The mysterious decline of Puget Sound herring

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by CacheCreek, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. CacheCreek always learning

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    Clyde Hill, WA
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  2. Bob Triggs Your Preferred Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide

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    Olympic Peninsula
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    The USGS Westen Fisheries laboratory at Marrowstone Point has been working on this for years. Very troubling indeed. As recently as 2007 WDFW Forage Fish experts were stating that "the Herring in Puget Sound were doing fine". What the hell does it take to make changes around here? What do we have to lose?
  3. Preston Active Member

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    One of the major causes of the decline of Puget Sound herring populations is the alteration of beach environments. The armoring and bulkheading of beaches by property-proud owners of beach real estate has probably done more damage to herring populations than any other single factor. These processes alter the normal flow of sands and sediments along the beaches and are particularly damaging or destructive to stands of eelgrass which are of paramount importance to spawning herring. I can't find the figures right now but the existing mileage of unaltered Puget Sound beaches is surprisingly small and diminishing.
  4. David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

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    Walla Walla, WA
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    What Preston said. Same general mechanisms have all but eliminated cod spawning beaches is PS. So I am told.
  5. Milt Roe Member

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    Taco Ma
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    Loss of spawning habitat or nearshore habitat would not cause the ageclass structure to compress into younger age fish as it apparently has. Increased predation or excessive harvest would have that result though. Sounds like the cause is uncertain.
  6. kelvin Active Member

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    Seattle,WA
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    The cod population was destroyed in one year when the state allowed commercial fishing of the run that use to spawn here
  7. David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

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    Walla Walla, WA
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    Oh, unless your 80 years old, the Cod were mostly gone before you were fishing. I know I sometimes sound like a broken record about my Grandpappy, but he was a Fisheries Bio many moons ago (he is dead now...would be 90 something). He talked a lot about a lot of things, but I distinctly recall a conversation about the loss of spawning beaches for Cod. At the time, he said Cod were pretty confined to a few suitable spawning areas. When they were disrupted, the populations crashed. This was in the 80's and I definitely got the sense he was talking about "a long time ago" but he was not specific. He mentioned Cod used to spawn near golden gardens.
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  8. Derek Day Rockyday

    Posts: 567
    Olympia
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    Aprox 25% of PS's 2500 shoreline miles have been armored.

    http://www.psp.wa.gov/vitalsigns/shoreline_armoring.php
  9. kelvin Active Member

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    Seattle,WA
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    OH?
    No I am not in my 80s but my fathers is.
    When I was a teenager in the 70s we use to fish for Black Mouth and Cod off Shilshole marina (Golden Gardens) and limit on both salmon and True Cod in the 5-10lb range on a regular basis
    I believe the commerical boats fished both there and off Agate Pass where they would spawn one year when it was opened to fishing commercaily. The year cod was opend for comercial fishing was last year I ever caught a cod in Puget Sound or ever heard of one being caught.
    I am sure the loss of spawning area contributed to all of this
    however I think it is more likely the commerical fishing that year was the last nail in the coffin as they say.
    Sadly I recall a time we use to catch Steelhead and Large Bull trout out there.
    I hooked my first steelhead in the salt off Shilshole at age 13.
    I still fish that area now from the beach with a fly rod,
    not because fishing is great but because it is 5 minutes from my house.
    Waters that once looked like it was pouring raining with herring on the surface have had little if any herring the last several years.
    Nor have there been any Grebs that would alert us to the presence of fish below .

    Perhaps grandpappy recalled a time when the cod were as thick as the herring I recall.

    Perhaps our kids will recall a time when there where these people called fishermen
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  10. David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

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    Walla Walla, WA
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    And don't get me wrong, I'm not trash talking or have any first hand knowledge :)

    And while I wasn't actually trying to argue, I suspect the PS fisheries were less healthy my a good margin by the 80's and that what you describe may have been the straw that broke the camels back. I am afraid your last statement may come true. The old man told me that once upon a time he thought he would live to see the Columbia salmon disappear (I think it was more commentary on peoples priorities than on the looming extinction of the CR salmon).
  11. kelvin Active Member

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    Seattle,WA
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    No worries
    other than the alarming decline of herring that is
  12. Smalma Active Member

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    Marysville, Washington
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    If anyone is interested in more detailed information on Puget Sound herring and the status and trends of the various spawning stocks the following may be of interest.

    http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/00928/

    The first link in this thread is focused on the Cherry Point stock and its troubling collapse. It looks like on the average the aggregate of the rest of the Puget Stocks has been more or less stable during the period of the Cherry Point stock collapse following the start of the sac-roe fishery in early 1970s.


    Lots of info with a number of things to mull over. A couple things that jumped out to me was the fact that harbor seal populations are increasing at a rate of 7.7%/year and the only herring fishery in recent years has been one targeting younger fish to provide bait for various fisheries; the average landings for the decade ending in 2007 was 387 tons/year.

    Derek's point about the armoring of the shoreline of Puget Sound (especially the eroding bluffs) is very important for the bait fish species (smelt and sand lance) that spawn at the upper tidal margins. The fine material input from eroding bank is key to providing the spawning substrate (a mix of fines and small pebbles) that does not dry out while the area is exposed during lower tides. With out those fines the spawning gravel dries out and the eggs die.

    Curt
  13. Upton O Blind hog fisherman

    Posts: 2,171
    out of state now
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    Very interesting information, what comes to mind for me is the eroding of hill sides along the Sound and how that might play in replenishing sand and fines to the system.
  14. David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

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    Walla Walla, WA
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    So the Coupville landslide is not a problem, it is a fisheries enhancement project :)

    Seriously though, I wonder if the slide front will draw in fish in the coming days.
  15. Preston Active Member

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    Another point to keep in mind; the armoring of beaches has not only an effect on the immediate area armored, but on areas that may extend downcurrent for miles. Puget Sound beaches are dynamic systems and "drift cells" which transport sediments can be disrupted by many (most) forms of construction along the beach. Ron Hirschi wrote an excellent article on the subject which can be found as a chapter in Doug Rose's Fly-Fishing Guide to the Olympic Peninsula (Chapter 27, Rivers of Sand).
  16. skyrise Active Member

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    everett, wa.
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    we used to fish off of Edmonds/Meadowdale back in my high school and after days for Salmon.
    remember how we would complain about landing all those unwanted bottom fish, cod, flounder, bass and the pesky herring that would peck at our bait.
    and how you could at times see schools of herring at certain times and places.
    sad how we are writing now about how bad things are for Steelhead/Salmon/herring etc.
    do remember the talk about the commercial fishing on herring starting in the 80's.
    seems the state's only interest most of the time is making money for commercial fishers.
    do Herring spawn that close to shore ? for some reason i thought they spawned out a little deeper.
  17. Stonefish Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater

    Posts: 3,861
    Pipers Creek
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    Having fished the sound since the 60's, there are definately a lot less herring today then back then.
    I can recall going salmon fishing many times with my dad where we never bought herring. We'd launch the boat, find a herring ball and take one swipe into it with the salmon net. We'd have plenty of bait for the day.

    David,
    As far as the true cod go, we used to catch a lot of them off Pt Fosdick up until the mid 80's, then they disappeared.
    We'd only keep them during the winter, but caught plenty of them while trolling for salmon as well all year round. I can remember lots of boats mooching for for them before they disappeared.
  18. Jonathan Tachell Active Member

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    Gig Harbor, Washington
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    The commercial trawlers wiped the true cod out in the sound. It is incredibly dumb that the wdfw let them have a commercial fishery of that type in such a small body of water. However, the true cod are making a very slow comeback. For the past twenty years no one in southern Puget sound ever caught a true cod but in the last three or four years more and more are being caught incidentally by anglers. I have caught about eight in the past three years while jigging for herring in May. The main limiting factor for almost all species in Puget sound is loss of habitat whether it be eel grass, kelp beds or sunken boats that were leveled by trawlers or have disintegrated over time. If you want to see an explosion of bottomfish in Puget sound all it would take is some artificial reefs but for some reason the state is dead set against that even though it works and is utilized by most coastal states.
  19. Stonefish Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater

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    Pipers Creek
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    I'd think breaking up the old 520 bridge would yield some good artifical reef material.
  20. DimeBrite MA-9 Beach Stalker

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    Marine Area 9
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    Wow, some great stories in this thread. I wish I could have experienced how abundant Puget Sound was many years ago. In 2011 and 2012 there were "good" numbers of juvenile herring near the beaches in MA-9, but nothing compared to historical numbers I'm sure. The coastal armor for the railroad tracks along the eastside of Puget Sound has really screwed up the beaches (very little sand formation in most places). I think this is why Kitsap fishes so much better for salmon than my more local metro area beaches. Let's not forget about sandlance numbers too, they are very important for resident salmon and cutts. I'm a fan of artificial reefs and restricted shore development (too late for the latter out here). Regarding Cherry Point, I wonder how much impact the refineries have on local baitfish?
    Richard Torres likes this.