Skeena Steelhead

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Greg Moore, Aug 30, 2002.

  1. Below is a response I got back from the Canadian Fisheries Management

    *Thank you for your e-mail expressing your concern for gillnet fishing at the
    mouth of the Skeena River this summer. I want to assure you that the Skeena
    steelhead returns are in excellent shape.

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has also been concerned about the
    steelhead incidental catch in the commercial fisheries. Starting in 1989 we
    moved to a more selective method of harvesting in order to protect various
    stocks of concern, including steelhead, coho, and some wild sockeye stocks.
    Through a combination of timed openings and closures, fishing-gear
    restrictions, and selective-fishing methods, we have managed to reduce the
    impact on the steelhead runs to a considerable degree. An example is the
    pioneering selective seine fishery conducted at the mouth of the Skeena,
    which began in 1989. This was a brail-and-sort fishery, and was a
    pre-cursor of how we now do business throughout British Columbia.

    Between 1985 and 1991 the aggregate steelhead harvest rate in DFO Fisheries
    Management Area 4 was 36%. This was within Washington State's
    conservation-based exploitation rate goal of no more than 30% - 40% for wild
    steelhead stocks. However, in 1991 DFO committed to halve the 36%
    exploitation rate in ocean fisheries to 18% so as to deliver more steelhead
    further up river.

    During the fall and winter of 1993/94, the Skeena Watershed Committee, a
    multi-sector group set up to discuss the management of the Skeena River
    fisheries, negotiated that the 36% exploitation rate be reduced by 42%
    rather than by 50%, thus reaching an overall ceiling of 21%. Prior to the
    1997 season DFO decided to expand the assessment of Skeena steelhead impacts
    to include Skeena approach waters in Areas 3 and 5. This resulted in a new
    ceiling of 24% for Areas 3, 4, and 5.

    Starting in 1998 with the dramatic reduction in the commercial fisheries due
    to coho conservation concerns, the harvest rate of Skeena steelhead dropped
    well below DFO's 24% ceiling to a range between 0% and 9%. In that year we
    also moved to daylight fisheries, and now around a quarter of the gillnet
    fleet uses weedlines. Starting in 2001 we have moved to a selective gillnet
    fishery. This fishery uses such methods as short sets and half-length nets
    to ensure that the fish released from the net are still alive.

    For 2002 steelhead stocks are again returning to the Skeena in excellent
    numbers. The current indications from the Tyee test fishery put this year's
    return at the fifth highest in the 47 years that the test fishery has been

    Again, thank you for bringing your concerns to the department's attention.


    Original signed by:

    David Bevan
    Director General
    Resource Management
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada


    "In our family, there is no clear
    line between religion and fly
    fishing" Norman MacLean
  2. I really hope they are right. I am about to head up to the Sustut in a few weeks; let's hope there are a few fish there for me to catch.

  3. I also am heading on a steelhead outing soon. However, I can't decide whether to go south to the Deschutes and Kalama Rivers, or head north to the Skeena system. Does the Sustut that you are fishing have good access? I would appreciate feedback of any type.


  4. The Sustut is the most remote of the trophy Skeena tributaries. The only way in or out is via float plane. There are plenty of other rivers where there is decent road access, and a few are favorites with fly fishermen (e.g. Copper, Bulkley and Morice). But September is more or less "the" month esp. for dries/ surface-oriented takes. So if you're going to head north, you'd better finalize your plans soon!

    "Poor loops, but at least the fly is landing farther out than the main line these days"
  5. Snagly's right; I think the Sustut is impossible to get to without some serious effort. I have never been up there before, but I have been told that the Bulkley has good access among other places. If I was on my own, though, I would be headed to the Deschutes.
  6. Early reports on the BC sites indicate that things are shaping up all right. However, I can't confirm that what I am reading is legit. In a couple of weeks information should be more dependable.

    For when sleeping I dream of big fish and strong fights.

  7. A test fishery carried out at the end of August indicates that the Skenna is having its third best run in the last fifteen years.

    For when sleeping I dream of big fish and strong fights.



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