What happend to the steelhead in Washington?

Chris Bellows

Your Preferred WFF Poster
Why doesn't anyone think that pollutants have as big or bigger impact as the other popular punching bags listed here? I have no proof but it seems that tons of lead + even more tons of mono line + new fancy fishing gear every year + giant jet boats + relativity small river = lots of chemicals dumped into an eco system over several decades has got to add up eventually.

Any who seems like there is a garbage problem but I could be wrong.
there is a garbage problem throughout the state and country. i think the non-litterers are a tiny minority with the amount i see everywhere along not only the roads, but trails and rivers. as for the garbage being the pollution harming fish, it is possible but there are far worse pollutants being dumped all over and draining into puget sound (marine survival being the main problem right now for puget sound steelhead).

with the amount of chemicals pouring into puget sound from our yards, farms, and pavement and the many new chemicals coming out all the time... it wouldn't surprise me if this toxic stew is having impacts far beyond what we now know. you can only stretch a rubber band so far before it breaks. our fish populations are possibly at that breaking point after centuries of intensively destroying everything wild fish rely on.
i dont think pollutants are effecting the rivers as much in the WA rivers i have fished. a little trash isnt gonna kill the run, think of the volume of water that flushes through these systems...

puget sound though is a different story, and pollutants def play a big roll in that ecosystem.
Just read an article in Nothwest spotsmans that talked about steelhead smolts making it through Puget Sound and out to open ocean. They tagged smolts were put in two rivers. The Green and the skagit. Both rivers had the same succuess rate. It's been awhile since I read the article but I think the numbers were something like 40 percent of wild fish make it to the ocean and 15 percent of hatchery fish. The follow up article is coming in the next issue that might give some reasoning to why the percentage of fish reaching open ocean is so small. I found it interesting that the issue may not be the rivers at all, but something greater like Puget Sound or the ocean. Remeber I am only talking about fish that make it to open ocean. I really have no idea if Puget sound has resident steelhead like the resident coho. Interesting article anyway.

Old Man

Just an Old Man
I remember back about 40 years ago when there was lots of fish in the river. You would see them in schools. Now you only see a few of them in the rivers.

I was fishing the S/F of the Sauk at Monte Cristo Lake area. I was throwing flies and my father in law was using shrimp. There was a log under the water in the middle of the stream. My father in law would throw his baited shrimp out and it would drift along side the log. The fish would come out and suck the shrimp off the hook. Frustrating to say the least. But that was when there was fish in the river. The last time I ever hit that area there wasn't even any smolts around. There was at least 20 fish in that school.


Active Member
Co-managers and MSY top my list. "The White Man"??? Who do you think is netting and selling wild steelhead from the Peninsula?
Who do you think is buying the wild fish sold at places like Pike Place Market? White Man, Red Man, it is way to easy to point fingers at one another when in reality we are all to blame.


Active Member
I agree with pretty much all of it, what does peak my intrest is that the year before last the Columbia and tribs had the biggest run of returning fish in hundreds of years. This year whole systems are closed. Nothing enviromentaly has really changed from then to now. Only 2 years. The experts credited "good ocean conditions" for the record number of fish coming back. So, is the main reason for good or poor returns ocean conditions, and has it always been this way? Im not saying that we haven't destroyed habitat and all that, anyone who thinks dams, logging, and building dont affect habitat is on planet 10. I'm just wondering if we took the last 1000 years and looked and the stats if the ocean conditions were on a cycle and that we will eventually see great returns again.
I was talking to one of the major things that's wrong the other day at my office. A friend who fishes (gear) a lot is, like our leaders, of the opinion that as long as there are hatcheries (and he can catch and eat his fish), the fisheries are in fine shape. That's a prevailing attitude, guys, and it is the main reason we have the damage from logging, roads, farms, development, over fishing, and you name it.
Why has this forum become such a "Save the whales, Save the trees, The ozone is failing us, It' their fault, It's my fault, The world is caving in", forum?

Obama, Bush, Whites, Reds!

Dams, Logging, Chemicals, Pressure, Global Warming, Garbage, Fishing technique!

I mean this is depressing as hell! Bitch, Whine, Complain, Blame!

Things change, people change, the earth changes! People change things on the earth....

There are many things that have happened and many things that will happen. Shit is going to change! Some for the better, some for the worse! Many of the those changes are out of our (Mans) control. Kind of like the earth quakes, volcano's, hurricanes, etc. Our world will continue to evolve (this includes, plants animals and people). I think it's our job to do our best with the cards we're dealt!

But this forum.. in the short time I have been reading, listening and contributing has become a bitch, poor us, poor world fest! Maybe we should do less talking and more doing!

For Example: next time you see garbage on the river bank... Pick it up! Next time you see someone dumping something into our lakes, rivers, ocean... report it! If someone breaks the law... report them! If someone does something stupid... beat their ass! This world, humanity, has become to tolerant and passive! To much talk and not enough walk! When it's time to vote, make your vote count!

Get involved! and make shit happen!
There are two other factors not mentioned, as far as I can see. Number one, there are ebbs and flows in genetic species. We are in the ebb times;proven fact. The second is the atypically large populations of Cormorants and Merganser Ducks that feed on smolts and other small fish. At the present time the large populations are not managed well enough to keep them from just palin overeating on the steelhead and salmon smolts on their way out to the ocean. It's survival of the fittest and currently the birds are winning the battle. There are huge populations of these birds on Puget Sound and especially the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
I agree cormorants are a huge problem for Puget Sound steelhead and salmon smolts. Over the last twenty years the cormorant population has exploded and continues to go unchecked. Obviously there are several other important factors effecting the fish, many of which are far more detrimental to the Puget Sound steelhead and salmon populations such as pollution and over fishing but the whole cormorant situation is definately taking a bigger toll on the remaining fish than most people realize.
In 1877 the first hatchery was established in the Columbia Basin, on the Clackamas River, to improve spring chinook runs that had been hindered by... hmmm.... well, either there was a natural, cyclical reduction in returns around then that people happened to notice, or returns had been reduced by human impact, and people noticed. I wonder which is more plausible...

Until the early 1900’s, it was legal to harvest fish using any method, and it was legal to build dams with the sole purpose of blowing up the dam to float logs downstream. So, early commercial fishing and early logging practices just happened to coincide with a natural fish run reduction, or early commercial fishing and early logging practices contributed to the reduction. I wonder which is more plausible...

In the 1940’s Grand Coulee Dam came online, blocking more than 1,000 miles of spawning grounds in the Columbia Basin. Antecedent and subsequent dams throughout the state have blocked thousands more miles, probably tens of thousands, but I haven’t added it up. Mitigation attempts have not replaced these runs. Or maybe the dams just happened to coincide with a natural reduction in fish runs. I wonder which is more plausible...

In 1980 or so, the population of Washington surpassed 4,000,000. In 2008, WA population surpassed 6,000,000. Predators such as sea lions, terns, and pikeminnows have been aided by the impacts of these millions of humans, specifically through damming, diking, and dredging. While we do various things to mitigate damage to steelhead and salmon runs, at the same time we do things that increase predation on steelhead and salmon runs. If 10% of Washington’s population in 1970 (about 3.5 million) harvested a single salmon or steelhead, that would have been 350,000 fish. If the same percentage wanted to harvest a single salmon or steelhead in 2010, that would have been about 700,000 fish. So either the state's population increase just happens to correlate to anadromous run decreases, or it contributes to the decrease. I wonder which is more plausible...

The 1974 Boldt decision and many, many, many others decisions were (and continue to be) based on political and legal reasoning, not biologically or scientifically sound reasoning. So, either political and legal decisions happen to coincide with natural downturns in fish runs, or they create downturns. I wonder which is more plausible...

It's worth noting that the last decade has seen some impressive anadromous returns to the Columbia Basin in specific years, and various other Oregon and Washington watersheds have seen impressive returns in specific years. There's hope - there's always hope, that's why I fished today - and there's more hope if more fishermen help however they can.