Steelhead season observations

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Will Atlas, Apr 2, 2008.

  1. Will Atlas Guest

    Posts: 0
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    I certainly haven't been fishing for steelhead as long as many members here, but this year seemed strange to me. After a promising start, with good numbers of wild fish caught starting around Christmas, things really tapered off. I went probably two weeks in february without hooking a fish and I was fishing probably three days a week. Of course at the time we like to attribute our fishing success to water conditions and granted water was low, but the big push never really came with the water. Fish were around the last couple weeks of Feb on the Sky and there was a three day stretch which I would call good fishing (fished hooked everyday) but the last week of the season was disappointing as things had cooled back off. My expectations were low for this year with the 2005 floods as well as the hideously weak coastal upwelling during summer 2005. In my couple trips out to the coast I only managed to hook one fish in probably 4 full days of fishing and friends didnt do much better. Certainly a lot of fish in those runs are ending up in gill nets but that doesn't mean the runs aren't down from freshwater/ocean conditions. Spent the last couple weeks hitting the Skagit system and didnt find it much better. Water was also low for most of the time and it seemed like fish were being caught off and on, but overall not HOT action. For the 5 days I spent on the Skagit since the last week of School I had two grabs and landed one fish. Luckily the one fish was pretty exceptional and it does seem that a lot of good sized fish are being caught this year.

    The slow fishing in Feb and March has suprised me a little. On one hand the numbers of early fish appears to be up a little and I was hoping that was building towards a strong run, but things just dropped off the map a little after that. Hows things been in other parts of steelhead country? SW WA? Coast? Oregon/California? Early runs bouncing back is a good sign for the overall stability and future of our wild fish but it is disconcerting that the usually dominant component of the run has been so spotty. I suppose it makes sense for early run fish to be recovering a little since sport harvest was closed so recently, until 2001 I think wild fish could be harvested until Feb 28th. Anyway, I'd be curious to hear how everyone did. Now that the rivers are closed we dont really have anything to least until summer steelhead start, already counting down.

  2. HauntedByWaters Active Member

    Posts: 2,718
    Ratings: +67 / 0
    The season of 2006/2007 was so good for me I thought I had actually made a breakthrough. I was hooking up almost every day out and the fish seemed to be in all the right places at all the right times. I also slipped a lot more work.

    This year was HUGELY different with less than half the hookups and only one fish where I expected it to be. All the other fish were surprises in odd ball areas.

    I know I am a broken record BUT, I saw about three times the number of anglers in my usual haunts as last year. The funny thing is they looked stupified to see me and most of the time asked how I had "gotten here" and acted like they owned the place. I will admit that I act like I own the place sometimes but I have been fishing those areas for YEARS and I KNOW the locals by name most of the time, I park in their driveways most of the time, and these people were not locals but they were trying to act like it. The only reason I bring this up is that I am not just imagining hoards of new anglers, fishing is just blowing up and I will have to learn to live with it and to keep my mouth shut tighter than ever before. I do wish I had a car that had a cloaking device to confuse follower types.

    In the end the crowding has lowered my hookups as it is getting REALLY hard to be the first one on the good water these days. I think there were far fewer un-caught steelies around with more lines in the water.

    Hopefully there is a tipping point in the near future.

    My favorite memory from the steelhead season: I pull into a fairly unknown along a stretch of an S River I love more than anything. It is my favorite and it got blown up last season and had more anglers than ever before. There is room for 2 cars and one of them has a Virginia license place. My fishing buddy for years grumbles and grumbles. Anyway, as we are pulling on our waders a guy with a strange look on his face comes crashing out of the bushes (I presume he is the Virginia plate) and doesn’t appear to know where he is going and is obviously thinking way too fast. He has a spinning rod and some camo waders and is sweating. He comes up to us and says erratically, “Some fish and wildlife guys came through here today and caught 7 steelhead!!!” turns back towards the river and heads back into the bushes. After getting a closer look at him I assume he is really high on tweak or shards or crack or whatever, he REALLY looked like it. His eyes were CRAZY, he was pale, he was bizarre. So anyway, my buddy and I are walking along the river we come the realization that he simply has steelhead fever and wasn’t high on drugs. The idea that fish and wildlife employees would pull 7 steelhead out of a river in one day was unimaginable to him, more like a delusional fantasy. I found this interesting and expect at least 4 times the angler in this stretch next year because of the unbelievable *sarcasm* numbers of fish . It is sad that things are so bad that 7 fish in a day from one river has guys on the verge of a heart attack; makes me feel even sorrier for the poor steelhead.
  3. Nooksack Mac Active Member

    Posts: 1,914
    Bellingham, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +99 / 0
    My only consolation is the thought that the ever-accellerating scarcity of steelhead somehow adds to the romantic mystique.:beathead: If the first (and only) Indiana Jones movie had been titled "Raiders of the Well-Known Arc," it would have gone straight to cable.
  4. HauntedByWaters Active Member

    Posts: 2,718
    Ratings: +67 / 0
    It is that very romantic mystlique that has steelhead being targeted more than ever.

    I say we rename the steelhead to Steelgrub.

    Who will be the lucky angler to catch the last wild steelgrub, the most heralded fish of all time?

    I hope they get it on HD so future generations can really see the chrome on that grub while they hear comments like, "Look at the shoulders on that fat pig of a grub!" and "Finally, the last wild steelgrub has been caught and we can all go home to our wives."
  5. PT Physhicist

    Posts: 3,495
    Edmonds, WA
    Ratings: +652 / 1
    Maybe the preseason forecasts were accurate. Sauk/Skagit probably could have closed the end of Feb to lessen any impact on the low returning numbers.
  6. Copper Jon What a Jim!

    Posts: 159
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Will, things haven't been as bad further south. A good friend that fishes northern OR fairly regularly reports that this season was neither terrible nor great, fairly average with hotspots and hot times. December rain brought blown out conditions much of December and early Jan. so can't say much about early wild fish there. The Nor Cal coast was pretty darn good for wild fish this year all the way south to the Russian. A few smallish coastal streams that I will not name specifically on the internet had great seasons with a guide friend and a few local biologists claiming a record season on a particular stream. People are reporting more wild fish than usual on the Russian. The hatchery run on the Mad River wasn't too hot this year but who cares, maybe the wild fish did better because of it. The one low spot on the Nor Cal coast this year was the Smith River which is ashame. That is the one river where you can keep wild fish in CA and it receives tons of pressure from guides on top of the regulars. Most guides still kill wild fish there in order to compete for clients and many keep a fish themselves when they head out. The fact that the wild fish were down there makes me nervous. Much like the Skagit in the recent past and the Hoh to the present day, the habitat is fairly pristine but the harvest of wild fish is ridiculous. So there's my anecdotal report for you.
  7. Steelie Mike Active Member

    Posts: 1,600
    Camas, WA
    Ratings: +24 / 0
    I fished about a third as much as last year and caught about a sixth of the amount I caught last winter season. Overall reports from friends both with gear and fly have not been that good overall in SWW and average in Portland area rivers. I have not touched a winter native this season. The Lewis and Cowlitz were a bust this year. The Oregon coast was good for a number of friends though. It is amazing what a lack of netting would do for fish numbers.

    Overall this winter sucked compared to last year for me. I have not swung a fish since Dec and have not taken a fish on the spey since November. Lets just say I got some good casting practice in.
  8. HauntedByWaters Active Member

    Posts: 2,718
    Ratings: +67 / 0
    What changed Mike? Why didn't you get out as much? You have one of the best galleries on here and I know that doesn't come from going 3 months like since last Dec. without swinging a fly.

    Some seasons are better than others. Sounds like most thus far would say theirs wasn't stellar. :hmmm:
  9. Kevin Giusti New Member

    Posts: 216
    Fort Bragg,Ca
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Id say slightly above average year for me here in Northern California. Although I havent fished the Smith for a couple years, couldnt quite handle seeing fish that were barely over sixteen inches being lifted out of the water by the line and promptly bonked! Made my stomach turn, It was sad to hear the inevitable is finally happening on such a beautiful river and an extraordinary race of wild steelhead. I hope that we can convince the powers that be to go along with the rest of the state and STOP ALLOWING WILD FISH TO BE KILLED!!!!!!! I also hope that because of this that it doesnt effect the fishing on other rivers where the runs are showing great signs of growth and are being enjoyed by many anglers practicing catch and release. Lots of highlights this year couldnt really pick out one. Heres another lowlight though. On another popular fishing board I happened to see a "steelhead pictorial" thread . Oh cool I thought. Lots of nice pictures of some great fish, But wait WHATS THIS a couple of pictures of WILD STEELHEAD on a river that was VERY popular this winter and is showing great signs of steelhead resurgence the past few years. Yes it was true, the anglers were holding the fish up high in the boat one hand around the tail AND THE OTHER HAND GRASPING A BOGA GRIP FIRMLY CLAMPED IN THE STEELHEADS MOUTH!!!!!!!!!!:mad::mad::mad: Are you kidding me!!!:mad::mad::mad: These are wild steelhead folks, not some amazonian peacock bass or something(not that you should use a boga grip on these either, treat all fish equally I say)Now Ive never used a boga grip so Im not bashing them but if you saw the pics you know it was in NO WAY good for the steelhead. But man that just bummed me out. It was like steelhead torture, the thought of it still sends chills up my spine. Anyway sorry about all the negative but it was a good year! Kevin
  10. Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

    Posts: 2,192
    bellingham wa
    Ratings: +449 / 0
    I fished a bit less than last year, hooked a few fewer fish. I still got one more trip to go.
    Overall, I am just happy that another year passed and I never met Buehler when fishing any of his rivers.

    Sox win 5-0,
  11. Jergens AKA Joe Willauer

    Posts: 2,140
    Twin Bridges, MT
    Ratings: +19 / 0
    lmfao! i would agree, fished less, caught less, but didnt get skunked, and rowed while a couple buddies drilled fish. also hooked one on the swing which is always nice. oh well, its trout season, and fall runs are just around the corner.
  12. Steelie Mike Active Member

    Posts: 1,600
    Camas, WA
    Ratings: +24 / 0
    Oh I swung some flies, just not as much. I have not swung a fish since December and have caught only a few using the trout method since. To answer your question about not getting out as much, my daughter is almost two, my wife just started working again and I had to take several weeks off with a back injury.
  13. Coach Duff Banned or Parked

    Posts: 1,272
    Kailua Hawaii
    Ratings: +6 / 0
    I would like to end a huge misconception on this site. Yes, more guys than ever may be throwing spey rods and flies for salmon and steelhead. If any of you think the rivers are "crowded", you are mistaken. In fact, due to the difficulty in finding steel, most of the rivers stopped being "crowded" about 25 years ago. Talking about how crowded the rivers are is an attempt to "date" yourself or appear to be one of the old dogs, which is bullshit. I'm only 39 far from being an old dog and remember well, when the Skagit looked like I-5 with everything from row boats with outboards to sleds tossing shit out the sides. The Green used to be shoulder to shoulder from the Duwamish on up and the Damn Sammamish Slough used to look like Blue Creek. Quit bitching about the amount of people fly-fishing. You want peace and quiet Buhler, then go find it. If you know as much about steelheading as you claim, you'd be able to find fish year round and not run into a soul. If you were as good as you lead on, you'd be following people through runs and nailing fish. I never have cared or given a shit about "pressure" because 90 percent of the anglers stepping in above us, have no idea what they are doing. The reports I got from people who catch fish said overall it was a pretty average to below average year. Congrats to all who put one of those beauties on the beach this year. I wish I could have been there! Tight lines steelheaders. The Coach :beer2::beer2:
  14. Snake tryin' not to get too comfortable

    Posts: 621
    between the mountains and the sound
    Ratings: +1 / 0
    I didn't touch a single steelie this winter, but that don't mean nothin', 'cuz I don't really know what the hell I'm doin', wavin' that stick around in the middle of the river. :clown:

    Plus, I didn't get much river time this season, 'cuz I was mostly ridin' lifts on the free weekends. Good snow, this winter. :thumb::)

    Maybe steelhead runs are declining, and maybe they ain't. :hmmm:

    Maybe there's more people fishing, and maybe there ain't. :hmmm:

    My gut (i.e. unscientific personal observation) tells me both are true.

    Betcha the WDFW will set it straight. :rolleyes:

    Tired of the skunk, though.:(

    Bring on the summer trout!!!!:beer2:
  15. cuponoodle breakfast gritty

    Posts: 1,583
    Ratings: +208 / 0
    Fishing was good during the hatchery run. Consistent hookups and very few lost fish. I even brought home limits a few times which I consider pretty good for local fishing. The wild run was disappointing. I only landed a handful of natives this year on local water. Last year was much better. I spent a few days on the peninsula last month and averaged better than a fish per day but had to work for them. Overall I feel I fished pretty well.
    I fish during the week and know enough out of the way places to have water to myself. Once the opportunity was limited to the Skagit and Sauk I saw more people but still didn't have to share many runs. That might be because the fishing was poor. I didn't hook a wild fish on the Skagit system until the last day. That last day was the most crowded I've seen it in a long time.
    I ran into a guy one day this winter who spends a lot of time on the same water as me and gets into his share of fish. We were comparing notes and talking about how good the fishing had been. We also talked about how crummy most of the reports had been. He had a big grin when he said, "That's because most guys don't know what the fuck they're doing." I couldn't argue.

    I haven't touched a flyrod since October.
  16. kodiaksalmon Jeff B.

    Posts: 946
    Muskie country!
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Slow (for me at least) here on the West End. Can't speak for everyone, as I don't travel the circles, but only go off what Dave and Curt tell me in at the shop. They say it's been a slower, weird year, which makes me feel better because I was beginning to hate myself for not doing very well. My two hand casting though, has benefitted from my fishless hours spent on the Sol Duc.

    But I'll admit, my mind has already moved on to the summer when I transfer back to Michigan and get back to what I know-pike and muskie. I've got a boat bought and flies tied.

  17. HauntedByWaters Active Member

    Posts: 2,718
    Ratings: +67 / 0
    Where do I start? HMMMM….Buddies in Burlington, Deming, Ferndale, Bellingham, born and raised there, would completely disagree with you on that one. Crowding on the Nooksack this year blew us all away.

    You assumed I was talking the Skagit but you would be wrong. I actually noticed less crowding this year on that river. Also, what makes you assume I am talking spey and even fly fishing for that matter? I am talking anglers as a whole in greater numbers.

    As previously mentioned, it is the rarity of steelhead that is driving the steelhead craziness. The new generation of anglers may not be meatpackers like they used to be, they are c&r trophy hunters with digital cameras.

    You are the only one sounding like you are trying to be an old dog to me Coach. How can I “date” myself? I grew up fishing around here. It isn’t a matter of a “date” or anything like that. It is seeing more anglers all the time PERIOD. All I can do is bitch about it and that is what I plan to do.

    Yes maybe there were more anglers before I was born and the numbers dropped off like you say but they are coming back.

    As I said I wasn’t bitching about people fly-fishing. I was talking about anglers period and, again, I wasn’t talking the Skagit for the most part. These were assumptions you made.

    I do when I can get the time off work.

    I could find fish year round if I was born a millionaire and didn’t have to work. Also, I have never made any claims to be a great steelhead angler on this site. I don’t know what gave you this impression. I will claim to be good at it or at the very least effective. You could call me a huge steelhead fan but that is about it.

    Yeah and this is exactly why they scare every fish in the river, because they stand in the good holding water and/or slash the water like crazy. I will admit on the Skagit things are different when it comes to spooking because it is so big but on rivers like the Nooksack which can go gin clear fast when it freezes, crowding spooks fish.

    I don’t know why you have such a bone to pick with me all of a sudden but f-off you prick. You live in Hawaii for Christ sakes.
  18. PT Physhicist

    Posts: 3,495
    Edmonds, WA
    Ratings: +652 / 1
    I fished the Sauk quite a bit this spring and noticed a couple of things. There was substantially less pressure the days I was on the water. And, there were substantially fewer hook-ups than previous years.

    My conclusion.... Less fish = less pressure.
  19. GATOR9 Hey you guys

    Posts: 595
    Yakima, Wa.
    Ratings: +16 / 0
    I sure am glad I live on the East side of the state where 99% of my fishing is done or out if state and I really have no reason to go out of state unless I lived on the West side. Too many fisherman over there with an anger problem and that is based only on what I read here. Man, you guys really have some issues over there and I guess it is due to heavy population, that is just way toooooooooo much stress.
  20. Be Jofus G Banned or Parked

    Posts: 2,051
    Ratings: +53 / 0
    Dude, People fished for steelhead this winter? I saw 4 people on one trip and that was the max in any "above novice" access runs I went to. Most of the time I had the rivers to myself any time I hiked more than 50 yards. I actually found room to fish reiter from top to bottom during the Brat run and for any one who's never fly fished there, that NEVER happens. Holy Krap, that was cool! I've never fished through a meathole like that with baitcasters fishing through on both sides like that with me. It gave me hope for the human race. As for the fishing, I had a terrible year since I couldnt work the prime water condition days into my schedule. :beathead: