Oregon South Coast Fishermen.

Members Fishing the Wild Rivers Coast since 1975.

 

Chetco River Fall Chinook Project

 

Project Type:  Isolated Harvest Program

 

Project Lead:  Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

 

Cooperators:  Oregon South Coast Fishermen; Friends of Cal-Ore Fish; Slam’n        

                         Salmon Derby.

 

Objectives:  Increase recreational and commercial fishing opportunity; increase

          wild spawner escapement; reduce hatchery stray rate on spawning    

          grounds; improve broodstock removal efficiency.

 

Timeline:

 

1969 – first FC (Fall Chinook) releases

Numbers varied from very small numbers early in the program to nearly 600,000 in the early 1980’s.  Those large numbers were scaled back at the request of local sport fishermen because of concerns for stock genetic integrity.[1]

1991 – Klamath Management Zone Ocean Exploitation Rate dropped significantly

            (reducing the number of Klamath fish that may be taken in the ocean)

1991-92 – Pre-smolt releases ended at Jack Creek

1991-92 – Smolt releases limited to lower river (Social Security Bar)

1993-94 – Last year for unfed fry releases in Hamilton Cr. (Jack Cr. trib.)

1995 – Releases scaled back to <250,000 combined smolt and unfed fry.

1998 – Releases stabilized at ~ 150,000 smolts and 1,000 unfed fry (Eggs to Fry     

classroom program)

1999 – Percentage of hatchery strays on spawning ground counts stabilizes below 30%. 

(Native Fish Conservation Plan interim criteria cap hatchery stray rate at 10 %.)

 

2002 – Nov. - Native Fish Conservation Policy (NFCP) adopted.

 

2003 – Sept. – Interim management criteria added to NFCP.

 

2006 – Jan. – Chetco River Hatchery Genetics Management Plan completed and

implemented

2006 – brood year hatchery smolts 100% fin clipped (Left Ventral)

2006 – approx. 5,000 hatchery smolts acclimated in Joe Hall Creek

 

2007 – brood year hatchery smolts 100% fin clipped (Adipose)

2007 – approx. 5,000 hatchery smolts acclimated in Joe Hall Creek

 

2008 – Request by OSCF for Commission regulation to change in-river harvest of Fall

Chinook to 2/day, no more than one non-adipose fin clipped, and no more than 4 non-adipose fin clipped fish/season to be effective in 2009 fishing season.

2008 – Secure and implement acclimation site at Ferry Creek Reservoir.  Acclimate ~40,000 hatchery smolts in groups of 20,000 each. (Part of the 150,000 smolt release to the Chetco)

2008 – Acclimate 5,000 hatchery smolts in Joe Hall Creek.

2008 – brood year hatchery smolts 100% fin clipped (Adipose)

 

2009 – Request by OSCF for Commission regulation to change Chetco River Ocean Terminal Fishery limits to 2/day, no more than one non-adipose fin clipped, and no more than 4 non-adipose fin clipped/season.

2009 – Acclimate 45,000 smolts – 40,000 Ferry Creek Res., 5,000 Joe Hall Creek[2]

2009 – Creel census of ocean terminal and in-river fishery to determine harvest ratios and numbers of hatchery and wild FC.

2009 – brood year hatchery smolts 100% fin clipped (Adipose)

 

2010 – Continue acclimation program.

2010 – Continue creel census program.

2010 – Reduce adult broodstock numbers to max. of 200 wild fish.

2010 – brood year hatchery smolts 100% fin clipped (Adipose)

2010 – First year analysis of marked fish contributions to fishery and of hatchery stray rates on spawning grounds.

 

2011 – Continue acclimation program.

2011 – continue creel census program.

2011 – remove 200 adult broodstock.

2011 – brood year hatchery smolts 100% fin clipped (Adipose).

2011 – Second year analysis of program.

 

2012 – Continue acclimation program.

2012 – Continue creel census program.

2012 – remove 200 adult for broodstock.

2012 – brood year hatchery smolts 100% fin clipped (Adipose).

2012 – Third year analysis of program.

 

2013 – Continue acclimation program.

2013 – Continue creel census program.

2013 – remove 200 adult broodstock.

2013 – brood year hatchery smolts 100% fin clipped. (Adipose).

2013 – Fourth year analysis of program.

 

2014 – Continue acclimation program.

2014 – Continue creel census program.

2014 – remove 200 adult broodstock.

2014 – brood year hatchery smolts 100% fin clipped. (Adipose)

2014 – Final analysis of program.  Recommend - continuation, modification, increase/decrease of hatchery smolt releases.

 

 

Program Detail

 

Program Goals:  To enhance recreational and commercial fishing opportunities without significantly impacting wild spawner escapement or ESA listed Coho.  Key elements for goal attainment include: acclimating hatchery reared fish to lower river locations to provide recreational opportunity and reduce upstream straying; complete marking of hatchery reared smolts to provide for targeted harvest of hatchery fish, identify spawning ground hatchery strays, improve broodstock collection efficiency and determine the contribution of hatchery reared smolts to the various fisheries; collection of creel census information to determine ratios of hatchery and wild fish retained by fishermen, catch location of hatchery and wild fish, the effectiveness of a mark select fishery in the Chetco system and to provide ocean salmon fishing opportunity during years of reduced ocean fishing opportunity.

 

Background:  Hatchery supplementation efforts for the Chetco River Fall Chinook fishery began in 1968.  Early releases were very modest and expanded significantly, primarily because of pressure from commercial fishermen, to releases of nearly 600,000 smolts and fry in the early 1980’s.  Hatchery broodstock collections from the Chetco were comprised of high percentage of hatchery reared fish, often exceeding 75% adults of hatchery origin.  Members of the Oregon South Coast Fishermen (OSCF), who had been assisting the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (nee Oregon Dept. of Fisheries) (ODFW), began to question the impact to the genetics of Chetco Fall Chinook stock.  The releases were reduced significantly and eventually stabilized at approximately 150,000 smolts and 1,000 unfed fry by 1998.

 

Estimated hatchery fall Chinook return to the Chetco River and smolts released.

Stock Assessment of Anadromous Salmonids (1990-2004 brood years).

 

Brood Year

Smolt Release

# Ad+CWT

Estimated Hatchery Return

1990

474,067

78,429

n/a

1991

393,953

76,396

n/a

1992

389,509

46,217

n/a

1993

357,829

24,669

n/a

1994

330,254

25,933

n/a

1995

165,717

24,971

a5,155

1996

226,309

24,109

a5,113

1997

223,621

25,050

n/a

1998

158,208

26,994

n/a

1999

164,741

24,594

n/a

2000

158,150

24,916

n/a

2001

156,088

25,587

n/a

2002

153,681

27,792

n/a

2003

156,835

28,292

n/a

2004

156,338

27,216

n/a

aChetco Fall Chinook Studies, ODFW, 1995 and 1996. Estimate derived from proportion of hatchery fish for each year, multiplied by overall abundance estimate.

 

 

 

 

Hatchery stray rates declined to around 26% by 1999.

 

Proportion of wild and hatchery-origin fish from recovered fall Chinook carcasses

on the spawning grounds (1995-2004).

 

Run Year

Wild %

Hatchery%

Unknown%

1995a

69%

31%

0%

1996a

42%

58%

0%

1997

40%

55%

5%

1998

57%

37%

10%

1999

72%

24%

4%

2000

71%

27%

2%

2001

73%

25%

2%

2002

73%

26%

1%

2003

86%

12%

2%

2004

70%

27%

3%

aChetco Fall Chinook Studies, ODFW, 1995 and 1996

 

The Native Fish Conservation Policy (NFCP) was adopted by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in Nov. of 2002.   The native fish policy established three goals:

1.      Prevent the serious depletion of native fish.

2.      Maintain and restore naturally produced fish in order to provide substantial ecological, economic and cultural benefits to the citizens of Oregon.

3.      Foster and sustain opportunities for fisheries consistent with the conservation of naturally produce fish and responsible use of hatcheries.[3]

 

Those goals were to be implemented through Conservation Plans for each Species Management Unit (SMU).  SMU is described as “a collection of populations from a common geographic region that shares similar genetic and ecological characteristics”.  The only Conservation Plan developed to date is for Rogue Spring Chinook and it is unlikely that a plan for the Chetco Fall Chinook will be produced in the near future.

 

Because the development of Conservation Plans for each SMU would be time consuming and start with the most critical first, the Commission adopted “Interim Criteria” in Sept. of 2003.  These interim criteria are to be used as guidelines until the completion of SMU Plans.  Among those interim criteria is the provision that hatchery fish stray rates on spawning grounds not exceed 10%.

 

The Fish Hatchery Management Policy (FHMP) was adopted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission in May of 2003.  This policy was intended to compliment and support the NFCP and it included Oregon Fish and Wildlife Hatcheries, STEP propagation facilities and programs, and private hatcheries.  Implementation of the FHMP would come through the development of Conservation Plans and Hatchery and Genetic Management Plans (HGMP) for each SMU.  The Chetco River Fall Chinook Program HGMP was finalized in Jan. of 2006.  Among the key goals of the Chetco HGMP is that designed to reduce or eliminate impacts to Endangered Species Act listed Southern Oregon/Northern California Coho.

 

Discussion:  The Oregon South Coast Fishermen (OSCF) have been involved with fisheries programs on the Chetco River for over 30 years.  That effort has included broodstock collection;  acclimation, rearing and production of Fall Chinook; population monitoring; habitat restoration; education programs for both youngsters and adults; securing public access agreements; monitoring of and input to the various regulatory processes affecting the Chetco river; and participating in the STEP program since its inception in 1983.  Throughout that involvement OSCF has built and maintained a working relationship with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the group has had significant influence regarding Fish and Wildlife programs conducted on the Chetco River and other waters in southern Oregon.  The goal of OSCF has always been to maintain or enhance recreational fishing opportunity for the benefit of fishermen and our community.

 

            The development of the Chetco River Fall Chinook Plan has progressed from the idea of providing more fishing opportunity for Fall Chinook through the achievement of several essential elements. 

¨      First, the commitment of ODFW and OSCF to work within the various Plan guidelines to achieve the long term goal of accurate evaluation of the existing program.

¨      Second, the help, guidance and commitment of John Weber, STEP biologist and Todd Confer, District Biologist to perform the necessary administrative tasks and acquire the necessary permits to allow the project to go forward.

¨      Third, funding of a total hatchery smolt marking effort by Friends of Cal-Ore Fish, Slam’n Salmon and the commitment of funds by OSCF to insure that the effort was funded.

¨      Fourth, the work done by OSCF and ODFW to develop acclimation sites in the lower river.

¨      Fifth, the commitment of the STEP volunteers to provide manpower, money, innovation and ideas to help complete each phase of the total project. 

 

At the halfway point, much more work needs to be done, more funds will have to be obtained to fully complete the program and plan modifications may be required to fit changing conditions and planning/regulatory mandates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prepared by OSCF, Jan. 2008



[1] Personal communication, Jim Welter

[2] Assumes suitability of both sites.  Other lower river sites or tributaries may be alternatives.

[3] Native Fish Conservation Plan