North Sound SRC migration

I am hoping someone has knowledge to share about their experience with the out migration of SRC from the Skagit, Stilly or Snohomish river systems.

Its my understanding that sea-runs start an out migration from spawning rivers along with the salmon fry, and hang out around the estuaries fattening up before spreading out in the sound: my question is when does the out migration normally occur?

In this abnormal year for precipitation, does anybody have an idea what impact the absence of February rains might have on the timing of SRC out migration?

With the sun shining and all as of late my mind seems to be focusing on future prospects, including hitting the Sea run cutties again in the salt.

Any thoughts on the matter is appreciated.


Active Member
Salt Dog -
The timing out migration of sea-run cutthroat from our North Puget Sound rivers dependents on the life stage we are discussing.

The smolts - first time migrators leave in the spring of the year (April to June) with the peak migration in May. This are the smallish fish of 5 to 8 inches.

The sub-adults - this are fish that were typcially smolts the previous spring, returned to the river to over-winter in freshwater but were nto sexually mature so did not spawn. This fish are typcially 9 to 14 inches long. They tend to drop back to the salt a little earlier than the smolts with the migration being March into May.

The kelts - those fish drop back to the salt after they complete spawning which depending on the fish various from mid-January into May with the peak in March.

The smolts and sub-adults tend to migrate generally by the calendar so their arrival in the salt will not be greatly influenced by the low flows. That said a freshet or high flows does tend to push them a little quicker to the salt.

The adults/kelts are being influenced by the low flows. Not so much in their migration but rather their spawning. They are small creek fish (often step across streams) and as a result tend to hold of the mouths of the spawning areas waiting for a high water before dashing upstream to spawn. The result is that peak spawning may vary from late February/early March to late April depending on the flows. As a result I would not be surprised to see that the arrival of kelts in the salt will be a little later than normal.

Hope that was the info you were looking for.

Tight lines
S malma
Great reply Smalma! Very interesting. Ive been itching to hit the salt for a while now, well now that my local river is closing soon nows my chance. I'm gonna give the beach popper a shot this spring/summer, theres something realy cool about rising a fish between waves, I've only done it a couple of times before and it left me wanting more. The popper will surley grab their attention. Cant wait


Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
About Chum Fry.

I would say that they are a significant portion of some sea run cutthroat trout diets, especially now and in the next few months. We see a lot of them around North Puget Sound, Hood Canal etc. The Cutts drive them and slash them in the spring right near the beaches. They nursery along the tidewater edges; the eddies and tide pools and back water areas of softer currents and structures, seeking shade and cover etc.

If you take a look at our "Gallery" and see the "Fly Swaps", and look at the Sea Run Cutthroat patterns there, you will see some fry flys. I came up with one pattern after a few years of tinkering, wading with the fry in the tide pools and matching size and color etc. It is called a "Chum baby". It works well all year here.

Another great Cutthroat pattern here is Leland Myawaki's "Beach Popper", which is becoming a staple in my saltwater fly box. I think that too will be found in our Gallery Pages, along with many other productive flys for Cutts in the salt.

o mykiss

Active Member
They can be found on some North Sound beaches right now. On a couple different occasions within the last month, I've picked up a few dime bright, healthy fish in the 11 - 14" range. So dime bright and healthy, in fact, I wondered if they skipped returning to freshwater and and overwintered in the salt.
S malma,
Thanks for the exceptional info on these captivating fish. Their life cycle is more complex than I thought, though your explanation was thorough and illuminating. I hadn't thought about the timing being age dependent, but it makes sense.

Given the different timing of migration, this seems to also account for my experience of seeing SRC in the salt of the same age/size schooling together and generally segregated from other classes.

Most of the fly fishing knowledge I pursue have 2 purposes: 1) to expand my general understanding of the web of life and the specific notch occupied by a species, and 2) to improve my ability to efficiently intercept my quarry. Your response, and others from this forum, have consistently helped in both regards, and is greatly appreicated.

Thanks again for sharing your obvious expertise.
-Salt dog.