Chrome Steelhead Spitting eggs?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by ak_powder_monkey, Apr 28, 2008.

  1. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

    Last year when on the situk around the second week of may we caught a lot of chrome fish that were shooting out eggs when we caught them, and I mean chrome. Anybody else have that happen?
  2. Les Johnson

    Les Johnson Les Johnson

    It isn't uncommon to see a late winter henfish that are, as you said, chrome bright, have loose eggs fly fom its vent when it is violently fighting the hook.
    This phenomanon is actually seen quite often in Alaska rivers such as the Thorne on Prince-of-Wales Island where a lot of the steelhead arrive bright but very ripe.
    Les Johnson
  3. Preston

    Preston Active Member

    Back in the day, I caught a red-hot hen steelhead on the Dungeness in the month of May. She was chrome-bright, had sea lice around her vent and her eggs were already loose in the skein. I think this is just an example of the diversity of life histories once exhibited by our populations of wild steelhead. Oddly enough, she had been feeding heavily on big black ants which were hatching and flying at the time, her stomach was packed solid with them.
  4. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

    I have caught chrome bright hens on the Skagit that already had dumped their eggs and had visible raw marks on their tails from working the redds.

    They weren't the firmest fish I ever held but they still looked sea lice though.

    My guess was 3-5 days out of the salt.
  5. Ringlee

    Ringlee Doesn't care how you fish Moderator Staff Member

    Re Bright fish. Getting ready to go back out to sea.
  6. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

    Yes I recently became aware of this phenom. but these fish still looked chrome to me and salty. They weren't the Sauk fish, they were up above Marblemount.

    I didn't know a fish could re-chrome like this. This fish looked like it never de-chromed. But there isn't any way to really know...
  7. Preston

    Preston Active Member

    Hen steelhead don't color up as much as males and recover their saltwater coloring very quickly after spawning, frequently long before leaving the river. The only evidence of their having spawned is, as noted, the frayed caudal fin, sunken flanks and generally flaccid condition.
  8. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

    so the question is should I be feeling bad about catching these fish?
  9. Steelie Mike

    Steelie Mike Active Member

    Just do your best to keep them in the water and not stress them too much and I think you are fine. If you catch several in an area that are dropping then move on. Good luck.
  10. James Mello

    James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

    Debatable. I wouldn't feel bad, and I don't look down on people who happen to catch them either. Apparently it's considered a part of "fair pursuit" for Atlantics, and some midwestern steelhead fishermen actually actively pursue them during "dropback season". In general, I wouldn't go out of my way for them, but other than not being on the river, it's kinda hard to avoid.

    But like some people, I don't think kelts really "count" as a fish to tally. I wasn't aware of them as a whole until I started to catch more and notice the differences in fish. Additionally Salmo_g kinda educated me, and I As Salmo_g he put it "they're hungry and will eat anything". This is due to the hormonal changes in the fish that cause it to start creating digestive juices and metabolizing food. Prior to that, anything they ate kinda just sat in their stomaches just rotting (Zen has some fotos somewhere of this).

    For trying to avoid kelts, get into rhythm of the specific river you are fishing. In the Skagit, lots of fish don't spawn until deep into May, so it's a pretty safe bet you're fishing for relatively fresh fish in April. For other rivers like the upper Bogachiel, lots of the fish have *finished* spawning by late march, and there is a fair bit of dropbacks occuring.

    In general if you want kelts to survive, leave 'em be. They don't have a lot of juice, and until they get their fat reserves back on, they are easy prey due to lack of energy.

    For what it's worth, evidence is now showing that fish that respawn can have an extermely high rate of smolt survival, mostly cause mama or papa had a clue as to what they were doing. TomB has a lot more info on this as he's got some insider info for a kelt reconditioning program on the Yakima. Also, I think Will told me something about past historic rates of kelting (but I don't recall), so you can prolly pester them for more info :)

    But all in all, if you do hit a kelt don't feel too bad. There's little you can do other than avoiding fishing....
  11. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

    if they are spitting eggs they probably aren't kelts yet no?
  12. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

    Yes. There is a bit of confusion in this thread.

    Mr. Mello is talking about kelts and you are talking about chrome yet ripe pre-spawners.

    As I said, I have heard of steelhead going from the salt, spawning and returning to the salt in a matter of days. I still think I have encountered some of these fish. It is just hard to believe those chromers that fought so well had been in the river for that long and were just chromed out kelts.

    I think the fish you speak of P. Monkey are similar fish.

    I have seen steelhead returning to chrome and they always have darker parts around the lips and gills and a smokier complection. The fish I have encountered that I thought were hasty spawners were WHITE WHITE WHITE in all the right places.
  13. chadk

    chadk Be the guide...

    Chromer spitting a few eggs with a full belly = pre-spawn, but ripe. Chromer spitting a few eggs + skinny and empty looking belly = kelts. So AK - James must have been responding to Jason regarding the kelts I guess.
  14. chadk

    chadk Be the guide...

    Examples of re-chromed kelts \ down river fish:

    Pre-spawner = true chromer full of eggs:
  15. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

    It's not uncommon on a few OP streams in April to catch fish in the lower river...the first few riffles...that have extended ovipositors, eggs dropping...and live sea lice.

    The latest fish spawn lowest in the stream, and these hens come in ready to go...if they come in during an afternoon tide, they can be spawning that night, and be "kelts" after being in the river for twelve hours...

    Fish on...

  16. James Mello

    James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

    Once they have started spitting eggs, more than likely they have been actively spawning. The act of digging the redd has a lot to do with the looseness of a skein. There are *some* conditions where that isn't true. But if the belly is flaccid and only dropping a few eggs it's a kelt. If it's full and dropping eggs you got yourself an active spawner.

    Finally, hatchery fish are a completely different beast altogether. Salmo told me about a fish caught on the Cowlitz that was BRIGHT as hell, and spewing eggs like mad.

    -- Cheers
    -- James

    PS This is a question for the bios. I was under the impression that the red color (in the right places) as a signal to bucks that a female was ready. Unless that occurs, how does a male know that a female is ready to drop eggs? Is it a guess or otherwise?
  17. Zen Piscator

    Zen Piscator Supporting wild steelhead, gravel to gravel.

    Kelts will sometimes still have a few eggs in them and it is still possible for them to spit eggs. I've seen it personaly.

    I think the egg spewing deal with hens that are mature but not neccesarily spawning yet is like a survival mechanism. If they feel they are about to die they will start dropping their eggs. Just a theory.
  18. longstick

    longstick Member

    Hey akpowdermonkey,
    they are fall fish the hens on that creek will stay chrome through the spawn. Fish deeper runs or holes where you can not see the bottom, you will hook less, spawners and my with sealice. It want solve the problem 100% but it will help. I was there 2nd week in may last year and we caught plenty of fresh fish. Just have to target different water.
  19. Steelie Mike

    Steelie Mike Active Member


    Both of these hens were caught in the same spot. The top one hard firm skeins and the bottom one dropped some eggs and had loose eggs in its belly. You just never know what you are going to get.
  20. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

    Thats the weird thing most of the fish that were spitting eggs came from deep places off the spawning beds, in fact none of the fish we caught in shallow water seemed to do that