Water temperature cooling down but sea-run cutthroat fishing heating up!

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by Roger Stephens, Sep 29, 2013.

  1. This thread title is for Wadin' Boot's "seal" of approval;)!

    I have fished for sea-run cutthroat since the early 1990's on Puget Sound. By late June/early July the sea-run cutthroat fishing usually slowed way down. I have always thought that they scattered out to who knows where. I have a GPS/fish finder on my boat and mainly have used it to navigate in foggy conditions and for water depths. I have totally ignored water temperatures reading shown by the instrument.

    The summer of 2012 and this past summer I noticed that high water temperatures (+65 degree F.) were being shown by the instrument in many prime sea-run cutthroat locations in Marine Area 13 from late June through mid-Sept. In the southern part of Marine Area 13 there are numerous large, shallow estuaries that are prone to be sources of increased water temperatures during extreme mid-day low tides during the hot months of June, July, and part of Aug. The shallow water makes it easier to heat up the shallow water plus exposed estuary bottoms are heated by the sun and transfer that heat to the water on incoming tides. Three examples of well known estuaries which are sources for increased water temperature are: (1) Coulter Creek /North Bay estuary(Marine Area 13) near Allyn, (2) Nisqually delta/estruary, (3) Quilcene Bay Marine Area 8. It is well documented in literature that water temperatures above 65 degrees F. make rainbow/sea-run cutthroat trout and coho/chinook fry more susceptible to diseases and stress to their physiological systems.

    Higher water temperatures(above low 60 degrees F. and particularly above 65 degrees F.) have a significant effect on sea-run cutthroat and this fisheries. The fish will tend to move away from shallow estuary areas or other shoreline areas with higher water temperatures to deeper, cooler water(12 to 15 ft.). IMHO it is best to give the sea-run cutthroat fisheries a break in the summer if you will be fishing for them where water temperatures are above 60 to 62 degrees F. Sea-run cutthroat which are still present under those conditions will be unduly stressed when hooked.

    A couple of weeks ago when fishing for pink salmon in Marine Area 13 the water temperatures were in the 60 to 62 degree F. range. With the recent cooler weather I decided last Wed. to check out some prime sea-run cuthroat locations and was pleased to see water temperature reading of 58 to 59 degrees. The water temperatures should drop even more with all the cool, rainy weather this weekend.

    It was the first time which I have fished for sea-run cutthroat since late June when high water temperature reading were noted. So I was excited to check out the status of this fisheries again. The fishing was great with numerous niced fish(15 to 16") landed as shown in the photo along with many small ones(10 to 12"). A top water squid pattern draw some interest but no hookups. I had to use an olive/white clouser minnow pattern with a type 6 sinking line to go down after them. Over the next 1 1/2 months or so the fishing should be excellent when the weather is copoerative.


    Attached Files:

  2. There you go Roger, back at it!! I've got yo get out chasing cutts again, I've been neglecting my roots this summer!

    Sent from my SCH-I535 using Tapatalk 2
  3. Good info Roger !!! Thanks for putting that together....
  4. Good information. Thank You.
  5. Yep, it's gettin' to be time to start chasin' my favorite fish again!
  6. Never stopped chancing the SRC. I just found some silvers in the same places.
  7. A very thoughtful and insightful article. I have been referring to the same type of conditions for lakes for years. Is it time for the the fisheries people to realize that we need to close down waters that reach a critical temperature level for a few months each year in order to preserve what is left?
  8. Good Stuff, Roger! (BTW, I saw your son and his family at the Farmer's Market here this summer!)
  9. [quote="Golden Trout, I have been referring to the same type of conditions for lakes for years. Is it time for the the fisheries people to realize that we need to close down waters that reach a critical temperature level for a few months each year in order to preserve what is left?[/quote]

    I totally agree with you! I always carry a thermometer with me when fishing lakes and will not fish them when the water temperature is above lower 60 degrees F particularly the shallow ones.

    In Puget Sound strong tidal currents can result in significant mixing of warm surface water and cool deep water. IMHO it can result in little water temperature stratification(unlike lakes) particularly in the southern part of Marine Area 13 which has many areas with strong tidal current and relatively shallow water depths in comparison to deeper, open water to the north. Over the last two summers high water temperatures reading were observed many miles from shallow estuary areas. Thus, high water temperatures are not neccesarily confined just to areas near estuaries. IHMO it indicates that there is probably much mixing of surface and deeper water.

    [quote="Bob Triggs: I saw your son and his family at the Farmer's Market here this summer![/quote]

    They have lived in Port Hadlock for about 5 years. It is a great place to live and raise a family! Will be seeing them at Salmon Days in Issaquah next weekend. In the past I have asked him if he has meet you. Well it sounds like it finally happened!

    Bob Triggs likes this.
  10. Proof? Please I don't buy it for a second that 60 to 65 degrees causes undo stress on the fish. I do believe that they will move out of different water temps to seek food sources and for other reasons. In all my research into water temperature effects on salmonoids such as these the closest thing I could find to actual stress doesn't start until sustained temperatures of 73 degrees and in most of our lakes with thermoclines and certainly in the puget sound, this simply is not going to be an issue. I think the fisheries people you refer to most likely have a much better understanding of this issue than you do GT.

    Now Roger, don't get me wrong I think the data you have collected about behavior is fascinating and useful and a very likable post at that.
    Bonefish Jack and triploidjunkie like this.
  11. Roger-
    Good stuff!!

    I'm jealous as the fall river cutthroat fishing is one of the fisheries that I look forward to every year. The weather the past month has essentially washed that fishing away for another year.

    Ira -

    Some temperature info you might find interesting in regards to temperatures and catch and release.

    ""Effects of Catch-and-Release Angling on salmonids at Elevated Temperatures"

    From North American Journal of Fisheries Management 30: 898-907, 2010

    By Boyd, Guy, Horton and Leathe

    Work was done in Montana and fish were caught by angling and held in-river in live cages for 72 hours at several different temperatures. The short version - for rainbows no mortality seen for fish who were caught (late afternoon/evenings) at temperatures below 20 degrees C (63 F). However at temperatures above 23 degrees C (68 F) on the Gallatin river the mortality was 16% and on the Smith it was 9%."

    Yes I realize the work done on rivers but have to think that if at 68 degrees a 10% mortality is happening there is some stress at temperatures below that level. For my cutthroat fishing (nearly all in rivers) I refuse to fish at temperatures in the mid-60s and limit my fishing to the morning hours. For wild fish like my beloved sea-run cutthroat I always attempt to err on the side of the fish.

    Fishing lakes would be a different matter with the safety of the thermocline not too far away.

    Roger Stephens likes this.
  12. BINGO! I've never argued that rivers were a different matter all together.


  13. I have sent you a PM with information on 65 degree F. water temperature threshold standards for sea-run cutthroat and salmon fry.


    The main point which I was trying to raise is that sea-run cutthroat are a fragile fish and can be prone to be stressed by higher water temperatures. Most of the sea-run cutthroat locations which I normally fish have relatively strong tidal current which results in limited water temperature stratification unlike lakes. When fishing for sea-run cutthroat in the summer on Puget Sound, I take a similar approach as Curt stated in the above quote. I will not fish a location for sea-run cutthroat when the water temperature is above 62 to 65 degrees F. It is my choice and other may not agree with my approach. However,I believe that is important to make other saltwater fly fishers partaking in the sea-run cutthroat fisheries to be aware that higher water temperatures could be detrimental to these special fish in some locations.

  14. Thanks for the PM Roger, interesting information and as I said in the PM if the area you are fishing truly has limited water temperature fluctuation for the fish to escape too then by all means stop fishing! But lakes are a different matter altogether.
  16. I'm with Ira. I'm not gonna stop fishing simply because you say its bad. I've read a lot about fish in moving waters but little about stillwaters, yet I see well received trip reports from small streams and rivers all year round. Someone posts a stillwater report in August and people love to chime in and say how wrong it is. I just don't get it.
  17. Oh GT. I'm sorry I didn't specifically point you out. But here you go. I don't agree with you, I haven't agreed with you and I'm likely not to agree with you. I have never doubted the effects of temperature on fish, I just have never bought your theory about stopping fishing all lakes once the top water temp hits what you consider to be to high and then insinuating that others are evil for not following your undocumented opinion. Nothing in the reports that Roger sent to me or that Smalma shared gave proof or even suggested undo stress on trout in stillwaters with access to a thermocline. Did you read that GT? Do you know who Smalma is and what he did for the state? Did you read his comment? I will continue to challenge you every time that you try to suggest that we close waters based solely on your own emotional responses with no proof to back it up.
  18. That's the part that I can't substantiate. Don't get me wrong, when I fish cutts, I treat them care, heavy tippets, short fight, I don't touch them at all, nor drag them up on the beach or remove them from the water. That kind of rough treatment is likely to increase mortality for any fish, and I find it disrespectful.

    But, I can't find any literature that proves sea runs are any more "fragile" than other trout. When you have a premise that these fish are susceptible to certain temperatures, and predicate that the issue is important because "sea run cutthroat are a fragile fish" it helps to prove the basic premise.

    Please, don't feel defensive, I'm not saying you're wrong, but I haven't found any literature that reflects how sea runs respond to stress. I would like to have that data to help promote my position that sea runs should not be removed from the water, just as wild steelhead are protected. I want to request a rule change, but don't have any data to back me up.

    Got some?
  19. honestly, i would move away from how fragile they are and propose the rule solely to prevent people from holding fish out of water for extended periods of time (photos, etc) which has a negative impact on c&r mortality regardless of how "hardy" a fish is. gills are not meant to be out of the water for any significant amount of time (cue the idiots wondering if a fish jumping is going to die :rolleyes:)

    the data on air exposure is the same for cutthroat as for steelhead. the fact that there are no hatchery sea-runs in puget sound (that i am aware of) and the state has little to no data on sea-run cutthroat populations in the vast majority of their range is enough reason to be proactive in protecting them.

    of course, more protective river regulations would have far greater impacts for cutthroat than a handling rule in the saltwater. there is far too much harvest allowed, especially the impact bait fishing has on undersized trout (the ones the 14" rule is supposed to protect)

  20. I sometimes find low oxygen warm water in the backwaters of the estuaries, and near the head of tidewater on some of my local creeks.
    At least twice over the years, I have had searun cutthroat expire after playing them in warmer, low-oxygen conditons. This has been in late Aug and early Sept.
    Both times the surface water felt moderately "warm" to my hand, in the low or mid 60's. Another factor was the kind of tide I was fishing at the times of these unfortunate expirations. I was fishing during a "neap tide" which is when the moon is at half flag and at least one full tide exchange isn't very big and thus doesn't move all that much water in and out.
    The incoming tidal push, moving as it does across the shallow estuary and over mud flats, doesn't have much oxygen dissolved in it by the time it floods in and backs up the river or creek. It is pushing in against slow moving low-gradient stream (lower river) water that hasn't been oxygenated for perhaps over a river mile (or a few), traps an extensive mass of low-oxygen warm water around the head of tidewater.
    After the incoming push hits the "lower high" of a neap tide, it is usually followed by a "higher" low tide. Not all that much run out.

    This mass of warm brackish, low-oxygen water can be a dangerous place for any cutthroat to be hanging out when a C&R angler is lurking nearby!
    I have noticed algal blooms (large reddish brown cloudy areas) that seem to persist for several days, and move back and forth in the brackish tidal stretch of a river before they flush out. They must suck a lot of oxygen from the water.
    Lately I'm trying to avoid fishing those places during those kinds of conditions.
    Roger Stephens likes this.

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