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Author Topic: Puget Sound Steelheading  (Read 3342 times)

Offline 87Ford

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Puget Sound Steelheading
« on: January 19, 2020, 07:08:26 PM »
Bearpaw's thread requesting stories and photos from the new 2020 fishing season got me thinking..  Today, instead of fishing, I watched two crappy football games.  Why?  Because steelheading as I remember it is gone.  As of Thursday 1/16, the Nooksack, Stilly, Sky, and Snoqualmie rivers have returned 112 hatchery steelhead from a combined plant of 486,768 smolt.  That is a return of .00023 or just .023%.  It's unprecedented.  The reasons are surely complex and I didn't start this thread to discuss that..  I'm just shaking my head over this decline.  Never thought I'd see this day.  It really seems to be over in the Puget Sound basin.

I won't even start with the days of fishing these same rivers in March and April.  It's over..  I've been reading the thread on where to go for retirement.  Maybe it's time.  :sry:

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2020, 07:47:42 PM »
It is a very sad state of affairs. With the same old Chambers creek fish inbreeding and terrible ocean conditions, it doesn't surprise me though. I grew up fishing the Sky and Skagit/Sauk during spring catch and release. That's where I learned to fish. Last years Skagit season was refreshing but sobering at the same time. The amount of pressure was unreal at times. Part of me hopes it doesn't open again.

I caught my first steelhead in 1989 plunking on the Crab Bar on tha Snohomish. Rowed my first steelhead up on a plug when I was 12 in 1996 in the Indian Hole on the Sky. Caught my first solo bank fishing steelhead at 16 on the Sauk. Between then and when it closed in 2007 I logged no less than 60 days a spring season up there.  I towed the driftboat to high school for christ sake and left straight from school to the river for afternoon floats. It's part of my blood and makes me sad that my son won't get the opportunities I did.
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Offline Bullkllr

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2020, 07:52:29 PM »
Yeah, well us South Sound Old-Timers have a right to be even more bitter. Puyallup, Green, and Nisqually went from three of the best to closed semi-permanently/permanently a long time ago. I'm still not over the whole situation going the direction it has and I'm not sure I ever will be.
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Offline Gobble Doc

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2020, 07:57:28 PM »
Iíve thought of posting a poll on the forum if hunting or fishing has tanked more in the last 15 years. Used to fish the skagit and others all the time but no more.


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Online JimmyHoffa

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2020, 08:18:24 PM »
Yeah, the whole situation is a sour taste.  With all the snow last week, I couldn't believe not being on a river.  Normally, snow in W WA in Jan/Feb, you would have to pry a steelheader off the river. 

Offline Gobble Doc

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2020, 08:31:24 PM »
In 2000 there were 100s of thousands of chum on the skagit. It was so much fun. This year maybe < 10K.


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Offline Gobble Doc

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2020, 08:32:11 PM »
In 2000 there were 100s of thousands of chum on the skagit. It was so much fun. This year maybe < 10K.


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Online h20hunter

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2020, 08:39:38 PM »
I knew 7mm would throw down in this thread. My 1st, and only, wild steelhead to date in this state came on the north fork of the stilly on a hand tied red head woolly bugger. My own build rod. Amazing fish that graced me with a moment in the net.

This days are gone sadly....

Offline Gobble Doc

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2020, 08:41:50 PM »
Yea. Deer Creek summer runs on the Stilly were hot.


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Offline ironbuck

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2020, 07:13:30 AM »
 It hurts caught my first on the stilly at the lime plant . The sky, Skagit. Sauk, pilchuck river n Creek. Now I won't fish cause the runs are in such poor shape. Damn sorry I ever released any and I was doing it way before we ever had to. Hurts so bad loved being on the river and

Online 7mmfan

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2020, 08:12:18 AM »
In 2000 there were 100s of thousands of chum on the skagit. It was so much fun. This year maybe < 10K.


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What many people don't realize is how this run, this one fish, affects everything else in the river. The Chums were prolific in not just the Skagit, but all the PS basin rivers. When I was in high school (not that long ago) I could put the driftboat in at Ben Howard on the Sky at daylight, and take out and Tualco at dark. Arms beat and battered because it was an endless stream of chums on plugs all day. You could literally hook as many as you wanted to. The Skagit and Stilly were the same way. There were silvers like crazy, and steelhead returns were reasonable and somewhat stable. I could float the upper Skagit and catch 100 rainbows and Dolly Vardon behind spawning chums without even thinking about it.

At about the same time, in the early 2000's a market for Chum roe opened up as Sushi became mainstream. Suddenly huge piles of rotting chum carcasses were being found up and down our rivers. Hens were stripped of eggs, and bucks were simply discarded. The prize? Roe to be sold to the Japanese and domestic sushi market. It literally took less than 10 years and natives along with non-native commercial seiners have all but wiped out these runs. Hell the Skagits had to open a CHUM HATCHERY! On a river that less than 10 years prior had 100's of thousands of these fish spawning in it naturally??? WTF?

The truly sad part is the system wide repercussions. Those fish don't spawn in the river anymore, so the Dolly's and rainbows don't get the eggs and flesh from dead salmon. Their carcasses don't rot on the bottom and along the banks of the river anymore, so the bug life that sustains salmon fry, resident rainbows/Dolly's, and steelhead smolt is decreasing every year. The smolt outmigration in late spring early summer is dismal, and the predators that rely on them like mergansers, cormorants, seals, and other predatory fish are taking a much higher percentage of the run than before.

By specifically targeting that one salmon to the brink of collapse in our local rivers, it's had a ripple effect throughout the whole river ecosystem, crashing all the other species that depended on in. Why do you think Pink runs have been so dismal the last few runs? Because about 8 years ago Chum runs weren't large enough to sustain the roe market so they moved on to the next biggest source, Pinks! Seen the sein boats outside Mukilteo and Everett scooping up 10's of thousands at a time? These fish are the backbone of our ecosystem and every other species in the river depends on them successfully spawning in mass.  It's all connected guys. Couple terminal net fisheries with piss poor ocean conditions and we are being set up for catastrophe.

WTF
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Offline Taco280AI

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2020, 08:44:09 AM »
So what's the rationalization for hatchery closures given the poor returns? If it's genetic diversity why not get eggs from the same species from different areas and include them? Should be opening more hatcheries, not closing ones we have.

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2020, 08:52:50 AM »
So what's the rationalization for hatchery closures given the poor returns? If it's genetic diversity why not get eggs from the same species from different areas and include them? Should be opening more hatcheries, not closing ones we have.

No one at WDFW will admit that they've been using the same strain of fish for 60+ years and thats why we see declining returns coupled with reduced size. They'll blame it on everything else. Oregon has successfully implemented broodstock programs on many of it's rivers with amazing results. We used to have them on some PS rivers as well as the coast, same deal. Environmental groups and wild fish groups are constantly suing the department to reduce or eliminate hatchery programs because they don't want hatchery fish interbreeding with the wild fish native to the system, despite the fact that those fish have been mingling for decades, and it's shown that most hatchery fish have less than 1% chance of successfully spawning.

That's the long answer Taco, the short answer is the same as most problems in our society. Politics.
I hunt, therefore I am.... I fish, therefore I lie.

Offline Taco280AI

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2020, 09:14:43 AM »
Liberals ruin everything  :chuckle:  :'(

Offline 2MANY

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Re: Puget Sound Steelheading
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2020, 10:26:09 AM »
Lets just say it sucks.
Caught my first steelhead on the Toutle in 1973.
I wont even get into how good it use to be on ALL the rivers in this state.

This weekend I pulled the jet boat out of the barn and towed it to a launch to start the motors.
With any luck the rivers will drop and I will find a fish or two.

 


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