The Steamboater Whistle


              Winter 2015

               Volume 52, Issue 8


North Umpqua River, Oregon


Announcements and Club Events


Membership Dues Reminder


I would like to take a moment and thank everyone who responded to our first and second dues notices. If by chance, you are one of the few that haven't, please sit down and take care of this.


Remember, your support helps us be proactive in issues that affect this river and its resources.


If there is a question in your mind whether you did or didn't, contact us, and we will get back to you.




Dick Bauer


Please welcome the following new members:


Jim Rowley, Minden, NV


Henry Carlile, Portland, OR


Genevieve Long, Portland, OR


Sam Craig, Browns Valley, CA


Glide Wildflower Show: 50th Anniversary



Come enjoy and support the northwest's largest display of native flora, sponsored in part by the Steamboaters


April 25 and 26th


For more information about specific presentations, go to


 Glide Community Center

20062 North Umpqua Highway

Glide, Oregon



Save Earth Day 2015 for the Oceans


This year, celebrate Earth Day - April 22 - by attending "Climate Change and the

Health of Our Ocean," an educational forum sponsored by the Douglas County

Global Warming Coalition. The event will feature a panel of three prominent

experts in this field. They will discuss how Oregon's marine environment and

coastal communities are being affected by increasing ocean acidification and

how we can best address the impacts. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the

Ford Room of the Douglas County Library, located at 1409 NE Diamond Lake

Blvd. in Roseburg. 


In This Issue

President's Message by Chuck Schnautz


Thirty-five folks attended the Winter Social/Banquet on April 4th at the Lang Center of Umpqua Community College.  These events are always a good time to catch up with fellow Steamboaters, enjoy the wine and food of the UCC culinary operation, and hear a presentation on some aspect of fly fishing.  This year's speaker was Mia Sheppard, co-owner of Little Creek Outfitters in Maupin, who spoke about the importance for us to mentor the next generation of conservationists and fly fishers. She shared (We enjoyed) a story of adventure, mentoring opportunities, fishing and family.  (We ended) The evening concluded with a glass of wine and the wrap up of our silent auction.  The proceeds of the auction will be added to the recently established "Abbey Rosso Conservation Fund".  There was a nice mix of two dozen items, and all but a couple found their way to new homes.


In January we replaced our regular board meeting with a six-hour retreat at Dale Greenley's home in Myrtle Creek.  We discussed about a dozen different subjects, from membership to the impacts of the proposed LNG pipeline that will cross Douglas County and its streams. By the end of the day we had identified a number of items to keep close watch on for the coming year.  These include the continued fish count at the Winchester Dam, implementation of monitoring requirement of the Coastal Multispecies Management Plan, progress of the LNG project, updates to the management plans of both the Forest Service and the BLM in the coming year, and federal legislation affecting activity on the O & C Lands of Douglas County. We have a full slate of issues to occupy our time for the coming year, and are fortunate to have members who understand these issues and how they impact wild fish.


As a board we are always open to your input, and suggestions of items we might address. We need all of our eyes focused on the protection of these wild places and species.




 McKenzie River Lawsuit Summary by Peter Tronquet

Federal Judge Thomas Coffin said last month that he would not allow National Marine Fisheries Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife "to continue to kick the can down the road," a reference to the agencies' glacial pace of recovering wild McKenzie River spring Chinook, first listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1999. 


But Coffin declined to order the one step that would have the most immediate impact on recovery:  reduce hatchery releases.   The McKenzie Flyfishers and the Steamboaters, who sued the feds and the state because of the risks to wild salmon inherent in the McKenzie hatchery program, asked Judge Coffin to reduce smolt releases to 360,000 this year.  ODFW argued for 605,000 and Coffin agreed.    He gave the federal and state agencies the luxury of determining their own timeline in achieving the ESA-friendly target of 10% or less hatchery adults on the spawning grounds (called PHOS - percent hatchery origin spawners, a proxy for the harm that hatchery spawners have on wild fish).   PHOS on the McKenzie River has averaged 34% for the last 12 years.


Actually, Judge Coffin said that the agencies must report back to him in 90 days with an action plan.  Since some form of "action plan" has been around since NMFS 2008 Biological Opinion, you can see why we are skeptical that habitual can kicking will be replaced by meaningful action.  In effect, the Judge said that he alone would determine if the agency action plan meets the recovery requirements of the ESA.


To follow Judge Coffin's thinking, it is important to understand a few ESA basics, terms you always hear in lawsuits like this one.  We contended that the operation of the McKenzie hatchery caused "take" of a threatened species, and ODFW violated Section 9 (the "take" provision) of the ESA by releasing hatchery smolts that would result in a hatchery spawning population >10% PHOS.  Take means "harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect, or to attempt to engage in such conduct."


ODFW argued that the 2008 Biological Opinion and the Incidental Take Statement issued by NMFS immunized its McKenzie hatchery operation from Section 9 "take" liability.  An Incidental Take Statement (ITS) acts as a safe harbor, exempting a specified amount of incidental taking from the Section 9 take provision.  Coffin ruled in favor of ODFW, opining that ODFW did not violate Section 9 because they were covered under the ITS.


In the end, we neither won nor lost.  Or to say it another way, wild McKenzie River salmon recovery will still move slowly, but with more accountability.   All parties agreed that reducing PHOS to 10 percent or less is the necessary target for recovery.   Coffin appeared adamant that ODFW must identify a definitive timeline for reaching the 10% goal.  And give credit to ODFW, the agency has reduced its McKenzie River hatchery releases from 1.2 million smolts in 2011 to 605,000 in 2015.  ODFW has also made some physical changes to the hatchery that may improve homing fidelity, and anticipates lower PHOS rates by 2018 because they will capture a higher percentage of adult fish at the hatchery.


An interesting sidebar:  The Corps of Engineers owns the McKenzie hatchery and pays ODFW to run the hatchery.  Although originally a defendant, the Corps agreed with the plaintiffs at the 360,000-smolt number and subsequently was dismissed from the lawsuit.  There appear to be some interesting alliances here, with the Corps and the plaintiffs on one side and NMFS and ODFW on the other.  You cannot legally operate a hatchery in Oregon without an NMFS approved Hatchery Genetic Management Plan, but with the Corps and NMFS at loggerheads, we wonder if the final HGMP will have sufficient backbone to protect and recover the remaining wild salmon.


Steamboaters will stay involved, always ready to track and comment on the progress toward real recovery of McKenzie River spring Chinook, the last remaining wild Chinook population in the Upper Willamette River Evolutionary Significant Unit.


Wild Salmon And Steelhead Management by Jeff Dose

Note: opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily match the position of the Steamboaters.

This article first appeared in the Umpqua Watersheds' Winter 2014-15 Newsletter.


Restoring abundant runs of wild Pacific salmon and anadromous trout, that is, fish spawned in natural habitat from wild parents, to the rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest and California bioregion has recently risen to the highest levels in the public's consciousness. There is attention from the regions' and nations' top elected officials, the large expenditure of public and private funds, and almost daily coverage in the media.  What was once primarily the subject of commerce and professional debate in the region's fishing ports and academic institutions has blossomed spectacularly into the social, political, and economic arenas of the entire region - and beyond.  This attention is certainly true here, in the Umpqua River basin, as well, where our fish runs support a multitude of recreational and commercial enterprises and where there is concern for some greatly diminished populations.


The Umpqua has one of the most diverse populations of wild salmon and searun trout in Oregon.  There exists six different races representing four species.  These races are further distributed in sub-basin specific populations (Mainstem, North, and South).  These are spring Chinook salmon (North and South), fall Chinook salmon (all three sub-basins), coho salmon (all three sub-basins), winter steelhead (all three sub-basins), summer steelhead (North), and searun cutthroat trout (North, others?).  In addition to the wild populations, for all but searun cutthroat there are artificially propagated populations from hatcheries.  The following narrative is a general discussion of salmon and searun trout, but most of it applies to most aspects of salmon and steelhead management in the Umpqua.


Natural History

Pacific salmon, broadly defined to include sea-run trout, are a truly remarkable and successful group of animals.  On an evolutionary time scale, at least for teleost (bony) fishes, they are considered fairly primitive.  The fossil record indicates that the first ancestors evolved about 45 million years ago, and that current species evolved two to six million years ago.  During this time period, they have endured numerous global-scale climate changes - upheavals that caused the extinction of an untold numbers of other species - yet they persisted, albeit not always in the same locales.


Through evolutionary processes such as natural selection, salmon have been able to persist, and even thrive, by developing some rather unique and impressive characteristics and abilities which enhance their genetic diversity, including:


1)    the ability to "navigate" and migrate enormous distances;

2)    a very fine-tuned "homing" ability that allows them to return to their natal streams, while at the same time having sufficient straying capability to colonize new or previously lost habitats;

3)    a life-history which results in the bulk of the population being at sea during the "catastrophic" natural disturbances (e.g., floods, wildfire, drought, etc.) which occur periodicallywithin their freshwater habitat;

4)    tetraploid chromosomes, common in plants but unusual in animals, which may provide resistance to adverse genetic effects from inbreeding when populations are low;

5)    the ability to dramatically change their kidney function so as to be able to move between fresh and salt water, which allows them to utilize the relatively rich marine environment for growth and the relatively safe freshwater environment for reproduction and initial rearing; and

6)    the ability to evolve quickly to different environments by adopting life-history strategies, such as migration timing or body size, to a wide variety of different, localized freshwater environments - ranging from intermittent streams in southern California to alpine lakes near the continental divide in Idaho to frequently frozen rivers above the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Canada.



Managing salmon resources involves preventing overharvest, protecting and restoring habitat, managing hydro and other dams, and augmentation of wild populations with hatchery production.  While counter-intuitive, large-scale hatchery production does not usually produce more fish and can seriously reduce fitness of wild populations.  Most current hatchery practices, such as supplementing or augmenting wild populations with hatchery-bred fish produced from artificial (rather than natural) mate selection, are antithetical to the goal.  Additionally, hatchery production requires a large investment of funds that might be better spent on habitat acquisition and restoration, alternative energy sources, law enforcement or better monitoring and evaluation.  It is not uncommon for the return of one hatchery salmon to cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.  The majority of which is paid by taxpayers and ratepayers, not from the sale of licenses and tags.


Among other effects, genetic changes are contributing to the problem of salmon declines.  Most recent research has shown significant reductions in salmon and steelhead production when hatchery fish are spawning with wild fish, even at fairly low levels (~10-15%) of hatchery fish.  In addition to genetic effects from interbreeding, impacts to wild salmon begin as soon as the hatchery fish are released into the rivers and streams.  These potentially include disease transmission, competition, direct predation, altered migratory behavior, and altered predator survival and behavior.


In addition to these direct effects, the release of millions of hatchery reared fish (and their subsequent return) makes it nearly impossible to assess accurately the status of many wild stocks.  This is further exacerbated during periods of high ocean productivity when hatchery fish survive (and spawn) at much higher rates than at other times.  The offspring from these pairings are unmarked and are essentially indistinguishable (without genetic analysis) from true wild stocks.  They are then usually counted, inappropriately, as wild.

Despite the large body of scientific information that portrays the damage done, there has been little real change in the current hatchery/harvest paradigm.  The effects on mixed-stock fisheries are evaluated as large, coast-wide aggregates while potentially devastating impacts on local population segments go unevaluated, and unreported.  Similarly, there has been very little change in land and water uses that affect salmon habitat. 


As to habitat "restoration," most of what has been done to date is the uncoordinated treatment of some of the more obvious symptoms, while totally ignoring the causes - like widespread clearcutting and road building in forest watersheds, unrestricted livestock grazing, diversions of large amounts of water from stream channels for irrigation and domestic use, urban and industrial development on and adjacent to floodplains, and the continued construction (or retention) of more dams.  Successful, widespread restoration of wild salmon stocks will require a significant paradigm shift from current approaches.   

Many researchers have concluded that for restoration programs to succeed, there must be a shift away from simplistic technofixes - such as hatcheries for low fish numbers or log structures for poor habitat conditions - to ecologically-based restoration of watershed processes.



I'll conclude with a quote from the book Salmon Without Rivers, (Lichatowich, 1999) in which he concluded:


Today we are faced with a legacy of more than a century of salmon management based on a faulty set of assumptions.  Natural salmon habitats have been wrecked while we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on hatcheries, chasing the foolish dream of producing salmon without rivers.  Every independent scientific review of the current management system has called for a major overhaul, but bureaucratic salmon managers still cling to the status quo, defend their hatchery programs, and embrace without thinking the outmoded worldview from which hatcheries first emerged in 1872. (Page 219)

In Remembrance of William A. McCormick  by Pat McCormick



My father, William A. (Bill) McComrick passed away after a brief illness on February 19 at the age of 94. He was one of the early members of Steamboaters in the 60's when we spent summer vacations fishing the North Umpqua while staying at Steamboat Inn. We all have fond memories of the years we spent there and the companionship of fellow fishermen at the Inn's evening dinners, discussing the days adventures on the river and the good and bad luck that is the nature of fishing.  

Trout Eat More Mammals Than You Think, submitted by Frank Moore
University of Washington researchers recently published a study in Ecology of Freshwater Fish that concludes grayling and trout consume more mammals, namely shrews, than previously assumed. The findings address questions about the fishes' feeding habits, which have long fueled intrigue among anglers and scientists.  

About Us
PO Box 41266
Eugene, Oregon 97404

The mission of the Steamboaters is to preserve, promote, and restore the unique aesthetic values, the natural production of wild fish populations, and the habitat that sustains these fish on the North Umpqua River.
The Steamboaters is a charter member of the Federation of Fly Fishers.

Board of Directors


               Chuck Schnautz, President               

541 496 0328


Jeff Dose, Vice President

541 673 2665


Josh Voynick, Secretary

541 496 0077 


Lee Lashway, Treasurer

541 953 4796


Peter Tronquet

      541 774 9577


Tim Goforth

541 496 0780


Averi Willow

541 498 2248



 Associate Directors


                                                                       Dick Bauer

541 688 4980


Joe Ferguson

541 747 4917


Dale Greenly

541 863 6213


Pat McRae

541 496 4222


Charles Spooner

541 496 0493


Lenny Volland

541 673 2246



PO Box 41266
Eugene, Oregon 97404



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