Sea Run Cutthroat Book Published (at last)


Well, they say that all things must find their own time, but finally, finally I managed to put the polish (Ok it is a Jay polish that must assuredly still include some novel spelling and punctuation) on my sea run cutthroat  book.

The book title is Sea Run Cutthroat: Flies and Flyfishing. This book (100 pages) includes a short chapter on Puget Sound fishing by Blake Merwin of Gig Harbor Fly Shop and a foreword by Puget Sound Guide Leland Miyawaki. The emphasis of the discussion regarding anadromous cutthroat life history and fishing is, naturally from my perspective, the Oregon Coast, but I wanted to reach out and include some fly patterns and discussion of the Puget Sound fishery since it is to very different from the SRC fisheries we pursue here in Oregon.

This 8.5″ x 11″ book  contains half-page photographs of 60 great sea run cutthroat flies, along with each fly’s tying recipe and tying notes. I also offer my perspective on the Oregon distribution of SRC, their life history variation, catch and release fishing, best tackle, SRC boats, SRC flyfishing tactics,  SRC fly styles, and the history of Oregon’s fishery and SRC hatchery programs.

The Puget Sound chapter by Blake Merwin and the flies he so generously contributed to this book help broaden the reach of the discussion by providing a glimpse into the rich fishery for SRC that has deep roots in Puget Sound. Oregon’s fly fishery for SRC has its roots that extend back a century and I included a quote from that era illustrating that these fish were as finicky then as they can be now-a-days.

Leland Miyawaki’s foreword is a generous invitation to explore the book and dig in, saying:

“There’s a lot of meat in Jay’s book, particularly when he discusses fishing Oregon’s rivers and their estuaries. So unless you’re fishing our Washington estuaries, Jay’s book is a revelation and, in the end, a total godsend. And about those fly patterns, whoa! Like I say, there’s a lot of meat in this book.”

This book is available now on Amazon, and will shortly be available at Gig Harbor, Royal Treatment, and the Caddis Fly Shop.

I would be pleased to ship a signed copy to anyone who contacts me directly, and note that delivery of signed books will probably be delayed until the week after Christmas.

My thanks to many friends who have encouraged me to create this book and catalog some of the very best flies one can fish for SRC (there are some great Puget Sound coho flies in here too).

Thank you always for your support and patience.

Jay Nicholas, December 7th, 2016

Challenges during a fly photo shoot

Chinook Salmon Comet Flies by Jay Nicholas.
Chinook Salmon Comet Flies by Jay Nicholas.

Yep, I’m working on another book, this one with a working title of Authentic Chinook Flies, due for publication by August, I dearly hope.  Fact is, there are unexpected challenges one faces when shooting such photographs, as the photo series below will reveal.

First trial photo: Comet I retrieved from upper jaw of Chinook in Nestucca during 2005. background photo is of Clay Banks Hog line in 2003.
First trial photo: Comet I retrieved from upper jaw of Chinook in Nestucca during 2005. Note that leader fragment is still attached to fly, just as I found it.  Background photo is of Clay Banks Hog line in 2003.
Uh, oh.  Some creature is lurking in the background!
Uh, oh. Some creature is lurking in the background!
Boomer loves to mrs with my flies, but honestly, he likes Rob Russell's flies just a tad better than mine.
Boomer loves to mess with my flies, but honestly, he likes Rob Russell’s flies just a tad better than mine.

Oh well, such is the nature of the silliness we deal with in the Nicholas family, and we do love our cats so I took a break to serve morning cat snacks to Boomer and Rollo, his brother, then closed the den door to resume shooting photos for the new book.

I hope this image gives you a smile for the day, and offers a hint of anticipation for the next book too.  Meanwhile, I have a party to go to this weekend with my family and then I just may fish a little.

May your day be bright and this season bring many great grabs.

Jay Nicholas,  June 11, 2015

Fly Fishing Glossary review by Marty Sheppard

Fly Fishing Glossary: AKA Book of Revelation
Fly Fishing Glossary: AKA Book of Revelation

Here is a sample of the stuff that caused my unbiased friend, Marty Sheppard, to laugh out loud and blog about the Fly Fishing Glossary, also known as the Fly Fishing Book of Revelation.

If you click on the link in this sentence you will see what Marty posted on Metalheads about the book.  Thanks for your support Marty.

I quote from Book of Revelation.  Remember, you can order direct from Amazon or by contacting me here in the internet ha ha for a personalized copy – or contact your local independent fly shop and ask them to carry the dang book!

Improved Clinch Knot
The clinch knot is a great knot, period, end of story. Naturally, however, some attention-seeking angler decided to make waves and fancy-up on the original knot so they devised this so called improvement. I say nonsense. If you fish 15 pound Maxima Ultragreen leader with a size 12 Adams, you will never have a problem with the basic clinch knot breaking off on a twelve inch trout; therefore you have no need for the improved clinch.

See Frenzy knot.

Independent Fly Shop

In the good old days, independent, locally owned fly shops were sprinkled all across the country. Sadly, many have dried up, strangled by big box stores and the imaginary lure of lower prices. Some fly anglers practice the despicable behavior of spending hours, days, and weeks chatting with the employees in their local fly shop, soliciting advice regarding what sort of rods, reels, lines, and so on would be best for their intended fishing parameters. These slugs then make an Internet order from some monstrous soulless anonymous entity because they can save twenty-seven cents on a spool of thread. Then when they receive the wrong size fly line or their rod breaks in seven places and the reel is set up for upside down retrieve, they take the stuff into the local fly shop and ask for exchanges, free shipping for warranty repair, and a cup of coffee to boot. Truly despicable.

These are the same guys who spend half their day on the Internet chatting over how to save three cents on a 25-pack of hooks. Most of these fellows spend little time actually tying flies or fly fishing. For these types, the hunt for a few pennies savings is more thrilling than actually tying a fly or trying to catch a fish. Go figure. They have to resort to making up imaginary stories about tying flies or catching fish. Then these same guys bitch and moan when their local fly shop goes out of business because the owner’s profit margin dropped from thirteen cents per hour to less than seven cents an hour and his wife forced him to close the doors because the fly shop was clearly nothing but an excuse to throw cash down the toilet.

Then what? Ha, ha on these guys. No more local fishing reports from real people, no more in-town experienced advice on tackle selection, no one to steer you towards the best fly poo for your particular color of fly line. All they have is some distant voice on the phone or an imaginary chat persona on the Internet.

By the way, there’s nothing, repeat, nothing wrong with Internet sales, if they originate from an honest-to-goodness locally owned fly shop. There are indeed a few of these fly shops still alive, though their number is shrinking quickly. The long term benefits of supporting locally owned store-front fly shop is the relationships and community provided by a place where friends can hang out, drink coffee, and share stories. These are the equivalent of the old-time wood-floor hardware stores where you could buy nails by the pound and get three size-sixteen wing-nuts for five-cents a nut – most of those places are gone too.

So get yer ass down to your local fly shop and support their business, OK?

Incidentally, experience has conclusively proved that female fly fishers NEVER engage in this sort of behavior. Never. The moral standards of women are far too high to behave in such an unscrupulous manner. Thank you ladies.

Now for another term . . . ..

This term is typically employed in a complementary context to indicate positive, desirable, and tasty qualities. It can be confusing however, because a steak may be juicy and actually exude juice, a nine-hundred buck fly rod may also be referred to as a very juicy rod, whilst exuding no juice whatsoever. Flies may similarly be referred to as juicy (see Juicy Bug), Beef Jerky may be juicy, and a Saracione 4.25” fly reel is certainly juicy, even when sitting all polished up in a Man Room display case.

Rest assured that the term juicy is usually a good thing and explore the context to decide if any actual liquid matter is involved.

Rare exceptions to the overall positive connotation of this adjective exist, and one shall serve to make the point: juicy fart. This is indeed not good, especially when delivered within waders. Perhaps this is sufficient and the topic is now fully covered.


This is probably sufficient quotage for the time being.  Sales of Fly Fishing Book of Revelation have lagged behind my marketing hopes of selling one book a month, and I need to earn enough to buy another bag of cat food soon, so I’m pumping this in hopes someone out there will take pity or find the book’s crazy approach sufficiently attractive as have the 8 other readers who have given it a 5 star rating on Amazon.  I assure you that these are all upstanding citizens who are entirely unbiased in their acclaim for the glossary.

Have fun with this folks. This book contains of over 340 pages of serious, crazy, funny, true, fictional, and amazing information that you will never find in any other book about fly fishing, guaranteed.  Please do not let my therapist see this book…….

Best to you all,

Jay Nicholas, May 28, 2015.


Steelhead Gurgler/Skater with EP Critter Brush

This is another chapter in my latest infatuation with Gurgles, this here steelhead skater. Hold on.  I typed in Gurglers and auto correct gave me Gurgles! I used black foam and super glued the doubled front end because this allows me to stand that front surface almost straight up and wow that makes it push water like so very nicely. Pictures are worth the thousand words but here is the recipe followed by photos. Hook Gamakatsu B10 S size 2 Tail: Elk Mane from Hareline Dubbin + Mirage Lateral Scale Body: EP Wooly Critter Brush, Black/Red Foam: Black thin .002 foam from Hareline Dubbin Thread: Danvillie’s 210 D black or grey

Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush.
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush.
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush - all size twos.
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush – all size twos.
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush - oooops, I forgot the flash in the tail!
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush – oooops, I forgot the flash in the tail!
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush - bird's perspective  view.
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush – bird’s perspective view.

These flies wake across the river quite nicely, I fished them several evenings last week on the Nestucca and rose one late winter steelhead in a tailout at dusk.  Casting an ECHO DEC HOGAN II 6.5 spey rod rigged with Airflo Scandi Compact 450 gr line + Airflo Floating Polyleader and 6 ft straight #12 Hatch Professional Fluorocarbon tippet. Brush on Zap a Gap applied to the doubled over front “bill” of this fly seems to help it stand upright and improve the water pushing power of the fly. I’m looking forward to fishing this fly as the summer steelhead begin trickling into the river, and I bet a downscaled version will get the sea runs going too. Hope you find something fun here and the inspiration to tie your own. Jay Nicholas, May 2015.

Residency and Anadromy in O. mykiss, May 25, 2011

BTW, this here fish is a hatchery steelhead that was released into the South Santiam in April or May, and was still hanging out in the river in September, where it gulped a size 16 Renegade and was then released back into the river to compete with wild rainbow, cutthroat, and chinook juveniles.

Wow, what a complex question, that faced by a rainbow/steelhead trout which is now actually a member of  Oncorhynchus, not as it formerly was, of Salmo, and as such is a member of the Pacific Salmon family.

What was the question?  Oh yes.  I am a little O mykiss (rainbow) living in Hood River.  My mom and dad might have been anadromous (like they swam to the ocean and came back) or they might have both matured somewhere in Hood River, mated and produced me.  But now, gosh darn it, I have this strong impuse to head off downstream myself, swim out into the ocean and migrate way up between Alaska and Russia in the Alaskan Gyre (Google that if you will), hang out for a few years, and then come on home to the Hood.  (play on words?)

This blog ain’t gonna answer the question completely, as this would take more time and dilligence than I have at the moment.  But here is the deal.

O. mykiss is good at exploiting habitat and ecological opportunities.  Some fascinating research in Kamchatka indicates that rivers with very fertile feed production tend to produce more “residency” in mykiss, although a proportion of the rainbow do practice anadromy (as if they need practice) and head out to sea and back, thusly becoming steelhead.

Conversely, the anadromous life history was more common in rivers where we would consider food production to be on the stingy side.  This makes sense.  If there isn’t much to eat, then let’s go to sea, grow, make lots of big eggs, and then come home to spawn.  If on the other hand, there is a ton of food in the river, then why bother?

One cool aspect of this tendency to express fundamentally an anadromous or resident life history, with lots of interbreeding among both “types” of fish, is that it shows how O. mykiss can exploit significantly different ecological conditions by mostly staying in the river to mature or mostly going to sea to mature.

But I ramble, as per usual.  Go to southern CA, at the extreme southern edge of where steelhead persist these days.  Little streams.  Harsh warm climate.  Unpredictable stream flow patterns.  And on top of all that, a few impassable dams.  O. mykiss persists above these dams, sending some number of little fish downstream over the barrier each year, and amazingly, if there is water in the creek, there may be two,or three or six or heck, even a dozen or so steelhead come back to the creek in some years.

Many studies in Columbia River, if not all, have found that resident mykiss parents can produce anadromous offspring, anadromous parents can produce off spring that mature in the river, and parental pairings can include any possible combination of anadromous and non anadromous fish.

Jon McMillan has observed non-ocean going O. mykiss spawning with anadromous steelhead in Olympic Peninsula rivers.  If it goes on in those coastal WA populations, then why not here in Oregon?

In oregon, ask the coastal biologists if we have “resident” rainbow and they will almost universally say that we do not.  My guess is that there are indeed offspring of anadromous mykiss that stay in the river and spawn with non ocean going or ocean going mates, producing mostly offspring that go to sea, but an occasional little guy or gal that matures in the river.

What about steelhead through Ballard Locks?  I find it difficult to believe that the mostly river resident rainbow in upriver tributaries don’t produce at lease a few little guys and gals who do in fact migrate to the ocean and try to return as big adults.  It may simply be that this life history is so scant that no one notices these fish, or that survival is so low that none survive to make it back through Ballard Locks, but common, there have to be a few offspring of the upriver O. mykiss that are trying to express an anadromous life history, don’t ya think?

Our Oregon coastal rivers could be an example of an ecological setting where food supplies, rationed across many species of Pacific Salmon, are slim enough that the residency life history is so rare compared to the anadromous life history.  But to think that the stay at home in the river to mature life history is completely missing in Oregon coastal mykiss populations seems a stretch, given what we have seen in most every place where we have really looked closely.

Most every place, not every place, I should add.  Let’s consider the McKenzie River, in the upper Willamette River basin.  This river is big and bold, it grows tons (not that I have weighed the critters, but a lot of rainbow at any rate) of what we call resident rainbow.  We call ‘en resident rainbow because they live out their entire life cycle in the McKenzie, Willamette, and various tributaries of same.  These O. mykiss are in a river close to 200 miles from the ocean.  There is what I would consider decent food supply in the river, and it seems that these mykiss have evolved to be stay-at-homes to such a great extent, that we don’t believe that there are any anadromous offspring of these rainbow.

Hummmmm.  If so, is this because there was such a clear disadvantabe to make the long migration to and from the ocean that the anadromous life history pretty much got weeded out of the population?  Are McKenzie mykiss derived from stream capture of an interior mykiss ancestor that had even less tendency to go clear to the ocean than to stay close to home?

So, yes, I think if one goes far enough inland, and looks at”rainbow” that have been isolated from the ocean long enough, you will see anadromy pretty much lacking from the life history expressions.

The Elwah?  I do not know enough about the specifics to be an expert and recommend a breeding program to re-establish runs of anadromous Pacific Salmon.  But your proposal should be considered.  And it really grates on my sensibilities to think about flooding the system with hatchery fish to restore anadromy to the upper basin.  I do not know exactly what has survived below and above the dam.  I am sure that a hundred years of isolation has had some genetic effects on the up and downstream mykiss.  So too, the below-dam Pacific Salmon in the Elwah, may have been influenced by hatchery programs.  Wouldn’t this be a great opportunity to restore an all wild assemblage of many species of Pacific Salmon in this gorgeous basin that has been strangled by the dam for so long?

Ooops.  Editorializing.  Again.

But hey, here’s an idea, if it is deemed essential to use hatchery fish to restore a wild run, what about limiting the program to one life cycle and prohibiting any fishing on the river for three life cycles?  I know, none of my business.  But an honest to goodness conservation/restoration effort shouldn’t get mired in harvest battles, and should give the fish a decent shot at making the re-introuduction on their own, because these are amazing resilient fish, given half a chance, and especially considering the quality of the upriver habitat in the Elwah.

And how would anyone know that there are not any anadromous mykiss returning to the Elwah from above-dam resident rainbow?

Jay Nicholas, May 25, 2011

Coastal Oregon Chinook: Spring and Fall Run Populations

Following my recent post on Oregon coastal steelhead populations, why not review ODFW’s classifications of fall and spring chinook Species Management Units (SMUs) and populations?

Juicy stuff, for all you fish science and salmon management geeks out there.

Oregon coastal Chinook are categorized by ODFW into two Species Management Units,the Coastal and Rogue SMU>

These SMUs are further divided into roughly 28 populations of fall run fish, and only nine historical  populations of spring run fish (at least two are currently thought to be extinct).

Spring chinook salmon are far less widely distributed than fall run fish, but are not nearly as rare as native runs of summer steelhead in Oregon coastal rivers.

This information was compiled from the ODFW Native Fish Status Report.

Anyone wonder why spring chinook might be more common than summer steelhead?


Coastal Oregon Steelhead – Winter and Summer Run Populations

The summer steelhead pictured here, just prior to its release, is a hatchery fish that was stocked and  caught on the Middle Fork of the Willamette.

The Middle Fork hatchery steelhead program is remarkable from the standpoint that it supports a robust recreational fishery during the spring, summer, and autumn, within minutes of zillions of people who live in the Eugene & Springfield area.

Winter steelhead are not native to the Middle fork, and the naive run of wild spring chinook has been all but erased by the salmon problems associated with Dexter Dam, Lookout Point Dam, and Hills Creek Dam.

This is a preamble to a question: do you ever wonder how many populations of summer and winter steelhead the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife categorizes on the Oregon Coast?  The majority of anglers I have met spend most of their time trying to figure out how to catch a steelhead, or how to catch more steelhead, than pondering population classifications and steelhead management policy.

Just to keep the science of steelhead management on the table for anyone who cares to discuss such matters, I assembled the following table that summarizes, as closely as I could, ODFW’s list of native, coastal steelhead populations.

Among the key  concepts that this table displays, is that there are two Species Management Units on the Oregon coast,Coastal and Rogue SMUs;  but only three native summer steelhead populations, compared to roughly 31 winter steelhead populations.

One could ask whether or not classification of these population units could be informed by more or newer data, but it is clear that native populations of summer steelhead are rare in Oregon coastal rivers, even more rare than the populations of spring-run Chinook classified by ODFW.

FYI, this information was compiled from the ODFW Native Fish Status Report.

Hope you find this interesting.


Nicholas’ Salmon fisher’s Journal: August 22, 2010

Jay Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal, August 23, 2010

Siletz Sea Run Skunk, Washington Sea run cutthroat are in….

Yes I’m talking about the elusive sea run cutthroat, the smaller anadromous cousin of the mighty steelhead.  I love these fish.

Can’t help myself here, I feel compelled  to review a few of the factoids about the life history of sea run cutthroat, Oncorhynchus clarki clarki, here in Oregon.

These fish are found in virtually all, yes all – Oregon coastal rivers, and are in most if not all of the Columbia River tributaries at least upstream to Bonneville dam.  Formerly, and maybe even now, they were distributed as far upstream as about Hood River.  That’s what Oregon fish experts think, and what the Native fish Status report by Oregon says.  The matter of an anadromous fish of 12-14 “ making the migration from Hood River to the ocean and back seems a tiny bit intriguing.  Maybe they did, they could have, but maybe these migratory cutthroat simply migrated into the mainstem Columbia to chow down on juvenile salmon and steelhead before returning to the Hood.  Maybe they hung out in the Columbia /estuary rather than going out into the ocean.  I bet there was a lot of food for a piscivorous fish when the Columbia was wild.

Difficult to say for sure, and mostly an academic matter now, because there are about none of the feisty “sea run” cutthroat above Bonneville these days.

I should mention that recent research on sea run cutthroat in Lower Columbia River tributaries has found that some of the migratory fish have stayed in the Columbia estuary, or mostly in the near shore areas of the Columbia river plume, but that some have been tracked thirty or so miles offshore, so they sure as shootin’ are what I would call a “sea run” fish.

Back to sea run cutthroat life history in Oregon. Two to three years, usually, in freshwater before they “smolt” and migrate to ocean or estuary.  At this age they can be anywhere from 8”-12” long.  Interestingly, an Oregon researcher, three or four decades ago, recommended that the minimum size limit on coastal rivers should be 10” in order to adequately protect pre-smolt cutthroat from harvest.  The recommendation was not adopted.

So, juvenile sea run cutthroat spend 2-3 years in freshwater, migrate to the ocean/estuary, and then return after roughly three months.  This makes the migratory timing and duration of salty residence very similar to the half-pounder steelhead native to the Rogue and Klamath rivers in southern Oregon – Northern California.  Big difference is that virtually none of the half pounder steelhead are sexually mature after their first seaward migration, but virtually all of the sea run cutthroat will spawn on their first return from the salt.  This is true for Oregon, however as one looks north to Alaska, one finds that many sea run cutthroat may not be sexually mature on their first return to freshwater.

How big are sea run cutthroat? First migration blueback (they have beautiful blue backs just like fresh run steelhead when they first return to freshwater) are often in the 10”-12” size bracket.  if you catch a 14” sea run cutthroat here in Oregon it is probably 1) on its second migration back to the river or 2) an individual fish that stayed in the river until it was 11” long before it smolted.

If you encounter a sea run cutthroat in Oregon that is 16”, 17”, or more, you almost certainly have a fish that is on its 3rd, 4th, or even 5th migration back to freshwater.  es, I have heard the stories of 20” + sea run cutthroat here in Oregon.  They are true.  Trusted friends who dive our coastal rivers every year see a few of these fish , but the monster sea runs steadfastly elude my best efforts to catch them.

Question.  What is the most dependable way to catch sea run cutthroat in Oregon?

Answer: 1) find a deep hole in any Oregon coastal river a little distance above the head of tidewater; 2) make sure the hole is somewhat secluded location: 3) wait for night fall; 4) build a bonfire; 5) ensure that adequate supplies of beer, chips, hot dogs, and all the trimmings are at hand; 6) plunk out a gob of worms, crawdad tails, shrimp, or bullhead meat on a hook; 7) sit back on the beach, have a nice social time with friends, and reel in the cutthroat like crazy.

Think I‘m kidding? Not hardly.  This method was described to me as the traditional sea run fishing tactic practiced in the 1920s, a dairy farmer confided his secret methods in the 1960s, and in 2008, a young guy working a coffee kiosk in Monmouth bragged that this was the only way to really catch sea runs, having just returned from a successful fishing adventure on a certain nearby river.

Common, how about a fishing report?

Fished Siletz tidewater on Sunday. Sunny.  Last half of the incoming and early to mid outgoing tide.  Fished above and below Strom Park.  Great water.  Plenty of shady sea run habitat.  Most excellent fishing technique was applied.  Two fish scientist fly fishers giving our best.  Skunked.  wait, there were two cutthroat that could, possibly, if I really wanted, be classified as sea runs.  It would be a stretch.  Each fish was about 12”.  Maybe they had already been in for a month and slimmed down.  More likely, they were resident cutthroat.  Just tellin’ it like it probably is.

There were fresh sea runs in the area where we fly fished. The fish finder marked a fair number of fish in the deeper holes.  Were they sea run cutthroat, Chinook, or summer steelhead?  Don’t know.  They had to be fish though, right?  A fish finder never misleads.  Ha ha.

One fellow fishing a Ford Fender with worms caught a big blueback, and we found a fresh gut pile at the boat ramp.  So they were there.  Maybe if it had been cloudy with a little drizzle.  Maybe if we had fished first light.  Maybe.

Meanwhile, a fine day on the river with Kipper snacks, a beer, and good friend.

Ready to go again, yes sir.

Washington?  Almost forgot to tell ya.  A friend had great success on a Washing river last weekend.  Really got ’em to go on slim, yarn body flies.  Wish I had been there with him.


Perspectives on Salmon Hatcheries . . .

Salmon hatcheries have been with us for well over a century here in the Pacific Northwest.  Few of the anglers, and conservation minded people I know, even the most ardent wild fish advocates study the history of salmon hatcheries.

The Oregon fly fishing blog just posted the first part of an article I wrote summarizing he historical expectations of salmon hatcheries in our region.  I invite anyone who cares about the future of Pacific salmon and fishing to check it out.

I did my best to be accurate and fair. Guess what?    As much as I know, I am sure I have much to discover and new ways of understanding.  The only way to do this is to engage in constructive dialogue.

Agree with what you read?  Say so.

Surprised?  Say so.

Disagree?  Again, say so.

Thanks – JN

Do Hatchery Fish Spawn in the Wild?

Here we go again.  Blogosphere Google searches seeking information.

Q:  Do hatchery fish spawn in wild

A: Why yes they do.


Not always.

Sometimes hatchery fish simply die before they mature sexually and are therefore unable to spawn in the wild.  Sometimes this death occurs as a consequence of actually being caught and “retained” by an angler, as intended. So that pretty much negates any possibility of spawning in the wild.

Sometimes the hatchery fish do not get caught, don’t die, and do in fact spawn, either with other hatchery fish or with wild fish.

Sometimes the offspring of the hatchery fish survive and themselves reach maturity and spawn.

Sometimes the offspring of hatchery fish live for a portion of their life cycle and then die before spawning.  Studies of the effectiveness of hatchery fish spawning in the wild, compared to wild native fish spawning – a mouthful – usually show that the hatchery fish are not as productive (i.e., they express lower fitness) than the wild fish spawning in the same stream.

There are some examples where hatchery salmon or steelhead that escaped from net-pens have established “wild” naturally produced runs, but these are, to the best of my knowledge, principally in places where the salmon are exotic (not native) and in these places, and the exotic salmon have decimated any native fishes that were present in the streams.

Bedazzled and confused by my oversimplifications?  You should be.  The matter is complicated.

Beware of simple, one-size-fits-all answers.