Native summers

Discussion in 'Spey Clave' started by Panhandle, Feb 24, 2011.

  1. Panhandle

    Panhandle Active Member

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    In Oregon, in a few central valley rivers, there are "Ghost Runs." These are small run of native fish that enter the system April/May. So what's the historical story, when things were intact, with fish that use to run in the spring summer months. We, as steelheaders, equate the summer with brats. Are there any full intact systems in the lower 48 that have a viable native summer run? What is the most intact system in the lower 48?
     
  2. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    I'm not familiar with the description "central valley" in Oregon. Is it the Willamette?

    I've heard that the Willamette tribs didn't have native summer steelhead, only native spring chinook and I think late winter steelhead. Not sure about that last one. The natural feature that shaped Willamette basin fish populations is Willamette Falls at Oregon City. The falls were allegedly passable only during the spring months when the Willamette was high and backed up by spring runoff of the Columbia. This permitted passage of spring chinook and could have also allowed late winter steelhead into the system. It could also have allowed "springer" steelhead, that is, early running summer steelhead.

    I heard that Skamania summer runs were introduced to Willamette tribs because they had no native summer runs. I've also been told that the Siletz was the only OR coastal river with a native summer steelhead run.

    I'm most familiar with WA fish populations. There are still remnant endemic summer steelhead runs in the Nooksack, Skagit, Stillaguamish, and Snohomish River basins of Puget Sound, but I doubt that any of them satisfy the VSP (Viable Salmonid Population) criteria. On the coast there are native summer runs in the Quinault, Queets, Hoh, and Quilayutte systems, and I similarly doubt that any satisfy the VSP. None were large populations to begin with, and their habitat is easily compromised by logging. Just a guess, but I think the healthiest wild summer steelhead populations on the entire west coast must be the North Umpqua and Rogue, and maybe Klamath/Trinity.

    Sg
     
  3. Panhandle

    Panhandle Active Member

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    Thanks, Salmo. One river I was referring to is the N. Santiam. Maybe it is just a myth, but that "Ghost run" label is given to a small run of native fish in April- May. A fisheries biologist suppoted this claim, and stated that this run is not late arrival winters. The santiams, mollalla, etc.. and central coastal rivers (nestucca, nacannucum, etc..) would'nt be impacted by the falls, correct? I thought the NU summer fish were brood stock, absent of any true natives. Why are native summer fish typically much smaller than their winter cousins.
     
  4. speyforsteel

    speyforsteel Degenerate Caster

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    I remember the HOT ONES on the Kalama in Late March to early May-it was still a consistant run 7-8 years ago.
     
  5. Freestone

    Freestone Not to be confused with freestoneangler

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    Pan, I wonder if that run could be analogous to our Upper Columbia summer runs (disclaimer: the following is my layperson's understanding of things so forgive any incorrect facts. Sg, please correct me if I'm wrong...).

    Take the Methow: while they enter the Columbia in the summer-early fall, they will generally hang out in either the Columbia and Methow all winter and the bulk of the run will not move up into the spawning tributaries until April+ (they basically spawn in the up in the tribs, not the Methow). When these summer runs enter fresh water they are not sexually mature and they will not mature for many months; they spawn in the spring just like the ocean-maturing winter fish that spawn fairly soon after arrival in the fresh water. This is the reason that our UC rivers stay open until the end of March – these stream-maturing summer runs are at about the same stage of sexual maturity in March as the ocean-maturing winter runs are on the OP, Puget Sound, etc.

    Anyway, if they are really summer runs they would have entered fresh water a long time ago; as the Santiam is a trib of the Columbia, my guess is that they’ve been hanging out in the Columbia, Willamette, or main Santiam waiting until spring to head to their spawning grounds.
     
  6. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

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    you mean spring run steelhead? Like you find in SEAK? They enter freshwater in may, spawn that day and are gone that evening... Freaking ghosts
     
  7. Derek Day

    Derek Day Rockyday

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    I've spent my day contemplating summer runs in the skagit system. I was remembering a second-hand acount of an angler raising 50 sumer runs in an afternoon on a mid river trib. But that was also mid century. A trib just up the road also used to be touted as one of the state's premire summer run streams. No more, however. Blows.
     
  8. Chris Johnson

    Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

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    The washugal(spelling) has summer runs that I believe are native.
     
  9. KerryS

    KerryS Ignored Member

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    I don't care who it was or when it was nobody raised 50 summers in an afternoon and certainly not on the Skagit.
     
  10. jmwfish224

    jmwfish224 You know what it is!

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    Growing up in the Willamette Valley, I can tell that the idea of "ghost runs" is controversial. We definitely caught a couple fish that weren't clipped, but they didn't appear to be native either. If you've seen enough steelhead, which I assume most of us here have, you can tell the difference (to a reasonable degree) between a hatchery brat and a native fish. While the fin size and structure tend to vary some, the biggest difference is often the temper of a fish.

    For example, I was lucky enough to fish the hell out of the Siletz throughout college and get to know that river intimately. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL piece of earth that will remain in my heart forever. About the fish, though, there were definitely wild summers that returned to that river. It is the only recognized wild summer run that originates in the Coast Range and its a pretty decent one, too. Most of the hatchery fish in that river are relatively small in the summer, typically 23"-25". They looked very "bratty" and we often referred to them as "cookie cutters" since they all looked the same with small fins (dorsal, tail, pectoral). They didn't fight much and came to hand relatively quickly.

    Wild fish, however, varied in size greatly and looked much different. For one, they were bigger, the biggest being between 31"-33", big for a summer fish in pretty small water. The fins were bigger, the fish had more spots and were always full of piss and vinegar. They fought like hell, made big runs, jumped and wouldn't give up. When you have a hatchery fish whooped, they often roll over as if to say, "okay, get this damn hook out of my mouth now." The native fish never give in and fight to the absolute best of their ability, which can be dangerous when the temps rise so we tried not to "overplay" them. Once hooked, we could usually tell if it was a wild fish or a hatchery one, and once they came to hand they were obviously different, aside from the whole adipose thing.

    So back to the original issue, I don't know that there are strong "ghost runs" in the Willamette Valley. The Santiams are gorgeous, as is the McKenzie, but I haven't caught a summer there that wasn't fin clipped. And of the ones that get caught that aren't, I would bet that they are unclipped hatchery fish or offspring of hatchery fish that spawned in the stream's tributaries. I have heard from very reliable sources that non-clipped fish have been caught (this particular example comes from both the Santiams) but appeared to be, by looks and temper, unclipped hatchery fish. Its quite possible that some "true" natives have survived or strayed, but I don't think its big enough to verify. I suppose that's why they're called "ghosts" right?
     
  11. Dustin Bise

    Dustin Bise Active Member

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    I recall reading about some of these in an old book of mine. Ill reread the section and post up the info.
     
  12. Panhandle

    Panhandle Active Member

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    Weren't Deer Creek fish Summers?
     
  13. KerryS

    KerryS Ignored Member

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    They still are, there just isn't very many of them.
     
  14. stilly stalker

    stilly stalker Tuna sniffer

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    heres a deer creek native summer run for ya
    [​IMG]
    easily recognizable from all hatchery fish in this river. Very football shaped, with distinct minimal spotting. I have been told may was THE month to fish the stilly
     
  15. Andrew Lawrence

    Andrew Lawrence Active Member

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    Beautiful fish Stilly!
     
  16. stilly stalker

    stilly stalker Tuna sniffer

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    Every native race of steel Ive encountered looks very distinct. Sky summer fish look so different from stilly nates. Sky fish are generally bigger, more heavily spotted, and not nearly as football shaped. S. fork Nooksack summer fish are amazing, but there are so few of them :(
     
  17. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    I'd need more information to make an educated estimate of native summer runs in the Santiam. You realize I suspect that the Willamette tribs - McKenzie and Santiam - were initially stocked by ODFW with Siletz summer runs, but returns were very poor from this coastal summer run stock. So they got some Skamania stock from WA and planted them in the 70s and realized very good returns, compared to the Siletz fish. The Skamania stock has its origins in native Washougal, Wind, and possibly Klickitat summer steelhead. Because of hatchery practices at the time, Skamania fish have expressed return timings from April through October, with a very few extremes in March and November. In order to verify a bonafide native "ghost run" of Santiam summer steelhead, I think you would need an irrefutable catch report from pre-1960, prior to any hatchery summer steelhead programs in either state.

    NU summer steelhead are native to Steamboat Creek where they have spawned since time immemorial. My understanding is that ODFW used native NU summer runs as the hatchery broodstock source for stocking hatchery summer runs in the NU. I don't know what the status of that program is these days.

    The average size of steelhead is mostly determined by the length of time of ocean feeding. In WA, typical native summer steelhead in coastal and Puget Sound rivers are one-salt fish, meaning one winter and a complete year of ocean feeding. Skamania and other lower Columbia tributary native summer fish interestingly are typically two-salt fish, and therefore average larger than coastal and PS native stocks. Most native winter runs are two-salt fish with a significant proportion of the population being three-salt fish. So in general, native winter runs are of larger average size than native summer runs, excepting those lower CR summer runs.

    Yes, Deer Creek summer steelhead are a native run.

    Speyforsteel,

    The very earliest summer runs - we called them "springers" like spring chinook salmon - included both hatchery and wild summer steelhead that returned to the Washougal, EF Lewis, and Kalama 40 years ago, over-lapping the late winter runs. They enter the rivers with more stored energy reserves than any other steelhead, and at a time when steadily increasing water temperatures are optimal for a steelhead's "athletic" performance. They are undoubtably the hottest steelhead on the planet.

    Freestone,

    Different factors appear to be responsible for the development of inland and coastal summer steelhead populations. Inland populations are defined by the freezing winter weather that essentially makes sustainable winter run populations impossible. So a successful steelhead population has to migrate to inland rivers during the summer or fall when water temperatures are suitable for migration. Then the fish hold through the freezing winter months until spring water temperatures warm sufficiently for successful spawning. Coastal summer steelhead exist almost, but not quite exclusively where partial or seasonal migration barriers exist and separate winter and summer steelhead populations. Shipherd Falls on the Wind, Lucia and other Falls on the EFL, Kalama Falls, Falls on Deer Creek, Bear Falls on the NF Sky, falls on the NF Tolt, etc., etc.

    AKPM,

    No, not like SE AK. The fall run AK steelhead that enter in the fall and hold over the winter to spawn at the same time as the spring run fish are more like the native inland summer steelhead in the lower 48 than they are like native winter steelhead down here. Their migration and spawn timing is controlled by water temperature.

    Derek,

    Although I have no empirical proof, I'll stand with Kerry and declare ain't no way 50 summer runs were raised on a single afternoon in the Skagit system. All native summer run populations in Skagit tribs were quite small even during pristine habitat times. A stream could have been "premiere" for the handful of anglers that fished it, but not otherwise.

    Jmwfish224,

    If there is a single attribute that is totally useless in determining hatchery or wild origin of a steelhead, it is how it runs, jumps, or otherwise fights on the end of an ngler's line. Sorry, but for every example that says wild steelhead "fight" better than hatchery steelhead, there is an objective example showing exactly the opposite behavior. Fish size may or may not be an indicator. It varies by stock of fish depending on length of ocean feeding as I described above.

    Stilly Stalker,

    Nice photo! Excellent example of a Deer Creek fish.

    Sg
     
  18. Dustin Bise

    Dustin Bise Active Member

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    I cant find my book :(
     
  19. Panhandle

    Panhandle Active Member

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    You don't need, Salmo just dropped some serious knowledge. Great info! Let me contemplate that info.
     
  20. Chris Johnson

    Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

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    Ralph Wahl claimed in his book" One Mans Steelhead Shangrila" that he and a friend hooked 30+ steelhead in one day on the mid river skagit. I believe (if memory serves me) it was below a big jam were a trib enters the river. It's been a long time since I read that book.
     

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