Does a Stocked Trout Ever Become Wild?

Unknownflyman

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As far as fight wild steelhead smoke hatchery Kamloops. Kamloops fight hard but the wild ones are lighting. I really don't fish for stocker stream trout, there is none nearby.
 

redietz

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Were the native and wild fish like the brook trout in the East such duds that the settlers just had to find something better?
No. We're not talking settlers here. By the end of the 19th century, industrial use of water ways and deforestation had so raised the temperature of most streams in the NE containing trout that brookies were pretty much gone. NY hatcheries had been stocking brook trout as early as 1840, but it was becoming increasing clear that a trout better suited to warmer water would help a lot.

There was no clamouring from anglers for different fish. In fact, there was tremendous opposition to the introduction of brown trout, which were considered an inferior species (because the were "unsporting" -- meaning not as ridiculously easy to catch as brookies.)
 

flav

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In my experience, trout raised in hatcheries never act like wild fish, no matter how long they're in the wild. Most of the trout I fish for are wild, but on a few waters there are hatchery fish in the mix. Fish stocked as catchables and even fish released as fingerlings are easily discernible from wild fish, and not just because of fin clips. Hatchery fish hold in water that wild fish wouldn't, don't respond to hatches the same, and definitely don't fight the same. My buddies and I have played the "wild or hatchery" guessing game. It's not much of a game, though, it's easy to tell them apart within a few seconds.
 

Rip Tide

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In the state of Maine a native brook trout comes from water that has never been stocked
A wild brook trout comes from water that hasn't been stocked in at least 25 years

This is a native

IMGP0030.jpg
 

karstopo

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Maine I would think could be a place with a good amount of wild and even better, native fish, is that true?

How would you describe the difference between native and wild brook trout?

I wonder where else are the hot spots, regions, for truly wild and what must be the much more rare native fish? I could see people not wanting to divulge that information risking greater exposure.

One reason I never want to fish the Guadalupe tail race here in Texas for trout is because I see it just as a parking lot for hatchery fish, seems a little Disney worldish, canned, artificial. Tens or thousands of fish get released into that cold water zone every year and I guess some hold over. I know it’s a tremendously popular place to fish, maybe I have the wrong idea about the Guadalupe. I have fished other stocked, low pressure trout water and the fish were easy to catch, maybe more fishing pressure at least makes them a little wary.

Wild and native have much more of an appeal...at least for me. It seems like at least some of y’all prefer wild fish over stockers and notice the differences. The differences don’t seem to get much press or discussion so it’s good I think to have some discussion about it.

Absolutely nothing wrong, unethical, deficient with heavily stocked water and fishing that, might be entirely necessary in many cases to even have a fishery in the places they are and I 100 percent get fishing close to home. It’s more about appeal and what appeals to people can vary a ton. Fish where and how it appeals to you, that’s really the bottom line.

I do think it’s also okay to seek out water that might be considered more of a wild fish place or at least have a discussion about the pros and cons of fishing wild fish water or more stocker dominant areas.

I’m glad for the OP and the link to the article.
 

Rip Tide

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Maine I would think could be a place with a good amount of wild and even better, native fish, is that true?
How would you describe the difference between native and wild brook trout?
Maine has more native brook trout water than the rest of the country combined :D
I don't think that I could tell the difference between a wild and native fish myself but that doesn't mean I don't seek them out.
But that may be due more to the fact that they live in the more remote areas.
 

silver creek

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I waited to see the responses as I was curious what people would say.......for me there should be a separation in the discussion with anadromous (freshwater-to-ocean-to-freshwater) salmonids and potamodromous or adfluvial salmonids (live entire life in freshwater).

To me...the main question of will an adramous domesticated hatchery steelhead revert to it's wild state in subsequent generations. Research is still needed in this area. The question of do they have negative influences with wild fish? The science is undeniably yes. They have smaller brains, faster metabolisms, have lower % return numbers vs wild fish, are less genetically diverse, less adaptive, and are more susceptible to predation and now I've read.....compromised lateral lines. Some of these traits don't necessarily pass on to their progeny....but all of these factors lead to poorer juvenile survival while in the freshwater and their eventual return as adults. This is why if we have wild anadromous fish....we need to do whatever we can to not lose them. Now this is difficult with increased development, population increases, lack of habitat, dams, predators, gill netting, and poorer ocean conditions.......but as long as wild populations exist....there is hope.

Hope is not with hatcheries......they have their place......but not with preserving wild anadromous fish populations.

I've cited this before from John McMillan....... I think it's worth a re-post. The orignal link is here - John McMillan Podcast Clarification - April Vokey

From John:


3. ....... But, research indicates that the phenotypic response is not really what we should be worried about the most. Instead, we should be concerned more about a genetic change. I discuss that below.

4. The question that I think was most confusing on my end was: How can hatchery fish be different from the wild fish if they come from the same stock? Here I can clear up some of what I was trying to explain.

Let me step back, and reiterate that the hatchery rearing environment can change a number of aspects of the fish, including brain size, body shape, fin size, and otolith/lateral line makeup.......

The phenotypic change is not the issue as much as the genetic change. Because if the changes in hatcheries were only phenotypic, then they would revert back to wild fish after spawning and rearing in nature. But, that is not what research is seeing for steelhead. For example, after first generation hatchery steelhead from wild stock spawned in the wild, their offspring also survived poorly (in Hood River studies). This suggests that the hatchery rearing affects genetics that are passed on generation-to-generation. Indeed, a follow up study found that those first generation hatchery steelhead differed genetically from wild steelhead in traits like immune system function and metabolism. They are all important, but I will focus on metabolism because it is something I am more familiar with.


6. Whew, hope some of you are still with me here and now understand why this was so hard to communicate via the podcast. But, kudos to April for trying to make that happen.

I opened and closed the discussion by talking about compromise. Right now the debate on hatcheries is for all or nothing on either side, at least in most cases. I, and we at TU, see a huge swath of middle ground where few people are operating. We think this is where progress can be made.

Our solution is what we call a Portfolio Approach. We would designate some rivers as hatchery and other rivers as wild, where there are no releases of hatchery steelhead. Each decision would need to consider the specifics of a particular watershed, but in general, we would suggest that those rivers that have the capacity to produce enough fish for a CnR fishery are best served by being all wild. Those watersheds where wild steelhead are struggling and do not produce enough fish for a CnR fishery are better candidates for hatcheries. This is generally consistent with our steelhead management plan in Washington state, though we seek to have whole watersheds set aside for wild fish and fisheries rather than just parts of watersheds. In essence it helps achieve recovery goals for wild fish and promotes fishing opportunity, both for kill of hatchery fish and CnR of wild fish.

The benefits of the approach are numerous. It helps achieve recovery goals by securing the strongest populations as wild strongholds without hatchery effects, and provides CnR opportunity on wild steelhead. At the same time, it provides harvest opportunity for those anglers that prefer hatchery steelhead. It also ensures that we can do large-scale experiments that are needed to answer some of the tough questions about how to best manage hatchery fish and the extent to which wild fish can recover in absence of hatchery effects. Given the contentious tone of the debates, the latter seems particularly important if we are ever to find a better agreement on the hatchery v. wild issue.”

~John McMillan
The Hood River Study to which John McMillan refers is this this study:

Wild Steelhead Trout from the Hood River

A single generation of domestication heritably alters the expression of hundreds of genes

"We find that there are hundreds of genes that are differentially expressed (DE) between the offspring of wild fish (W × W) and of the offspring of hatchery fish (H × H) reared in a common environment. By using reciprocal crosses, we further show that these differences in gene expression cannot be explained as maternal effects, sampling noise, or false discovery. Thus, our data suggest that the very first stages of domestication are characterized by massive, heritable changes to gene expression.”

“Remarkably, we found that there were 723 genes DE between the offspring of wild fish (W × W) and the offspring of first-generation hatchery fish (H × H)”


Heritable changes to gene expression are epigenetics and NOT genetic changes. Epigenetics expression can be inherited BUT it does revert back to the wild form once the progeny breed and live in the wild. So epigenetic changes are NOT permanent!

We think of genetics as the DNA but the DNA of trout DOES NOT change that fast in fish raised in hatcheries. We know that it takes eons for enough spontaneous mutations to occur to produce "significant' differences in the genome. It literally takes hundreds of thousands of years for an organism to "change" genetically.

Fish stocking has about a 100 year history in the USA. A hundred years of stocking is not enough time to change the basic genome of a trout. Because some behaviors of hatchery raised trout can be inherited for several generations does NOT mean their DNA has changed and DNA defines the organism.

What then is the difference between "wild" and stocked fish and why are stocked fish less adapted to survive in the "wild" if the DNA is essentially the same????

What changes is the EPIgenetics which is how the DNA is manifested in the animal. Simple put, which genes are turned on and how these turned on genes are expressed phenotypically. This can happen in a single generation when a wild trout progeny is raised in a hatchery as the Hood River Study showed.

Note that the changes are NOT in the DNA (genes = the genetic code = the DNA sequence) themselves BUT it the way the genes ARE EXPRESSED! And the way they are expressed can be inherited.

So what if the stocked trout then breed in the wild. Are they wild or are they stocked? I believe that the this is more important that whether stocked fish are wild or not wild because crossbreeding allows the "stocked" genes to enter the "wild" gene pool. So how about that issue?

See how it gets more complex?

The fact is that when fish are hatched and bred in the wild, the EPIgenetic expression gradually returns to the wild form. Just as the epigenetic expression can change when fish are hatchery raised so it can change back to the wild form when the progeny are raised in the wild.

So it boils down to this issue. Does the genome (the actual DNA sequence) of the stocked fish contain DNA that leads to weaker fish than the genome of the wild fish it has bred with? That is a maybe answer. We cannot know in general, except to say that it does decrease diversity of the DNA when there are a relative large number of stocked fish that can breed with a relatively small number of wild fish. Then it can become a huge problem. What is lost is the genetic diversity of the resulting wild born fish.

However, there has been a study on the actual DNA of steelhead hatched in the same Hood River that John McMillan refers to in his article. It may help to answer this question by determining how much of the hatchery fish DNA and therefore the hatchery fish EPIgenetics enter the wild. It found only 1% of the steelhead hatched in the river, then migrating to the ocean and returning from the ocean had DNA from hatchery fish. 40% came for wild wild rainbow trout. So wild rainbow trout interbreed with steelhead and form a repository for future steelhead populations.

Wild rainbow trout critical to health of steelhead populations

“In a field study in Hood River, Ore., researchers used DNA analysis to determine that up to 40 percent of the genes in returning steelhead came from wild rainbow trout, rather than other steelhead. And only 1 percent of the genes came from "residualized" hatchery fish - fish that had stayed in the stream and mated, but not gone to sea as intended by the hatchery program.

"It used to be thought that coastal rainbow trout and steelhead were actually two different fish species, but we've known for some time that isn't true," said Mark Christie, an OSU postdoctoral research associate and expert in fish genetic analysis. "What's remarkable about these findings is not just that these are the same fish species, but the extent to which they interbreed, and how important wild trout are to the health of steelhead populations.

This research, just published in the journal Molecular Ecology, was based on a 15-year analysis of 12,725 steelhead from Oregon's Hood River”


Here's the big "UNKNOWN" in this study. The EPIgenetic influences on the progeny of a cross between wild and hatchery steelhead probably result in fewer of them actually going out to the ocean and if they do, they probably will be less likely to return. So the study design favors obtaining a result that finds there are few hatchery genes in the returning steelhead!

My take is that hatchery steelhead do have poor performance in the wild but that is due to EPIgenetic changes which are reversible.
 
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jigsup

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So, after the hatchery fish spawn?
They aren't hatchery....that means wild. We are one generation from native...and not the 117 generations that are raised to look up for pellets that are likely elsewhere.
Born and raised in the river is wild.
But not native.
We are 300 miles from their natal waters, and no ocean access.
We do have some holdover stockers, but they never get the game of the wildies. Not the same challenge....
which is why the club guys put them in to start with. High density and dumb.

To address Karstopo's question...
Yes, there could be some attention to quality....in hatcheries.
But why start now?
CO. stocked whirling disease for example......
Mostly it's about keeping fish in the water so people can take them out.
Consumers run the show, not the connoissures....It's about Lic sales.
Fewer, harder fish don't appeal to most.....
where as, lots of easy ones do.

Jim
He asked if the stocked fish would become wild and the answer is NO , (he didnt ask at least in the title ) if the fish hatched would be . I think of course any fish hatched in the river would qualify as a wild trout . I didnt muddle through all the responses as on this site everyone says the same thing to get their post count up I suppose .
 

philly

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It's been interesting reading. We have a stream around here called Valley Creek, it's a limestone stream. Until the mid-80's the stream was heavily stocked with browns and rainbows. There was a PCB spill at that time, and the stream was polluted and the state quit stocking stream. Now almost 40 years later there are no rainbows in the stream, but there is a healthy population of wild brown trout. The stream is catch and release, fly fishing and lures only, no bait.
 

sweetandsalt

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philly, You have that right. A Hatchery Fish does not Become a Wild Fish but its potential stream bred progeny do. What they do not become ever, is Native.

jigsup, Go back and read some of the thoughtful earlier response in this thread. There are no rewards for post counts here but there are benefits to leaning from informed and insightful information and opinions.
 

Unknownflyman

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I am thankful everyday that my home rivers are natural reproduction powerhouses, clean underground spring water, trees and all the flora and fauna.

It comes down to the stream and rivers, I think people don't understand sometimes, their rivers will never become anything more than a put and take fishery, not because the fish are stocked, because the water, while decent is not of the quality to sustain a wild race of trout, there are not gravel beds in which to spawn, water flows are not consistent enough and the ever increasing problem, gets too warm in the summer months with too many fish dying off.

TU and the DNR have restored rivers with stocking wild races of fish and still do today. HI and stocking became dirty words, but there are so many success stories nationwide.


I am thankful everyday for non native wild brown trout.
 

silver creek

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So, after the hatchery fish spawn?
They aren't hatchery....that means wild.
We are one generation from native...and not the 117 generations that are raised to look up for pellets that are likely elsewhere.
Born and raised in the river is wild.
But not native.
We are 300 miles from their natal waters, and no ocean access.
We do have some holdover stockers, but they never get the game of the wildies. Not the same challenge....
which is why the club guys put them in to start with. High density and dumb.

Jim
Hi Jim,

You have defined "wild" trout as "born and raised in the river." That is one definition and it is correct BUT for the purposes of this discussion, I believe it is somewhat misleading.

Allow me to explain. Steelhead trout and rainbow trout are genetically identical BUT then why do we call one of them a steelhead and the other one a rainbow. We say a steelhead is a steelhead because of it's behavior which is determined epigenetically. It migrates to the ocean and the rainbow does not.

What then about what we call a "wild" trout. What is more important? Where it was hatched or it's behavior in the river? Like the difference between a steelhead and a rainbow, we fly fishers, differentiate between hatchery trout and "wild" trout because of behavior. If "hatchery" trout behaved like "wild" trout, there would be no reason for us to differentiate between them and we would have a hard time telling one from the other.

My point is this. A fish that is "born" in the river from hatchery trout parents will carry over some of the epigenetics of those hatchery parents and therefore some of the behavior and biochemistry. It will behave differently than a wild trout whose parents, grandparents and great grandparents were truly wild. It may take several generations for the epigenetics of the hatchery to return to the "normal" wild state.
 

Rip Tide

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As I mentioned earlier in this thread, the state of Maine has a legal definition for "wild trout"
And that's fish coming from water that has not been stocked in at least 25 years
 

Bigfly

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Hi Jim,

You have defined "wild" trout as "born and raised in the river." That is one definition and it is correct BUT for the purposes of this discussion, I believe it is somewhat misleading.

Allow me to explain. Steelhead trout and rainbow trout are genetically identical BUT then why do we call one of them a steelhead and the other one a rainbow. We say a steelhead is a steelhead because of it's behavior which is determined epigenetically. It migrates to the ocean and the rainbow does not.

What then about what we call a "wild" trout. What is more important? Where it was hatched or it's behavior in the river? Like the difference between a steelhead and a rainbow, we fly fishers, differentiate between hatchery trout and "wild" trout because of behavior. If "hatchery" trout behaved like "wild" trout, there would be no reason for us to differentiate between them and we would have a hard time telling one from the other.

My point is this. A fish that is "born" in the river from hatchery trout parents will carry over some of the epigenetics of those hatchery parents and therefore some of the behavior and biochemistry. It will behave differently than a wild trout whose parents, grandparents and great grandparents were truly wild. It may take several generations for the epigenetics of the hatchery to return to the "normal" wild state.
I'm with you Silver.
Not claiming to be a genetics authority.....but I do know and have chatted with fisheries biologists for thirty years....they supposedly do know.
The original stocking was only one generation removed from Native strain, and in a hundred years I think some have had time to return to their original epigenetics.
We have dumb as a stump fish here (recent sterile arrivals), but some of these fish display an attitude and conformation that I don't see until I go Steelheading on rivers terminating at the ocean.
I wasn't exaggerating when I say I fish like they are Steel, swinging with a switch rod. I have more than a few times thought I would fibrillate, just like fishing Steel, doing a hundred yard dash. They are NOT Steelhead...but I have fished around a bit....the Umpqua, Deshutes, McCloud, Sacramento, American, Feather, San Juan, Rio grand, South fork, and many more........I know a good fish pull when I feel one. But there is a little bit more challenge (10 pounders) here occasionally. (And lets not forget 18 pound browns)
I have a hard time leaving, because I now compare all rivers to the Truckee. Because I fish all the time, I find it's easy when I take a road trip, because for me it's the same........ready at all times to run.
Would love to introduce you Silver.....call anytime.

Jim
 
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sweetandsalt

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"My point is this. A fish that is "born" in the river from hatchery trout parents will carry over some of the epigenetics of those hatchery parents and therefore some of the behavior and biochemistry. It will behave differently than a wild trout whose parents, grandparents and great grandparents were truly wild. It may take several generations for the epigenetics of the hatchery to return to the "normal" wild state." Silver Creek

Earlier in this thread I opined, not by any of my own definition but genetics, that rainbows raised domestically, selectively bred for hatchery efficiency for decades (the white leghorn chickens) must carry over at least some of that make up even when river spawning naturally. Sure survival and selectivity in the wild will reinforce their best genetic traits but some remains. Still the progeny of once stocked domesticated rainbows in great rivers with room to run are fish I can't wait for spring to arrive so I can purse them.
 

Bigfly

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Sweet, you got the standing invite as well......
But, you should come early this year....looks like a drought.

Jim
 
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