Steelhead fishing in the Upper Yakima

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Paul Huffman, Nov 29, 2006.


Would you like to see steelhead rebound in the Upper Yakima?

Poll closed Dec 13, 2006.
Yes 56 vote(s) 71.8%
No 22 vote(s) 28.2%
  1. Will Atlas Guest

    Posts: 0
    Ratings: +0 / 0
  2. Paul Huffman Lagging economic indicator

    Posts: 1,430
    Yakima, WA.
    Ratings: +142 / 0
    Actually Satus and Toppenish Creeks are more important than Ahtanum.
  3. TomB Active Member

    Posts: 1,620
    Ratings: +58 / 0
    cool...there ya go
  4. Paul Huffman Lagging economic indicator

    Posts: 1,430
    Yakima, WA.
    Ratings: +142 / 0
    Well, that was interesting.

    I'd been told by some cynical people, some former agency people, that the Yakima flyfishing community was completely against steelhead restoration. As an example, there were the writings of Steve Probasco and others. My contacts told me that the flyfishing community on the Yakima is just a big sewing circle for middle aged men. They may occasionally talk the "Save the Planet" rhetoric when protecting their own narrow recreational interests, but ask them to get behind habitat restoration or fish restoration and they won't lift a finger. If a bait chucker caught a fish, or, God forbid, an Indian caught a fish, it's a terrible deed -"conservation first!", "save the planet", "catch and release!" But mention mortality from hook and release fishing or damage from walking on redds, and they're inexorably in denial. They are afraid of change, and just want to finish off their years with their butts in a drift boat seat catching, tormenting, and releasing the mix of hatchery origin rainbows without any aspiration or imagination of anything better, and not really caring about fish for their grandkids. If they were more aware, maybe they could see how poorly the Yakima Canyon stacks up to other Blue Ribbon waters around the world.

    This puzzled me, because it didn't sound like the fishermen I knew. I had had great results working with sport fishing groups in Grays Harbor County on habitat and fishery restoration projects. So I decided to test this by setting up a poll just asking if it would be a good thing to have more steelhead in the Yakima above Roza without much detail on the "How", then stay out of the conversation and see what happened. I was pleased that the poll results seemed to prove my jaded contacts wrong. 58 yes to 22 no. In the thread, some qualified their opinion that steelhead restoration would be good only if it didn't mean the establishment of a hatchery stock run.

    I'm hopeful that with recent habitat and passage improvements, steelhead are on the verge of resurging in the upper Yakima. Roza Dam prevented any anadromy from 1939 to 1958, and probably prevented adult steelhead passage until 1989. BOR, BPA, WDFW, and YN Fisheries have invested on fish passage and habitat, most importantly, I think, access to the spawning areas in Manastash, and Taneum Creeks. Some harder and more expensive projects will be required to fix Wilson/Naneum and to get better flows in the Teanaway. If the Yakima is anything like the Deschutes, most of the steelhead spawning will be in these small trubutaries, and anything we can do to increase the numbers of rainbows in the main river will increase the numbers of migratory rainbows.
  5. Will Atlas Guest

    Posts: 0
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    thought I'd revive this thread since the recent thread surfaced about Yakima steelhead. Perhaps they're already rebounding a bit in the upper Yakima. Les when was it you said you were fishing the Yakima for steelhead? Was it in the lower river?
  6. BDD Active Member

    Posts: 2,238
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +220 / 2
    I'm game for more discussion. Has anyone ever done any juvenile survival through Roza? I think it would be important to know current recruitment and survival there because that is the only blockage between the upper Yak and the more productive steelhead streams lower in the system (i.e., Toppenish, Naches, Satus etc.).

    I read in the local paper where the Yakamas have purchased some water rights to Manashtash Creek so that it won't become completely dewatered in the lower stretches. Now to identify and fix passage blockages within the watershed to allow the steelhead to "seed" spawning habitat. I think the irrigation districts should be responsible for bringing their projects up to "fish passage code" (whatever that means). Efforts like this would be more beneficial to restoring wild steelhead than planting hatchery fish in the system, in my opinion.

    Anybody know anything about adult passage at Roza? I heard that only fairly recently (last couple decades) that they improved their fish ladders to meet acceptable standards.

    One of the big issues is the poor water quality the fish must negotiate between the mouth and the city of Yakima. Between the predators, elevated water temperatues, pollution, and de-watering, I would imagine mortality to be relatively high. Of course the chinook and soon to be sockeye would have to migrate through the same corridor.
  7. Richard Olmstead BigDog

    Posts: 2,494
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +791 / 0
    Does anyone know if they are taking counts on the fish ladder at Roza? Those data would be very interesting.
  8. fullerfly Calvin Fuller

    Posts: 533
    Sandpoint, ID
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    I would think that it would be in the steelheads better interest if the lower river was restored as well. The water is very low and warm in the summer and the sewage plant in West Richland usually gets overflowed by the river in the spring. Best fishing I have ever had on the Yak is right below the Horn Rapids Diversion Damn in Sept/Oct. Bass/Steelhead/Catfish/Salmon...and the Buglemouth fishing is great!
  9. ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

    Posts: 3,209
    Eagle River, Alaska
    Ratings: +112 / 0
    Improve fish passage to the upper river and you will not only increase steelhead water but also salmon spawning water, put a few thousand kings in the upper river and you will see actual big trout instead of the puny 16 inchers that are considered big now. I say stock it with sockeye, lots and lots and lots of sockeye, then we won't argue about 22" fish being steelhead ;)
  10. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,831
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +707 / 0
    Richard -
    You might find the information you are interested in here - &startdate=1/1&enddate=12/31

    akPM -
    Historically the Yakima system support a steelhead run that numbered in the 10,000s. It also had lots Chinook, coho, and sockeye. In the case of the sockeye they no longer have access to the lakes that historically produced so many fish.

    We as a society have opted to use the basins water for irrigation rather than fish production. It will take massive habitat restoration efforts to recapture much of the basins anadromous fish production. How can even begin to hope to see such efforts with many in the fly fishing community are more worried about the trout fishery rather than restoring the natural fish community with all its diversity?

    Tight lines
  11. Will Atlas Guest

    Posts: 0
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    I wonder what the possibility of trucking/elevator transporting fish over the dam at cle elum lake would be. Those tributaries are much more pristine than the ones around cle elum and ellensburg, but I dont know how much they contributed to production historically. I am under the impression that counting of fish rarely happens at roza. the if you check out the passage Data on DART (data access in real time) it looks like they only count a few days out of the year. Probably more salmon oriented. Most of the time I think they just leave the ladder open and let fish pass at will. They do a better job counting down at prosser dam and it looks like the numbers of fish passing up into the Yakima proper are respectable 1500-2500, plus they're almost all wild.

    There is a link earlier in this thread to the Yakima fisheries council or something like that which has some very good info, but I like this dialog. I know the the lower river is an absolute mess by the end of the summer, but that has alot to do with current water use practices and probably is not impossible to fix. Also, isn't there a diversion dam at the top of the farmlands? I wonder what fish passage is like there.

  12. skyrise Active Member

    Posts: 591
    everett, wa.
    Ratings: +51 / 0
    I agree with restoration of the "wild" run to the upper river. keep the regs the same just let the restoration happen. no hatchery please. the thing that worries me on the yak watershed is not the return of steelhead. its all the development going on over there.
    just my 2 cents.
  13. ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

    Posts: 3,209
    Eagle River, Alaska
    Ratings: +112 / 0
    I bet the resivors would make pretty good sockeye rearing habitat if they are deep enough and aerated enough. I think the upper river is great salmon habitat, look at the amount of trout in the river, the problem is not habitat it is dams dams dams, all the way up there, currently the dams on the yakima have what trucks and buckets to get fish over them, build a ladder, keep the water cold and they will come. Oh and stock a ton of sockeye smolt, the world needs more sockeye :thumb:
  14. docstash Member

    Posts: 341
    selah, wa.
    Ratings: +22 / 0
    Fish count over Prosser Dam as of 1/14/2008 1656 unmarked and 203 marked steelhead. Usually not many more than 200 over Rosa by the end of the counting year 5/31.
  15. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,551
    Your City ,State
    Ratings: +1,685 / 0
    I'd like to see steelhead restoration in the Yakima. It would probably be limited to the tributaries unless some change is made to the high summer irrigation flows. Fry colonization habitat is in very short supply with the flows that occur at steelhead emergence under current conditions.

    Stocking sockeye in Bumping Lake and Cle Elum Lake was tried in the late 1980s, but no one built a fishway for the smolts to migrate downstream. If BOR builds fishways, then sockeye restoration is very feasible in my estimation. And the bull trout in those reservoirs and tributaries would love it!

  16. ChrisC Member

    Posts: 639
    Ratings: +24 / 0
    If that were indeed true I would love to see, no actually dare, Steve Probasco to assert these views in a future issue of NWFF.:D It is indeed narrowmindedness.
  17. ChrisW AKA Beadhead

    Posts: 493
    Seattle, WA.
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    According to the salmonid stock inventory on the WDFW site, the Yakima System is one of the best summer run rivers in the state in terms of numbers. It is also one of the only rivers with increasing numbers over the last few years.

    There are also no hatchery plants and there is no tribal net fishery.

    hmmmmmm..... must be a coincidence!

  18. Paul Huffman Lagging economic indicator

    Posts: 1,430
    Yakima, WA.
    Ratings: +142 / 0
    Salmo_g - We have temporary downstream passage at Cle Elum Dam now:
  19. WT Member

    Posts: 772
    Seattle, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +8 / 0
    Nice bump. Makes me wonder how many rivers support good fisheries for steelhead and resident trouts.
    The Thompson and Deschutes come to mind.
  20. BDD Active Member

    Posts: 2,238
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +220 / 2
    Methow and the Babine come to mind as well.