MF Snoqualmie Report

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by kbromer, Aug 4, 2008.

  1. James St. Clair stclairj

    Posts: 143
    Yakima, WA
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    When I was in college at CWU I did quite a bit of independent research guided by my advising fisheries biology professor. We did some electrofishing in quite a few of the streams ranging from in Ellensburg all the way up to Snoqualmie pass. His general view was that 'bows inhabited these lower stretches, while cutthroat and brookies generally stayed closer to the headwaters. There would be a gradual change from the cutts and brookies to 'bows as you move downstream. Almost every creek we shocked we found this to be the case. There was a dramatic difference if there was an impassible fish barrier (usually manmade) somewhere within the system. For example, a small creek near Easton called Tucker creek is divided by a large culvert that would be impossible for fish to pass. Above the culvert we only dredged up cutthroat and brookies, whereas below the culvert the majority of the fish were rainbows with a smattering of cutts, and no brook trout.

    His explanation was the life history strategy, and overall competition between the species. Cutthroat and brookies can most often handle cooler water, and suffer from warmer water, whereas the opposite is true for rainbows, who can handle the warmer water, and while do fine in cooler waters, are generally more comfortable with a warmer temperature. The data we collected supported this opinion. While before the fish barrier was in place, bows were probably upstream of the now present barrier, and brooks may have been present below the barrier, but the ability of these species to succeed in these different habitats basically outcompeted the ones that we're on the borderline.

    On Richards point, I believe I have witnessed the same phenomenon in the NF Snoqulamie, where above (what I think you might be hinting at is Sunday Creek), the majority of the fish are cutthroat with a few brookies, while when you travel below the creek, most are rainbows and a few cutthroat. While this is no fish barrier, their must be some other reason for rainbows not traveling above this creek as often. Maybe its the water temperature above and below the creek, or maybe its that Sunday Lake has been stocked in the past with Rainbows, and the majority of the fish in the lake are rainbows, and thus also in the creek.

    This is also super obvious in the Yakima River, where above and around Easton there might be a few rainbows, but mostly cutts and brookies. As you move down towards Cle-Elum, there is probably about 50/50 cutts and rainbows with no brookies, and in the Ellensburg to Roza stretch there is probably 5% cutts with 95% bows. This is at least what I have found through snorkeling for WDFW, as well as personal fishing experience.

    On the size of the fish, I think you guys all hit the nail on the head, slightly acidic waters does not allow for vigorous bug growth indirectly through limited algae growth, and the generally year round cooler water temps, flood events, absence of salmon, and the short high gradient form of these rivers does not allow for fish to grow as large as one might expect even with the C&R rules in effect. If you catch a 14" fish on one of the forks, and there are a few in there, the fish is probably near the end of his life, 7 - 9 years old. Most of the fish we probably catch up there are in the 2-4 year old age class (between 5 and 9").

    Good discussion, I enjoyed reading peoples explanations and opinions on this.

    James:beer2:
  2. Xander Member

    Posts: 94
    Seattle, WA
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    This is really interesting, Speaker, because I had the same experience as you at the above location a couple weeks ago; however, last night, it was all cutties a few miles downstream... :confused:
  3. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

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    Over the past 10 years I've fished the NF Snoqualmie from its confluence with the MF all the way up past Lennox Creek. Of the quite literally hundreds of coastal cutts and a few dozen brookies I've caught there, I have never landed a rainbow.

    In saying this, I don't dispute your claim that there are rainbows in the stream. But one would think that given a sample that size taken from a fifteen or so mile stretch of the river, at least some would be rainbows.

    Some time ago, before I learned that Sunday Creek is closed to fishing, I regularly fished it from the confluence up to Philippa Creek. All I caught were cutthroat. I'm 105% positive that Sunday Lake contains only coastals and has been planted with them for quite some time. Both Philippa and Loch Katrine contain rainbows.

    K
  4. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,797
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +653 / 0
    Another prespective on the fish populations of the Snoqualmie Forks.

    I learned to fly fish for trout on the South Fork of the Snoqualmie. By the time I reached my teens in the early 1960s my fishing had expanded to include all three forks. At the time the State planted catchable rainbows in both the South Fork (above twin falls) and the Middle Fork up around the area now referred to as the concrete bridge. Those fish were easily separated from the naturally produced fish that provided the bulk of our/my catches. By the time I had graduated from high school I had fished virtually every mile of the South Fork and most of the Middle Fork (up to where I could easily step across it without getting my feet wet.

    The trout limit was 15 fish/day later reduced to 12/fish. Very few folks practiced catch and release and most fished with bait. Like today the forks were prefect for a learning angler, the trout willing, but by mid-season demanding enough to bring about a gradual refinement in my angling skills. 40 years ago a typcial evening on the upper Snoqualmie would typically produce the following catches.

    On the South Fork from late May (opening day) to mid October and 3 or 4 hour fishing trip would produce from 10 to 30 trout or more on a good day. They were nearly all cutthroat with the typical fish in the 6 to 10 inch range though if I caught 20 trout I would expect 4 or 5 in that 10 to 14 inch range with each season producing a handful of fish in that 14 to 16 inch range. Each season I would a handful of brookies and the odd rainbow though every season to two I would get Bonefish Jack's "SF slam". Once in a while a bait dunker would get a 20 incher but I never was that lucky/skillful.

    The Middle Fork typically had an extended period of snow run-off and our fly fishing usually didn't really get started until mid-July. Agian the dominate species I caught was cutthroat. The catch rates on the middle fork were rarely as good as that on the South Fork but the fish averaged larger. A good afternoon or evening would produce 20 or 25 fish with maybe half of the fish in that 10 14 inch range with a larger fish a distinct possibility . Every season would produce several fish in that 16 to 20 inch range with the largest that I every saw caught being a 24 inch cutthroat.

    The North Fork was not as user friendly to me and I didn't fish it nearly as often as the other two forks. Generally we cutthroat in the lower section (below Black Canyon) most rainbows in the middle piece (spur 10 area) and cutthroat in the upper area (Lennox Creek).
    There some very large fish (rainbows) in Black Canyon which was difficult to access except during extra low flows.

    The fishing below the forks was a cutthroat fishery with most 8 to 14 inch fish though I could count on a larger fish or two every season. We did find good numbers of rainbows in the portion of the float - they were catchable fish dropping out of the juvenile creeks.

    The hatches on the system were some limited though did see some early season stones. There also were the ocassional decent mayfly hatch, especially in May and June. The bread and butter hatches were Caddis and midges. By this time of year success depended on your skill in fishing smaller buggers (mostly 16s to 20s). The last couple of hours of daylight would yield dozens of raisers in each large pool. Mid-day fish was mostly a pocket water game with high floaters in 14s and 12s producing most of the action. For two decades all season I fished nothing but dries though I now suspect if I had expanded my efforts to include dead drift nymphs and streamers my catch of larger fish would have been much better.

    In spite of more conservative management (for example the middle fork has been CnR since 1986) the fishing still has not rebounded to what I saw a couple decades earlier. I suspect that a significant factor in the decline in the quality of the trout fishery has been a poorer habitat. Remember for example much of the Middle fork was not logged until the 1960s. I still remember logging trucks coming out of the Middle Fork where the butt cut of the old growth Douglas fir was so large a single butt cut log would be a load and they had to cut slots for the trailers stake's to fit it on the trailer and to keep the loads weight down the long would only be about 20 feet long. The more frequent flooding and decrease in good over winter cover seems to have limited the populations. I understand that WDFW is setting up to do some detailed studies on the Fork's trout. We additional information we may gain additional insights in what is going on with the Fork's trout.

    Thanks for the chance to travel down memories lane - hope my ramblings were too boring.

    Tight lines
    Curt
  5. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

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    I wonder how much of the lack of rebound might be attributable to a vastly increased sportfishing pressure?

    Seems to me that ten years ago, I didn't see nearly as many fishermen on the MF as I do now. Maybe the meth labs and the abandoned cars shot full of holes kept 'em fishing somewhere else!

    Thanks for weighing in Curt.

    K
  6. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,797
    Marysville, Washington
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    Kent -
    The issue of angling pressure is an interested thought and I have thought about it quite a bit.

    Given that the Forks was my home wates as I was learning to fly fish was pretty excited when the middle fork first when to CnR in 1986. At that time the fishing was much like it is today - lots of 6 to 9 inch trout. I revisited some of my old stomping grounds in late August 1987.My expectation was that CnR regulation would not make much of a difference in the total numbers of trout but they would be larger (there were lots of trout just not many old ones). I expected to see a 3 inch jump in size from the previous year. And that was exactly what I saw. The average fish was 9 to 12 inches with a nice sprinkling of 12 to 15 inch fish. There were as many fish over 12 inches as there were fish under 9.

    After what I saw in 1987 I was eager to fish the Middle Fork in 1988 and expected to find the fishing that I remember from 20 years before. Was both surprised and shocked that what I found was the return to mostly 6 to 9 inch fish.

    To this day I still do not understand the mechanics of why there are not more larger fish. Though as is typically the case I sure that it is a combination of factors with as I expressed in the first post habitat being a major player. Though poaching and hooking mortality are also likely players in the equation. One thing is for sure in spite what many of us thought it became very clear that CnR is not the panacea to what ails our fisheries.

    Tight lines
    Curt
  7. Xander Member

    Posts: 94
    Seattle, WA
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    That's an awesome bit of history Curt thanks.
  8. Richard Olmstead BigDog

    Posts: 2,484
    Seattle, WA
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    Curt -
    Thanks for the detailed description of the Forks in the 60's. It must have been a teenage flyfisher's dream to have so close by. It is still a fun outing and good for beginners, but the larger fish are so few and far between that the anticipation of a big fish fades far sooner than the realization of catching one.

    James, Yes, Sunday creek.

    Kent, Are we fishing the same North Fork? Let's get out there some evening soon and see if they are bows or cutts!

    Dick
  9. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

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    Absolutely! I'll try to remember to bring a reel along this time!

    K
  10. CoastalCutt Member

    Posts: 547
    North Bend, WA
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    I get around to all three forks in about a two week span, with the south being angled 2-3 times weekly by me. I catch a trout over 12" or right around almost every time out. My biggest ever was a Cutt. (which make up 98% of my catch with the odd cutt-bow but never any full bows) pushing the 20" mark.....no exaggeration. I snorkel the forks frequently also, and many would be surprised at the size of some of the fish in those streams. The Middle for me produces the more consistent catch of 9-12" fish, but I'd say maybe every 80th trout on the South for me is pushing up around or over 16." As for the North, the fish for me run a tad smaller than the other two, but there are some large fish present here as well. I suggest everyone who loves the forks should snorkel some stretches, you will see some cool stuff, including some humungous whiteys.
  11. Xander Member

    Posts: 94
    Seattle, WA
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    So CoastalCutt,

    What are you doing differently to catch those lunkers?
  12. troutingham Member

    Posts: 260
    Seattle,Wa
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    I have landed a 20" inch trout, twice, same spot same time of year with the same fly . The second time I caught it was killed, not intentionally and not by me but by a gear fishermans 2 ot hook and 10lb line. When I beached it was bleeding profusely out of the anus with a 1 oz banana weight hanging from the line. I brought to patricks fly shop and had it measured 20 maybe 21, then I took it into the wsdof office where I made a complaint about kids snorkeling and harpooning fish. Game warden put a bulletproof vest on me and we headed up to North Bend together and busted them. He gave me the harpoon, I still have it but what I really want is the picture of that fish which was stolen out of the car weeks later at the spot I park on the S fork. It was gorgeous mature with beautiful brown coloration and bright red cheeks and very pronounce hooked nose and Jaw like spawning colors. Same spot, same time of year, same fly, same fish. I'll never forget how misplaced this grandaddy fish looked in that tiny clear stream.
  13. Jim Speaker Active Member

    Posts: 2,210
    Mill Creek, WA
    Ratings: +507 / 0
    Hm... seems that I need to expand my range on the forks. Had no idea there were sizable fish in there. Thanks for sharing :D Big fish or not, however, what a beautiful place to fish.
  14. Richard Olmstead BigDog

    Posts: 2,484
    Seattle, WA
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    It sounds like he knows where they are, for one!
    D
  15. James St. Clair stclairj

    Posts: 143
    Yakima, WA
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    Kent-

    I have a ton of pictures from numerous backpacking trips to Sunday Lake where the majority of fish we caught were rainbows. Unfortunately they are on film, so I will try and have to scan them in and send them to you. I am 106% positive that these fish are rainbows, and have also caught coastal cutthroat there as well. However, the majority were always rainbows. One factor that makes me confident is many of these fish were over 14", without parr marks, and well developed, making their ID a little more cut and dry.

    I too used to fish in the creek on the way up to the lake before I learned it was closed (oops, tsk tsk on me, luckily always CNR). I would say it was 50/50 rainbows cutts. After spending a few seasons ID'ing fish in streams around the cascades for WDFW I am pretty confident in my claims. Especially when they are backed up by genetic data released in reports...

    I understand that Coastal cutts and Rainbows hybridize pretty easy and are difficult to tell apart just by a quick view, however, I am very confident that there are rainbows from previous stockings that have become naturally reproducing in the NF. Not trying to make a big deal out of this here, but I have to defend myself a little...

    James:beer2:
  16. Jim Speaker Active Member

    Posts: 2,210
    Mill Creek, WA
    Ratings: +507 / 0
    Just gotta say, I dig this thread. There's always something to learn about the Sno Forks, or any other drainage for that matter. I remember back in the day on the old list-serv I posted something about a brookie on the S Fork that turned into a debate about whether it was really a bull trout or not. It made me dig a little to ensure I know my shit with regard to the differences, and as it turns out was in fact a brookie. Anyway, great thread, the forks are awesome.
    :beer2: :beer1: ptyd
  17. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    Posts: 7,136
    Not sure
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    Hi James,

    Sorry if my earlier post might have come across as attacking your statements - that was certainly not my intention.

    The reason I'm so sure about Sunday Lake is that some of my fellow HiLakers regularly survey the lake for WDFW and also I know some of the Trailblazers who stock the lake. They all confirm that it's been dosed with coastal cutts for over a decade. Here's a part of a 2005 email from one of my HiLaker friends regarding adjustments to the plant rate:

    "As a result of a number of recent surveys reporting that Sunday Lake is a bit overpopulated, the planting rate has been reduced from 400 to 200 TCCT a year, effective this months plant. [The WDFW fish bio] considers if very important that we monitor the lake. If natural reproduction shows itself to be adequate, we will reduce the planting rate again. The goal is to increase the size and condition of the fish."

    I'll inquire to see if actual stocking reports might be available.

    K
  18. James St. Clair stclairj

    Posts: 143
    Yakima, WA
    Ratings: +16 / 0
    No problem Kent...I am honestly confused as I am looking at the pictures right now all of which are obvious rainbows. One possibility is that the years I was fishing the lake were 1995-1998. Maybe it is possible that the lake was stocked before a decade ago with rainbows, or that they were introduced some other way. I am absolutely positive these fish are rainbows, and I will attempt to scan them in tonight to send you some pics.

    Anyways, no hard feelings. Like I said previously I actually really enjoyed this thread, hearing other peoples opinions about the forks of the Snoqualmie. I wish I still lived on the westside so we could head up there and compare fish ID's. I am positive I have caught at least one rainbow in almost every section of each fork....who knows, maybe we/I never will. Anyways, tight lines, head up there and catch a bunch for me next time you get a chance.

    James:beer2:
  19. Xander Member

    Posts: 94
    Seattle, WA
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    iagree This is a cool thread and there is a lot of history as well as recent info on this river system that is so close and so dear to many of us ;) . I was thinking though that maybe the Title of thread should be changed since we have diverged so much from a simple, standard report to a bit of living history. Thoughts? Anyway, thanks to all for their killer insights and stimulating dialogue. :beer2:
  20. kbromer New Member

    Posts: 6
    Seattle, WA
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    indeed, this has been a fantastic read. I've never felt so inspirational in my life ;)