How is the Sauk/Skagit this year?

Had to relocate from Bothell to Monterey CA last year. Hope to return for a good 4-5 day trip to hit the Sauk and Skagit during mid January. Wanted to see if both are fishing well this year and is there any concern for an early closure on the Sauk as in the past. Longing for the cold and wet........
It will be done on Jan 31st and you will be able to fish from Rockport up to the Cascade until Feb 15th - but as always check the regs. Some catch a couple of fish in later January - but its a hard grind on a beauitful river as Bhudda said.
You will see a Jan 31st end of the season for a number of years to come - with an estimated 900 hatchery fish returning and an estimated 4200 wild returning in Feb, March and April - she's slim pickins.

Good Luck


Active Member
Interesting that 231,000 hatchery steelhead smolts planted in the Skagit basin is estimated to produce 900 returning adults with 4200 wild fish adults returning from XXXX wild smolts. Anybody have the data? Are they applying different SAR rates for hatchery and wild fish? I have not kept tabs on the Skagit like I used to.


Well-Known Member
Just did a rough calculation that those 900 returning adult hatchery steelhead cost around $24 per pound to produce, and I used a generous 8 pound average. So the treaty tribal catch will be sold for about $2 - $2.50 per pound, and a recreational caught steelhead has an estimated value of $400. Hmmm, they'll need at least 150 of those 900 as hatchery broodstock, leaving 750 for harvest. In an otherwise perfect world the 375 treaty caught hatchery steelhead are worth $7,500 while the sport catch, if all are caught, but won't be, are worth $150,000, for a total hypothetical combined value of $157,500, which is less than the $173,000 or so that it cost to produce the fish. OK, not a big loser as government programs go, but in a state budget crisis it's worth noting programs that don't carry their weight.

BDD, they don't estimate wild steelhead smolt to adult survival. The run prediction is based on spawner - recruit relationships from the applicable brood years. However, if the wild smolts have the same survival rate as the hatchery steelhead smolts, then there had to be 1,105,263 smolts. That ain't likely; in good years the wild steelhead smolt population has been estimated at around 200,000. The 1.1 million smolt value would require that each spawning female in the brood year produced 442 smolts, and that is way, way higher than realistic. Fewer than 50 smolts per female spawner is more realistic. Hope this perspective is useful.

I heard they got a grant from the EPA to monitor how many steelhead smolt exit the Skagit - I hope its a few year study, but have not seen the official word yet. I was told that the states guesses that about 300,000 wild steelhead smolt leave the Skagit and head for the open ocean - but again that is a guess that they would like to study that number more.
SG - I was told that when they do a ROI on a hatchery they can't just use one part of that hatchery - they have do that all species of salmon that the river produces in that hatchery system. So in terms of the Skagit they just can't cut the Steelhead hatchery - they would have to cut all hatchery species. I agree that the Skagit/Cascade Steelhead hatchery is a looser and would love to see it gone. That decision would in turn not allow us to fish from November/December through the end of May - for a very long time, if not forever.


Ignored Member
If losing the hatchery would stop the Nov. to Dec. fishing I cannot for the life of me understand why they haven't shut it down yet. It still seems to me that WDFW would like to eliminate all sports fishing on the Skagit except for humpies. It is complete mystery to me.


Active Member

Yeah, I saw Smalma provide those spawner/recruit models years ago at a presentation in Seattle. I guess I was wanting to construct a table showing the survival of hatchery and wild Skagit steelhead. If they are still collecting RST data (estimates at best, perhaps that is the EPA grant Chris mentions?), you could calculate a rough SAR for wild fish after the spawning escapements are completed for any brood year, assuming the state has enough money to do the redd surveys in their index streams. It seems like someone would be doing this to see the survival relationship between hatchery and wild steelhead smolts in the Skag because as your math suggests, the wild fish seem to be surviving at a much higher rate than their hatchery counterparts. That or they are vastly underestimating the number of wild smolts leaving the system?

To me, it would be worth fishing the upper Skagit just for the beauty and reminiscing, let alone the chance of actually one of those 900 fish. However, my 2 day trip to the area for Christmas (with one reserved for fishing) has been cut to one, so I'll miss out again.
If losing the hatchery would stop the Nov. to Dec. fishing I cannot for the life of me understand why they haven't shut it down yet. It still seems to me that WDFW would like to eliminate all sports fishing on the Skagit except for humpies. It is complete mystery to me.

Kerry - I think its because they have other hatchery salmon in the system and would like rec anglers/tribal net fishery to catch them. There would be a large back lash from the angler community if it shut down as well - because the tribal net fishery would not stop just to rebuild native/wild runs.


Well-Known Member

I understand. I used a cost per pound estimate applied to the steelhead program only. Eliminating the steelhead program would drive up the marginal cost of the remaining production due to the many fixed costs. It was mainly a curiousity to see if the program economics were positive or negative. Obviously the value assigned to recreationally caught fish has a huge effect on the conclusion. And then there's the complete nonsensical aspect of spending $24 to raise a fish that gets caught and sold for $20 or less. Not as bad as some Columbia River chinook that cost as much as $3,000 each to produce and then get sold for $0.50 a pound as commercial catch.

As a society we make some strange choices.


WDFW would prefer that the Skagit were open to recreational fishing 365 days/year, well maybe minus May as there are next to no fresh fish running then. Unfortunately conservation needs and federal ESA restrictions have removed that choice from the menu, most likely forever.

If there were zero hatchery fish in the Skagit, the only recreational opportunity would be for SRC, bull trout, pinks in most odd years, chums about 3 of every 4 years, and coho 1 of every 2 years, give or take. That would be it, no steelhead or chinook fishing, and I guess that includes shutting down the new sockeye hatchery on the Baker. Like it or not, if we want anything else in the way of local fishing opportunity, it requires the presence of hatchery fish.



Ignored Member
Chris, I understand why the hatchery is still running. I do however think WDFW is working to eliminate as much sport fishing as they can on the Skagit. They have effectively eliminated bull trout fishing and cutthroat fishing on the lower river during some of the best times of the year to fish under the guise of protecting steelhead. If you listen to the reasons they use to justify the closing of the lower river you will hear some pretty good nonsense that could be used to close any portion of the river at any time of the year they choose. I believe they will continue to eliminate fishing opportunities where and when they can. It is the only explanation that makes any sense for what they are doing.

Charles Sullivan

ignoring Rob Allen and Generic
231,000 hatchery smolts dumping into the sound concurrently with the wild smolt outmigration clearly has no affect on the wild smolts. Why would it? (TIC).

How many smolts are being dumped in from the other PS river to share valuable PS habitat with? I can't see how they help. I can certainly see how they can hurt.

Steelhead management on the state and now federal level is very conservative when dealing with C&R oppertunities that don't kill an appreciable amount of fish. Hell, the fish don't die even when you shove transmitters down their throats. When dealing with hatcheries the management style is a faith based approach to a scientific issue. It just does not make sense unless your belief in hatcheries overcomes common F'ing sense.

I had an enjoyable albeit fishless day on the big river with my daughter today. I sure wish I could share a warm April afternoon with her there.

Go Sox,