Treaty Fishing on the Stillaguamish

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Jason Griffith, Sep 27, 2012.

  1. I was alerted to this site by a co-worker and I think it would be helpful if I posted some background on tribal fishing in the river. First off, I am the Harvest Biologist for the Stillaguamish Tribe (though not a tribal member), and have worked here on the river for the past 12 years (our office is on the mainstem). Along with my collegues at Tulalip and WDFW, I help craft the various salmon and Steelhead forecasts each year, develop a fishing plan that is consistent with management objectives, and track the treaty catch in season (making adjustments to the fishing pattern as necessary). Although there has been some good information posted in the threads to date on the topic of Treaty fishing on the Stillaguamish, there has also been a lot of ignorance spread as well. I am always available to talk about Treaty fishing, and I encourage folks to contact me directly with questions:

    While you may personally not like gill nets in the river, a dead fish is a dead fish. Treaty fishers have a choice in how they harvest their 50%, just as the non-treaty fishers (the Fish and Wildlife Commission) have the same choice. Contrary to the view of many, Treaty fishing is planned, monitored, and enforced just like non-treaty fishing. In addition, this is all done in concert with WDFW, the Tulalip Tribes, and complies with US v. WA and all subsequent court orders. This is known as "co-management", and though it got off to a rough start 25 years ago, it works well now (at least on the Stilly). Our fishing regulations are posted on the web, and our fishers are licensed and required to report their catch daily:

    While most of our fishers follow the regulations, most of the time, we know that they are not perfect (perhaps you have seen non-treaty fishers violating the regulations as well?). If you see something that doesn't match with the tribal regulations or our Law and Order Code, I encourage you to call the Stillaguamish Police Department. Their duty phone is manned mostly 24/7: 425.508.2765

    Lastly, the Stillaguamish Tribe cares about the salmon and steelhead populations on the river just as much as the rest of you on this site, if not more. They have undertaken decades of habitat, harvest, and hatchery projects aimed at rebuilding the wild runs on the Stillaguamish. Rather than go down the road of massive hatchery production, they have focused on rebuilding the wild runs, and have limited their harvest opportunities accordingly. Just like you, they have a vested interest in seeing the runs improve (50% of any increase, eh?), and take the long view. While not necessarily obvious, catching less (or no) fish doesn't always lead to larger run sizes. If the habitat is in poor shape, letting more fish spawn won't lead to increased long term production.

    The key to restoring salmon and steelhead runs on the Stillaguamish (and everywhere else for that matter) is habitat improvement. Move infrastructure, remove dikes and armoring, plant trees, let the river move and be a river again. We are buying up as much of the floodplain as we can and working on this, but it will take time.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this long winded post, and feel free to ask questions. Communication can go a long way in diffusing some of the conflict that plagues treaty/non-treaty interactions. We should be on the same side, not fighting each other.
  2. Mods, perhaps make this a sticky? I think this is excellent and could prevent/diffuse a lot of the silliness that has been floating around the last few days.
    jeff27 and Derek Young like this.
  3. Awesome to hear from someone who is "actually" doing something to improve the fishery on that river. Thank you for your post and your efforts man. Most of the people bitching and moaning about treaty fishing have done absolutly nothing in their lives to contribute to habitat improvement in any way. It's the same type of person who will complain about trash on a river bank as they walk past it when all they have to do is bend their fat asses over and pick it up to solve the problem.

    It may go a long way if the treaty fishermen tried coordinating volunteer opportunities with non-treaty sport fishermen to help restore this habitat and PR the hell out of it. The fishing sucks there anyway, might as well drop the fly rod for an afternoon an pick up a shovel. The members of this site are usually pretty good at getting high turnout work parties going so long as there is decent single malt and BBQ.
    aplTyler likes this.
  4. I agree!

    Regrettably, I feel a few of the people posting on the other threads would still post a ridiculous rant despite this post being available. The petty bullshit that continues to pop up is getting really old. I really wish the mods would just ban the idiots and close the other two/three threads (full of vitriol) on the topic and keep this truly informative post instead.
  5. Excellent post, Jason! Thanks for shedding some light on the issue and having the fortitude to request inquiries and discussion.
  6. Thanks for the positive comments everyone, I'm glad folks found my post informative.

    I should add that the Stillaguamish Tribe had a period (~2003-2010) where very little treaty fishing occurred. Now, younger tribal members are starting to learn the river and are accepting the baton from the older generation. It is good to see (from my perspective) the tribal fishing culture kept alive, but it means that folks should get used to nets in the river again.

    Treaty Coho will be open 5 days a week on the Stilly, likely until 10/27. Catch rates haven't been high enough to make me worried that we will be going over our allocation (more due to lack of effort than lack of fish, it looks like a big run!). That may change if we get some rain.

    Chum are a different story, as a very small run is forecast this year. There will be no commercial treaty fishing for Chum this year on the Stillaguamish, although we will have a couple of guys going out under a C&S regulation (ceremonial and subsistence) with a cap of 300 Chum. When that number is hit we will shut down. Fishing for chum will begin 10/28, up to 3 days a week until 12/8 or the cap is reached.
    Bradley Miller, TomB and Skeena88 like this.
  7. Thanks for the info and your time Jason.
  8. Ditto Jason. Please drop in from time to time. Clearly many of us here don't understand the other viewpoint. Like the cooperative workforce idea. We should be pulling together in the same direction.
  9. Jason, thank you so much for posting! And, a big thank you to you and the tribe for all the work done to help rebuild the wild runs!
  10. Thanks for posting Jason. I think if there were more of this communication, the ignorance (and perhaps tempers) would decrease.
  11. Thanks Jason.

    I hope the fishing gets better for all of us.
  12. I agree, better communication of the planned tribal fisheries ( quotas, seasons, etc....) helps to put things in perspective and dispell a lot of the beliefs about tribal fisheries that are probably not true. Thank you for your time and efforts.
  13. Jason,

    Another thanks for your post. Some of us here have worked with treaty tribes over the years and make a reasonable attempt to explain treaty rights and treaty fishing to our fellow anglers, but it helps to hear it "straight from the horse's mouth," so to speak. Welcome aboard, and I hope this isn't the only occasion you post here. Many WFF members fish on the Stilly, and I used to in the 70s and 80s. It's always appreciated to have inside information.

  15. Thanx for the post but the fact is that you work for them and are unlikely to be unbiased in all aspects-it is human nature to be a bit biased towards the people paying you money-just an observation
    Be Jofus G likes this.
  16. Really?
    jeff27, ten80 and Gary Knowels like this.
  17. Where do you fish now?;)
  18. Ok the name calling was probably the wrong thing to do. Jason you sound like your a good guy and I respect what you are doing in regards to conservation. My disagreement has to do with special right that the tribes have when it comes to hunting and fishing. According the the stilly tribes website a tribe member can harvest 3 deer when the rest of us can harvest one, the tribes get 50% of the harvestable fish, and tribe can use gill nets when fishing. This is a fundamental disagreement with probably 80% of the people on this site. I am sorry but NO ONE should have special rights when it comes to these natural resources. I believe that gill netting is wrong period. I do not understand how it can be considered fair and right for the tribes to use gill nets and harvest 50% of the fish. I am sorry that bad thing happened in the past to the natives, but any group of people short of the royals, have had bad things happen to their ancestors. Now that is 2012 people of the United States should all have equal right when it comes to hunting and fishing. You can not honestly tell me that throwing out a gill net and catching that many fish does not hurt the fish population. I am sorry I do not agree with treaty fishing. It is not a matter of race to me. If you were white, black, asian, native, purple, green, blue, or red I would still have a problem with gill netting and treaty fishing.
    Steve Mara likes this.
  19. How many fish do you think are caught by nets? Compare the total caught in Stilly nets next to the number of coho caught and killed at the Everett coho derby last weekend. Report back with your findings.
  20. evan you and I both know there is a huge difference between fish in the sound and in the stilly. The fish in the sound feed ALL the rivers and not just the stilly. Dont give me the smart ass response of " report back with your finding" that is just kinda dumb... dont you think?
    Steve Mara likes this.

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