"The Running of the Bull(ettes)."

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by miyawaki, Apr 26, 2013.

  1. They're a bit smaller than I've been used to catching. But on top, all the same, on the popper. One of five caught by Leon Wroblewski and me.

    Leland. photo-1.JPG
    Beachmen, Porter, Eyejuggler and 8 others like this.
  2. impressive and awesome
  3. Leland -
    Not surprised that your bulls are smaller than average which is probably good news!

    The numbers of the largest potential individuals (those over 10 years old) are still reflecting the effects of the 2003 flood. However on the other side of the coin at least based on my "sampling" 2011 and 2012 classes of sub-adult were larger than any I have seen in the last 30 years and may have been several times the "norm" for that period. Assuming they survive reasonably well this year run should have excellent numbers of 16 to 22 inch fish (first and second time spawners).

    TD likes this.
  4. Beautiful fish! love the coloration on our Native Bull Trout.
  5. Yes... The 20"+ fish are there in pretty good numbers this year! Some nice cutthroat too...
  6. Just imagine if the really big boys weren't getting whacked as soon as they reached legal size....! We'd have a world-class fishery, eh?
    Bob Triggs likes this.
  7. SeaRunFanatic -
    If those fish were not getting "whacked" what size would those "really big boys" get?

    Since I do almost all my fishing here in North Puget Sound I obviously don't have much experience with "world-class fisheries. What would such a fishery look like?

    As the 2009 and 2010 year classes (those fish that first matured in 2012 and 2013) develop over the next few years (some potentially living another 8 or 10 years) I'm expecting some good things in the fishery and on the spawning grounds (akin to what we saw pre-2003).

  8. I'm no fisheries biologist (hmmmm.... Is there anyone here who is an experienced Puget Sound fisheries biologist...? Anyone...? Buehler...?), but it seems that fewer big fish "harvested" means more big fish swimming! I know I have seen a number of fish pushing 10 lbs in fish boxes at the ramp, and lots of 20"+ fish. I'm sure you have fished some of the big-river char fisheries in Alaska, as I have.... While you do get LOTS of the high teens (a couple of pounds) fish, there are always a good number of larger fish available. Here, the numbers seem to drop precipitously above 20".

    What are the population dynamics you've studied in WA (let's say Skagit fish)? Is this considered the normal population distribution, or would there be more 20"+ fish if harvest were eliminated?
  9. SeaRunfanatic -
    Without a doubt there would be more larger fish if there were no harvest. There would also be more larger fish without any fishing. Also eliminating harvest on all salmon species coast wide and requiring 6 or 7 million people leave Washington would also help the bull trout.

    Unfortunately I have not had the pleasure of fishing those Alaskan rivers, my experience with bull trout is pretty much confined the Puget Sound populations. I do enjoy fishing for those fish and do try to stay abreast of north Puget Sound bull trout info and their status.

    My point in my first post was that it is the norm to see lots of smaller fish when there are strong year classes entering the population; this is double so when they are entering a building population. As the Skagit bull trout population rebounded following the regulation changes in 1990 a "stair stepping" (populations showing increases every 4 or 5 years with populations plateaus in between). At the start of each of the "steps" the spawning population tended to be younger/smaller with each strong year class entered adulthood.

    While harvest would have to truncate the bull trout age distribution I'm impressed with the numbers of older/larger bulls in the Skagit population. You mentioned seeing a number of fish pushing 10#s in the fish boxes. Such fish would have to survive the fishery after reaching 20 inches for at least 4 or 5 years to reach that size. For the Skagit bulls it is pretty typical for roughly 1/2 of the spawning population to be first time spawners (indicates that the survival rate of those mature fish is about 50% per year). From the reading I have done an annual survive rate for such fish is actually a decent rate. It is my experience that as the bull trout get larger/older they become more difficult to catch in an active fishery - sort like brown trout do.

    The larger fish tend to be under repressed in angler catches. In the late 1990s and early 2000s snorkel surveys on staging spawning aggregations found that about 1% of the adults were over 30 inches. While those larger fish are occasionally caught typically it is at a rate lower than 1%.

  10. Really interesting read as always, Curt. I always learn something from your posts! Obviously, my view is skewed toward my CnR bias, but the hyperbole at the beginning of your last post seems misplaced... Is there really a good reason to maintain a harvest on these fish vs. CnR? I don't understand the need for the first paragraph at all... Those kinds of ramblings are usually the realm of folks who can't come up with a better argument, and I know that's not the case with you...

    Interesting if the catch rates on the really big fish don't reflect their frequency in the population. You don't get that big being stupid!
  11. SeaRunFanatic-
    I too practice CnR on bulls, sea-runs, steelhead, etc but that said I don't necessarily believe that there isn't room for some harvest for species that are doing well. After all I do enjoy eating sea-food and do so frequently; heck tonight is fresh wild spot prawns caught this morning on the Sound and tomorrow I'm smoke a batch of kokanee (some of which certainly were wild).

    I suppose that any discussion on harvest of Skagit bull trout needs to start with the status of the population. One can easily argue that bull trout population is the most robust of all the basin's salmonids. That is mostly of function of lucky circumstances. The key habitat for the species is that critical spawning and early juvenile habitat which tends to fix the population. By happenstance the majority of that habitat is essentially pristine; some 80% of that habitat is the national Park and Wilderness areas. Of all the anadromous species using the basin the key habitat for bull trout is the best. That coupled with a biological base management paradigm has yield some great results. Since the implementation of the current regulations in 1990 the bull trout populations (as measured by spawning adults) has increased more than 10 fold.

    What are some of the potential arguments in support of allowing harvest of Skagit bulls?

    1) Generally speaking the best candidates for harvest are those populations that are robust ; especially like the Skagit bulls that have demonstrated increasing/stable abundances with the harvest in place.

    2) As I stated above the bulls may be the most robust of the basin's populations. And as we all know bulls are a significant predator (an apex predator in the basin?). There are those that would argue that the bulls may be limiting steelhead and salmon populations. More to the point does it make ecosystem sense to allow harvest on bull's prey species (pink, chum, and other salmon species) without also exerting similar pressure on the predator?

    3) And perhaps the most interesting - At the time of the ESA listing of Puget Sound (and the rest of the state) bull trout the current Skagit bull trout harvest rules were in place and the managers were able to demonstrated that the population(s) were thriving. In that situation with the listing fishing for Skagit bull trout was allowed to continued. Otherwise the situation would have been much like the rest of the State where fishing for Skagit bull trout would not have been allowed (depending on the ethic of the individual angler of course).

    In regard to the questionable first paragraph in my earlier post. I can understand why it may not make much sense. Since we were discussing the potential of larger bulls I thought there was some relevance. I'm sure that you noticed that in those years where the bulls are allowed to access to large abundances of salmon carcasses, loose eggs and/or abundant fry in the spring we see some exceptional growth for the bulls with fish of a given age being larger than normal. Clearly having those kinds of forage abundances more consistently will result in larger bulls. The same thing can be seen in the salt. In places Skagit Bay and Port Susan the beaches that support the best bull trout fishing are also the same beaches that support (or have nearby) surf smelt spawning. In the north Sound region those surf smelt are a very important forage fish and typically is the dominate forage. On the beaches south of Everett surf smelt rank much further down the common prey list due in large part to lower smelt abundance (a result of the hardening of the beaches) which is just one measure of too many people.

    As always I enjoy the opportunity to discuss one of my favorite fishes.

    Nick Clayton and Roger Stephens like this.
  12. Hi Nick! So glad you have an intelligent contribution! Missed you too...
  13. Haha Relax buddy. Just playing around. No need for panties to get bunched.

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