Question for Steelhead fanatics/experts-Smalma?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by ChrisC, Dec 15, 2004.

  1. ChrisC Member

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    As an ex-Californian, I was wondering why "downstreamers" appear to be more common in coastal Northern California rivers (like the Garcia) and something you don't much hear much about in Washington? Downstreamer probably isn't the right term but in CA I remember that it is not uncommon for winter run steelhead to come up on short length rivers like the Garcia, spawn and return back to the ocean in the manner of weeks (e.g. < a month). Is this behavior common also among WA coastal rivers? Why or Why not?

    Smalma,
    To Nailknot's point, I've certainly appreciated your perspectives on other forums. Your take on what conditions/circumstances drive short spawning cycles?

    Thanks.
  2. Nailknot Active Member

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    Question for Steelhead fanatics/experts

    It is somewhat common here in late winter and spring. Now that we have Smalma aboard- I'll defer to his knowledge about specific watersheds and why some have more repeat spawners than others. With the short coastal rivers, the downstreamers beat it back to salt pretty quick. Around here, downstreamers are not considered a quality (or ethical) catch on the fly, even if they are quite snappy.
  3. LeakyTiki Member

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  4. Philster New Member

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    Hey Chris

    I've spent time on the Navarro, Garcia, Gualala, etc... These short rivers, in some cases 6 miles of steelhead usable terrain from mouth to blocade are a definite trip... I've caught downstreamers in a 3 to 1 ratio on the gualala some years, even higher in February/March. No explaining it other than competition in my mind. Fresh fish are probably just more likely to fight for prime holds, leaving the spawned out fish with few choices, the best of which may be hightailling it back to the seals! They do hit more readily in my experience than fresh fish, and prefer bigger flies too!

    No scientific basis, just 15 years of experience on those rivers.
  5. Smalma Active Member

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    Chris -
    Not sure what is occuring in SoCal but I'll try to talk a little about steelhead behavior that might provide some insight into this interesting observation.

    Here in Washington it is typical that our wild fish enter the river weeks to months prior to spawning (6 weeks or so might be average). They tend to move rather leisurely to near their spawning sites where they hold for a period before spawning. During the entire migration/holding process those fish are available to us anglers. In the is state typically the seasons are closed during the peak spawning thus the "kelts"/"burnouts"/"downstreamers" aren't ready available to anglers.

    In addition we see the post spawn fish holding in the river after spawning and often ride the freshet back to the salt. With the late spawning north Sound streams with their snow melt run-off that post spawning holding is more limited that rivers with more consistent low flows. It is believed that is tendency to river the high flows back down the river accounts for the wide range in the number of repeat spawners from year to year that we see inthis region - years following rainy springs (higher springs) have a larger per centage of repeats.

    In regions like you described the flow and migration patterns are much different. With those short run streams the adults likely hold in the estuary/mouth until ready to spawn at which time they can quickly reach their spawning areas. Post spawn they likely behave similarly to our fish and hold in the pools downstream of the spawning sites until a flushing event or they slow work their back down to the salt. The result is that the "kelts" are just more available in that situation.

    One additional contributating factor is that adult close to spawning (especially the females) are very good biters however the spawning males (aggression) and the kelts (begin feeding again) are pretty catchable.

    Don't if that makes sense or helps.

    Happy Holidays and may the New Year bring you tight lines
    S malma
  6. ChrisC Member

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    Hi Philster, didn't know that you were a fellow ex-Californian. I wish I had more time to fish the rivers that you mentioned--I still fondly remember the one bright steelhead that I caught along the Mendocino Coast.
  7. ChrisC Member

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    Thanks S malma. This definitely helps build upon my limited knowledge of this magnificent species.
  8. Philster New Member

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    Yeah, anytime you want to reminisce, let me know :thumb: