty rights not involved and the obligation to provide for continuing fishing opportunities through this transition period not active, then we would not do Chambers Creek,’ Stelle said. ‘But those obligations are real, and they are substantial. Treaty rights are not a bumper sticker. It is a reality, and because of it we have had to reshape and modify the transition program.'”

Also, and not to get too heavy on a cold Wednesday morning, I used to study the philosophy of science and this is one of the rare cases where legitimate philosophical inquiry is quite relevant to the real world, i.e. what constitutes a mechanism and how management practices can be informed by what we take natural systems to be.

“Some, such as Jim Lichatowich, author of ‘Salmon Without Rivers,’ also see a bigger, fundamental wrongheadedness: Even using the language of ‘jump-start,’ he said, betrays a mechanistic view of what is actually a complex, resilient natural system, capable of recovery all on its own.

‘The Elwha is not a dead battery,’ Lichatowich said.”

Tip of the proverbial hat to The Drake.

Changing Great Lakes Fisheries

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

I’m not screaming FIRE! right now and don’t think this is any more cause for concern than about a dozen other things happening in the basin, but Lake Huron’s salmon population crashed quickly and now Lake Michigan’s salmon fishery is making the national news.

King salmon are struggling to hold on in Lake Huron, but lake trout and walleye populations are recovering there. While lake trout were once the top predator in Lake Michigan, there probably aren’t any wild fish left here despite massive stocking efforts and spawning habitat protection. We mentioned in early March that lake trout stocking in Lake Michigan will increase 25% to 3.5 million fish in 2011, and lake trout fishing has been closed for a while around important breeding habitat in the Beaver Island archipelago for example, but the problem isn’t habitat or stocking or fishing pressure. It’s those damn alewives.

Salmon were originally introduced to the Great Lakes to control alewife populations, another introduced species. Alewives have a thiamine deficiency compared to native forage fish that prevents lake trout from spawning when they feed on them.

Now there are still plenty of big lake trout to be caught in Lake Michigan, they just aren’t wild. And there are still a lot of king salmon in Lake Michigan as well, but charter captains reported decreased catch rates this past fall. We happened to have what by all accounts was a very strong and long run of salmon in the Pere Marquette this past year, it was just late because of the warm fall. The NPR story didn’t report any data from the state’s scientific studies of salmon numbers so all of the talk is anecdotal. Low charter boat catch rates this past fall may have been a fluke, but an alewife-salmon crash happened in Lake Huron, so it seems like it could happen here as well.

Lake Michigan’s fishery is certainly a complicated, tangled mess. Luckily for us, we’re pretty happy to fish for lake trout, steelhead, carp, salmon, whatever. Lake Michigan is an amazing body of water that turns out trophy fish of whatever species. So bring on the changes (but not asian carp). We’ll tie new flies.

Return to Elwha

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

The Elwha River is located on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state and is the only river in the lower 48 to host all 5 species of pacific salmon not to mention steelhead, cutthroat, bull trout, and dolly varden. Two dams constructed on the river in the early 20th century greatly hampered the spawning runs of these fish. However, both dams are slated for removal beginning in September.

This isn’t new news. What is new is Jason Jaacks’ project, Return to Elwha, chronicling the dams, their eventual removal, and hopefully the watershed’s full recovery. I had the pleasure of fishing (and drinking an immoderate amount of camp espresso) with Jason in Colorado a few years ago and he is a really neat guy and a fantastic photographer. Be sure to check out his work.

Gear Restrictions Update

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Michigan’s new gear restrictions are up for approval this Thursday. You can take a look at the final recommendations here. The new Pere Marquette regulations can be found on pg.30. We’ll have more to say about this next week.

For now, check out some clips from the public meetings this fall in Lansing. Some of this is kind of offensive. But all of it is pretty hilarious.

The Grubb Files supercut starring The Indiana Outlaw from Kristin Hooker on Vimeo.