By Bob Brown
It is a known fact, if it wasn’t for fish hatcheries, commercial and recreation fishing in Washington State waters would be history. Once world renowned, fishing in Washington State has slipped to a couple of steps above mediocre in comparison to what it used to be. Reasons for the demise could be attributed to several factors, including federal interference, politics, poor management, over fishing and possibility the combination of all three. Overall, fish hatcheries have done a pretty good job of keeping our fisheries viable, however, there have been concerns about the impacts of releasing large numbers of hatchery- reared salmon and steelhead into state waters and their effects on wild fish stocks. Wild fish are genetically less diverse and can be affected by interbreeding and completion for food and habitat.
The WDFW and tribal co-managers have been engaged in sweeping reforms of their hatchery operations to minimize those adverse affects while continuing to release large numbers of hatchery-raised fish for harvest.
Fish hatcheries have operated in Washington State for more than a century, beginning with a facility on the Kalama River in 1895. To-day, the WDFW operates 83 hatcheries that produce more than 75 percent of salmon caught in Puget Sound and 90 percent of the salmon and 88 percent of the steelhead caught in the Columbia River. Last spring, the Nisqually tribe release of 500,000 hatchery chinook salmon into the lower Puget Sound that were reared in a pond that had once been part of the McCallister Springs facility. The Springs was where the City of Olympia received its water from during the 1950s until 2014 when it converted to the use of wells. The Nisqually Tribe squired the property about two years ago and are the prime steward of the Nisqually River fishery resources. The tribe recently reported its Natural Resources Enhancement program had started rearing juvenile chinook salmon in the second pond at Medicine Springs (or McCallister Springs). Also, one million chinook from its Clear Creek Hatchery will be reared at Medicine Springs according to Bill St. Jean, Salmon Enhancement Program Manager who also said” We expect to feed those fish for 6-8 weeks before being released from the McCallister site. Before they were moved, the juvenile chinook were marked with a unique coded wire tag so we can evaluate the success of the McCallister transfer program”. Salmon released from this site will return to McCallister Creek as 3-year-old and in 2019.
David Troutt, Natural Resource director said “Everyone from sport fishermen on the bank to non-tribal commercial and tribal fishermen will benefit from hatchery fish at McCallister.” This fishery has not been available to fishermen for at least ten years when the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife closed the McCallister hatchery because of budget cuts and persistent disease problems.
Halibut fishing opens
The WDFW has announced halibut fishing will open May 21 in Marine Area 2 (Westport), 3 (La Push), 4 (Neah Bay) and 5-10 (Puget Sound). Recreational halibut fishery remains open in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) Thursdays through Sundays at all depths and Mondays through Wednesdays in the nearshore area.
Bob Brown lives in Roy and is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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