Summer Steelhead Behavior Question

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Cruik, Jun 27, 2014.

  1. Most of this has been suggested above, but what should stand out as you search for them:

    Summer-run steelhead are amazing at finding hidden boulders, slots, and ledges in low water, and they're almost impossible to entice once you're lucky enough to find them. They'll stick to one good lie, usually hiding below turbulent water, for days or even weeks and then take full advantage of the slightest amount of rain to move on to their next holding spot. They tend to restrict their movements to pitch-dark nights, more so than winter-run fish. You may find them schooled up at the bottom of larger, bath-like pools when the water temps are up, but by then, their instinct to chase a fly or anything else that moves, has shut down completely. They are a really interesting, albeit elusive and frustrating fish for a fly fisherman.
     
  2. As I've said many times in the past, Salmo G has the knowledge to help you with difficult scientific questions such as this one. He knows the ins and outs of WA steelhead populations better than most anyone. That being said, I'm heading out to Staples today for some paste glue and a box of Crayolas for backup! LOL

    ... seriously, I like this question and this thread. It gets my imagination fired up and I start a file search in my brain, sorting through half-remembered facts and observations and just sort of pondering ideas without too much structure.
    My classic personal response to this question comes from such nonlinear thinking; my suggestion is to take a little Watermaster or something, a minimal set of gear, and begin a headwaters-to mouth journey on whatever high-percentage river you choose, meticulously hitting lies all the way down. There may be portages, tree-climbing, even trespassing in pursuit of the knowledge, but it sounds like something every 12 year old boy would love to do... so It's right up my alley.

    Couple realistic suggestions: ask hatchery workers about their busy times and whether the fish are bunching or not (Skamanias are a strain known for coming in waves), when and where the river is thick with guided boats, and of course asking old guys at the boat launches. Focus on the river you're most likely to be consistently fishing, and get to know it inside and out, whether or not you learn the "names" of holes and runs, and fish it for a couple of complete cycles. Above all, disregard all advice you receive on the internet, cause nobody there knows shit- esp. me...;)
     
  3. I have caught a lot of native summer runs from several west side systems, i think 90% of all the steelhead Ive ever landed were summer run. My advice to you is to think about easy holding water above a serious barrier On the sky, theres a lot of water like this, and since the water is warmer in the summer, the dissolved oxygen in the water is lower. That means the fish will need to rest up more after ascending any small falls or rapids. On the stilly, the river is a lot less arduous, so instead of choosing holding water after barriers or difficult passages, the fish instead choose holding water where shade, woody debris, or large boulders protect them from the numerous eagles and ospreys that are constantly working the river from above. These fish do shoot up above deer creek to find good holding water, but in my experience they dont go far. Also, they LOVE the combination of structure, combined with cold water feed in from smaller creeks that drain fom higher elevation, and Id imagine that the reason these fish ascend the river above deer creek is to find these cold water influxes.

    when I worked for WDFW, we did hook and line sampling on the summer run steelhead on the SF Nooksack. THAT river is absolutely full of impassable barriers, and the fish definitely ascended to the upper reaches in conjunction with water influxes that allowed passage over the crazy logjams, boulder fields etc etc that blocked a lot of other passage. Below this structure, they wold hold in water like described above, where they felt protected from above, and had high DO levels to counter the warmer water. Above these barriers, the fish were less picky about holding water, and would hold anywhere that foam lines, boulders or woody debris allowed for safety. HOWEVER- and this applies on the stilly too... they would NOT hold in the deeper pools if there were spring/summer chinook in the area, because the chinook run them out of the deep runs and buckets. This mean that the steelhead were often resigned to shallower rougher water, often pushed right up against the bank. In the upper S. fork Nooksack, the steelhead co mingled with the large bull trout without issue, although the bull trout can ascend otherwise impassable barriers a lot more easily than the steelhead or even the chinook.
     
  4. BTW- the SF Nooksack fish are the strongest fighting summer steelhead Ive ever encountered. Too bad there might only be 100 of them returning each year
     

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