After a brief look at a picture of Steve Stuebner (HCN, 9/24/01: Nature hits a home run for salmon), I had to feel a pang of disbelief that an old adversary of mine would do such an unnatural act. All adiposed salmon and steelhead caught in Idaho waters must be immediately released. Smolts are released from the hatcheries after the adipose fin is clipped to tell the difference. General fin deformation is also a good clue as to hatchery origin. The scar or fin ray disfigurement remains for life. A good angler knows very soon whether he has a wild fish on or a hatchery fish just by the fight. Steve should know better about handling wild fish; they should never leave the water nor be touched by human hands.
Past studies concluded a large percentage of released fish die before their life's mission. Handling a fish out of water is not good. Future studies will reveal how significant the loss to native anadromous fish is, which will determine if "jeopardy" can be endorsed by NMFS for ensuring future runs. This could lead to closures. Next time, Steve, hold a hatchery fish up for a photo op, please.
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