Define your "exceptional" searun cutt

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by Stonefish, Apr 14, 2008.

  1. People who write about coastal (sea run) cutthroat oftentimes have little understanding of the very unique trout we are priviledged to have along our coast and in our rivers draining the coastal mountains. There is a Washington fishing guide book written by an out-of-state writer who simply lists a chapter, "Sea-Run Cutthroat" and never refers to them as a coastal cutthroat. This is not the case with some of our superb local writers like Steve Raymond and Doug Rose to name a couple who come to mind.
    It is warming to see that most members of this web site have learned to spot these articles based on very little research and call it out. It solidifies my contention that members of this site:
    1. Have learned to understand, fish for, and become stewards of our coastal cutthroat...or,
    2. Are in the process of understanding, fishing and becoming stewards of our coastal cutthroat.
    A well-rounded understanding, or learning to understand our precious wild cutthroat is, in my view a huge factor in the present health of our coastal cutthroat trout. I pray that this trend continues.
    I do believe that our cutthroat fishing in Puget Sound (I'm not so certain of Hood Canal) has improved since sportsmen demanded regulations changes to make them c&r in marine waters in 1997. We are, in my opinion seeing more large cutthroat (16-18") since they now have enough time to reach maturity (8-10 years) but I cannot say that the population has grown numerically to any extent. There have been no studies to done that I know of that verify this.
    I do admit that I have caught very few cutthroat of 20" or more in some 65 years of fishing for them.
    Good Fishing,
    Les Johnson
  2. A 20-inch sea-run cutthroat is an exceptional fish. Sadly, most of the reported 20-inch cutthroat are, like 20-inch Yakima River rainbows, more wishful thinking than fact. A thoroughly experienced Yakima River guide once told me that in thirteen years of guiding the Yakima he could count the number of actual twenty-inch rainbows he'd seen caught on one hand. A twenty-inch sea-run cutthroat should be considered in the same light as a twenty-pound steelhead, a fish to be remembered for a lifetime. I had an acquaintance who used to catch twenty-inch cutthroat, usually several of them, every time he went out, oddly enough this invariably occurred when he was fishing by himself.

    In all of my years of fishing for sea-run cutthroat in fresh and salt water, I've only caught one that went over twenty inches (a bit over twenty-one). Last year I only saw one twenty-inch cutthroat and both I and the fellow who caught it thought he'd hooked a coho. As Les pointed out, sea-run cutthroat are relatively slow-growing fish; an eight-year-old is an old fish. According to Pat Trotter, the oldest sea-run cutthroat ever recorded was a ten-year-old fish from Sand Creek in Oregon; he notes that sea-run cutthroat "seldom live beyond age seven or eight, nor normally grow much beyond 500 mm in fork length".
  3. To me, an exceptional fish is the only one I hook on a cold, blustery day. A fish like that always brightens things up, no matter how big it is.

  4. The more I think about that Washington State fishing report in FFA, the more pissed off I get. Many of the reports are turned in by fly shop owners who get the shop's number included in the report. However, BSing about the common 20-inchers; or that the fishing has never been better; or the fact they forgot to mention that it was the sportsmen who rallied for protection of the coastal cutthroat for 30-years before the WDFW gave in is simply indefensible. Shopkeepers had better become stewards of our cutthroat if they intend to maintain this unique resource to people who buy rods, reels and other fishing paraphernalia. Just taking classes of newbies to the beach to teach them how to catch cutthroat is a small part of the big picture. Teaching people to catch fish but not a thing about the fishing is is just not enough.
    Good Fishing,
    Les Johnson
  5. Great point Les, but telling people the resource is fragile, representing the true size distribition, describing the actual catch rate, and saying not to target it due to its vulnerability wouldn't sell issues.
  6. Roe,
    I agree. FFA operates on immediate gratification, which has, sadly become the mantra for too many people in the industry, not just fly fishermen. After slugging it out with WDFW and Fish and Wildlife Commission for 35 years I feel that now that we can enjoy fishing cutthroat with a decent chance for success with a larger percentage of good sized fish. We all need to treat the resource with respect however since it has always been fragile and always will be. With other fisheries in decline, pounding on the cutthroat just to sell tackle is a pretty short-sighted practice. And lying about the fishery is even worse.
    It sounds from most of the comments on this thread though that the WFF members are way too smart to be taken in by FFA.
    Good Fishing,
  7. I have never caught a 20" SRC. If I did (when I do) I promise that at least for me that will be a truly exceptional fish. I would bet that 9 out of 10 FF is salt would agree. For all we know this guy is from Montana and has fished for SRC once...maybe twice :)
  8. There was a fork length distribution of Puget Sound SRC's caught by netting published in a recent study. I tried to cut and paste it into this post, but couldn't.

    They caught 497 fish. Largest was 490mm, or just under 22 inches. Only 2 fish were bigger than 460mm (about 20"). Only 4% of the sample exceeded 360mm (16"). If 96% of the fish are smaller than 16", anything larger would in my mind be an exceptional fish, and anything over 20" would probably be a fish of a lifetime for most of us.
  9. As a admitted "cutthroat nut" each and every sea-run cutthroat are for me an exceptional fish. I look forward to each and every one that allow me to be connected to it for a brief moment or two whenever I happen to fool one into taking my fly after which I hopefully I'm able to release it none the worse for wear.

    While I have caught more than my share of 20+ inch fish an exceptional fish in days fishing is that one that sticks out from the others; sometimes it is a 16 inch fish that is significant larger than the others seen that day, other times it is one of those special fish that seems to capture the fall colors in its golden hues, and at other times it is one that seems to think it is a summer steelhead and repeatly leaps about the river.

    Preston -
    Good call about a 20 " sea-run being on par with a 20# steelhead. In more than 45 years of fishing western Washington anadromous streams I have caught about equal numbers of both though I do have to say that in terms of % of the fish caught the 20 inch cutthroat for me has been several times rarer than a 20# steelhead; though I average many more cutthroat/day than steelhead.

    I have to agree with Skeena's cited study that on the average I bring to hand a true gaint sea-run that would measure at least 20 inches in roughly 500 or so encounters.

    Tight lines
  10. Skeena88,
    Check your math. 460mm is 18.1 inches, 490mm is 19.3 inches, 360mm is 14.1 inches.
  11. Preston -
    That study was reporting the length of the fish as fork lengths (the distance from the tip of the nose to the center of the tail) which is somewhat shorter than total length. As I recall to convert fork length to total length you need to multiply the FL by 1.06 (it may be different as my memory isn't what it once was).

    A fish with a fork length of 490 mm would then have a total length of about 520 mm or about 20 1/2 inches (assuming a multiplier of 1.06).

    As an aside we should again plan on a trip or two this fall to see if we can find one of those "exceptional fish".

    Tight lines
  12. For me, anything over 15" is exceptional. I seem to find a few 14" and 15" ers here on the Twin Harbors streams each year, but larger specimens have been rare for me. Best day last Sept I got my biggest one on a fly yet from a popular Chehalis River trib, a very fat and healthy 18"er. Half hour later I caught a snakey 17.5" er. Then the sun hit the water and it was over there for the day.
    That was an exceptional day for me! Two very different looking, but large searuns.
    One of the more exceptional fish I released last year was a fiesty 15"er that leapt high 5 times, ran straight at my squanoe slacking my line, causing me "conniption fits" ... but i netted her and she was fat and fully colored up and a really pretty fish.
    Local kids who brag around here will brag about the 19"er they got. Don't hear 'em bragging about anything any bigger, and you'd think those worm fishin' nincompoops would brag if they'd got 'em.
  13. Hey Les, i keep looking for your footprints on these Grays Harbor streams, but they must have faded over time. Sometimes I wonder if I'm fishing one of your old favorite spots.
    Your first book, "How to Fish for Sea-Run Cutthroat Trout" was really an inspiration. Not nearly as comprehensive as your latest, but it sure got me stoked and hot on the trail of the Coastal Cutthroat. Thanks again for that!
    When I bought it at Waters West about 6 years ago, Dave told me it was the last copy in stock, and that it was out of print. That book is a classic. I love the color plates of the flies.
    I have to agree with Curt that every searun or native coastal cutt I catch is an exceptional fish.
  14. Back in the Mid 70's I was a Lab tech for Battelle Northwest and one of our surveys was to beach seine in Sequim Bay to monitor the Shiner Perch population. On several occasions we encountered SRC which we managed to release non the worse for wear. Out of roughly 50 individual SRC only three appeared to be over 20", the largest was 26" and looked to be about 7# my helpers were really wanting to take that bad boy home for a seafood dinner at the Lab. Oh well you know what they call the girl in charge who says "NO"!
  15. Demarie, you are my heroine. :)

    (Its the cutts that are my heroin.:clown:)
  16. This has to be one of the better descriptions of these wonderful wild trout that we are so lucky to have in our salt waters here in Washington. Many people take them for granted. I see them as one of our last, precious wild fish resources. I do appreciate the desire to catch big hard wild fish, most of us feel that way. But a range of sizes would be more encourageing. We need to encounter every age and size of these fish through our fishing seasons in order to have confidence that they are thriving. In many places this simply is not so. I want WDFW to stop allowing harvest of them in the rivers.
  17. It's a little unhealthy for the cutthroat and for the angler to obsess about getting the 20 incher checked off their list. I'm imagining many clumbsy tape measure & photo jobs while the fish is flopping on sharp rocks. With a nice net or with a buddy it can be done harmlessly but is this necessary? The fight and stamina of a large cutthroat is far more impressive and memorable than its exact dimensions anyway.
    To be honest I worry far more about uncontrolled development and netting around small spawning streams than C&R angling pressure. Few anglers ever become truly good at consistently catching SRC due to the time investment and experience needed.
  18. Most memorable fighing cutts i have ever caught were all about 15 inches. seems to me that those are the ones that really get some air and fight the hardest. Just like a 10-12 pound hen steelhead, the smaller mature cutts seem to be the most acrobatic.
  19. What? You're Right. Seems plausible. :thumb:
  20. A couple years ago I was targeting src in the skok just north of Shelton. I hooked a nice fish that fought well. As I brought it to hand I noticed something strange. I was a Brown Trout. I've caught enough of them in Utah and Idaho to know what they look like. I was told there may be some lakes in the upper skok watershed where they may be planted. Anyway I was really surprised by it's presence there. Out of habit I released the fish. That may not have been the smartest thing to do. I have no way of knowing if it had been to salt water or not but it certainly had access.

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