West-side rivers resident trout populations

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Native, Jul 24, 2001.

  1. Native

    Native Member

    I've been perplexed for a long time about whether westside rivers (that don't have barriers to migrating trout like the Snoqulamie forks) truly have resident trout populations. I've done a fair amount of exploring on many of our puget sound area rivers only to find tons of finger-sized fish that were so aggressive they would swallow a sparrow imitation if it fit in their little mouths. I can't imagine how resident trouts could compete with those ferverous little guys. Fishing for smolts twinges my ethics bone a little bit, so what's a general rule about what kind of conditions must exist in a costal stream for there to be resident trout populations?

    Judging by many posts i've seen here (like the posts about the Tolt river a few days ago) that talk about doing well catching fish in the 6" range, i'd say that i'm not the only one who's confused about this distinction. It seems clear to me that these are smolts, not resident trout.

    I think it would be helpful if someone with more knowledge of trout ecology would shed some light on the subject of what kind of conditions allow for resident populations, because I wouldn't mind catching a few of the little guys!
  2. Jonduke

    Jonduke New Member

    I am also very often confused about whether or not I'm catching resident or smolts in coast-accessible streams. Many streams I am pretty sure I'm catching smolts, but I have found numerous exceptions. For one thing, what about the Yakima? If salmon can get up it, than trout can get down it, but they jsut don't. Or the upper Quinault, for example. I fish it, and cacth some tiny little smolts, as well as full grown steelhead. But I have caught rainbows of about 16 inches, that I'm positive are too big to be smolts and look so different from the steelhead, that I'm just sure they are residents. Also, on south sound cutthroat streams, I can catch resident, colorful cutts in June, and later in September, silvery fresh sea-runs of the same size.
    But back to the subject of "why?" I have a friend who works as a fisheries biologist, and I have discussed this with him. His basic thoughts are that they just don't plain know. They have no clue about why a fish runs to the ocean or not, partly because sea-run and resident trout are genetically identical.
    If you want to find westside resident trout, its really not that hard. I have found dozens of good westside trout streams, most of which I will not name. Just look for streams above dams and waterfalls, to find residents. A couple examples would be the forks of the snoqualimie and their tribs, the north and south fork of the Tolt (NF above falls, SF above dam), and the south fork Skykomish system. Also, look farther south, like the Cowlitz and Lewis systems, where there are lots of dams. Hope this helps a little.

  3. Vic

    Vic New Member

    That what I think. Probably most of westside rivers too sterile to support resident trout. Most "trout" we catch there is actually steelhead smolts. Yakima is another story. There is plenty of aquatic life, water is warmer and trout grows faster. Have heard a lot of good things about Elwha and I'm going to visit this river soon. Upper Elwha barried by dam , there is only resident trout and fishing pressure supposed to be light due to hike-only access
  4. Vic

    Vic New Member

    Just another addition:
    Once I've caught 14" trout in Skykomish which was fin-clipped!
    (Reiter Ponds hatchery origin I think). So sometimes under certain condition steelhead smolts could became a resident trout
  5. skyriver

    skyriver Member

    I have read and been told the same info that Jon provided. Biologists really do not know why one coastal rainbow will head out to the salt and why one from the same brood will stay. It is generally thought that this is nature's way of protecting the gene pool. Redundancy, you might say. Look at the Toutle River. Totally wiped out by St. Helens and yet there were wild steelhead back in that thing in just a few years. Strays no doubt helped, but having some of that gene pool out in the ocean for 1-3 years helped too.
    Anyway, if you fish one river enough you will find resident populations that are very wary, healthy and beautiful fish. I grew up in SW Washington and some of the nicest fish I've ever caught were resident Klickitat River rainbows. Fish that resembled the redsides of the Deschutes. No doubt, closely related given their proximity. The next cast you catch a smolt (usually, not always, more silver and thinner). I had a couple days when I caught resident trout, smolts and steelies! The beauty of anadromous rivers! Of course, posite of that would be catching nothing but 4" smolts (salmon & steelhead) all day long. The curse of anadromous rivers!
    If you chuck nymphs that resemble the river's naturals all day long you're bound to catch every fish the river has to offer. This cuts down on the number of smolts you catch too. Dries seem to catch the most smolts.
  6. guest

    guest Guest

    They used to plant catchable trout in the local rivers in Snohomish Co. But that was a long time ago. I've caught Native trout out of Troublesome Creek, Skykomish River North Fork,. When you go to the upper reaches of most of the streams You will find Natives.
  7. Steelie L

    Steelie L Member

    Hey y'all. I'm new to the board. Been lurking for a few days now. Thought this would be a good time to chime in, since this is a topic that has always fascinated me. Like you, Vic, I've caught fin-clipped trout (big steelhead smolt that decided not to head to the sea?) in the 10'-16" range from rivers that get planted with steelhead smolts. Very interesting.
  8. guest

    guest Guest

    Your 16" fish could be "jacks". I caught two out of the Beckler river one time about this time of the year. One year fish.
  9. Steelie L

    Steelie L Member

    Good point, cantcatchem66. Those 12- to 16-inch fish could very well be steelhead jacks, ala the Rogue River's famous "half-pounders."
  10. skyriver

    skyriver Member

    Or, just nice healthy resident fish. Caught 2 this morning. 14" and 13". They were the hottest fish I've had for some time. Not enough food to support smolts and residents you say? The water I was fishing was chalked full of caddis fly larvae....periwinkles for those new to the entemology game. Much of the lower river is barren of good bug life, but many of the headwaters (not necessarily above a barrier) have enough to feed trout, smolts, salmon fry, whitefish, dippers and diver ducks (they eat just as many snails, nymphs and freshwater mussels as they do fish. Saw a beautiful young squad of Harlequins this morning....so naive they almost swam right to me. Half-pounders they could be, but I also catch them in winter when whitefishing.....I don't think half-pounders run in the winter...my money's on they were resident fish.

    BARTOLOTTI New Member

    I've been reading along and have a few questions:
    1. Do we (Wahingtonian's) have half-pounders?
    2. Is it the Rougue or the Klamath that has the famous half-pounders?
    3. Are "jacks" associated with steelhead; or are they juvie salmon?
    4. Will "jack" salmon return to the salt or will they die in the river without spawning?
    That's it. Tight Lines. Glen B.
  12. Steelie L

    Steelie L Member

    Skyriver: Did you notice if the fish you caught were fin-clipped? In my earlier posts, I was referring to 12-16" fish with clipped adipose fins--meaning they definitely came from the steelhead hatchery. So it seems like there could be three possibilities for these particular fish:
    1) They were just very big steelhead smolt that were biding their time before heading to sea (probably the unlikeliest scenario).
    2) They were steelhead smolt that, for some reason, decided not to go to sea, and thus became "resident trout."
    3) They were steelhead jacks that came back to the river after a short time at sea, as opposed to the normal two to three years.
  13. Vic

    Vic New Member

    I think they easy to differ under certain condition:
    resident trout (even grown from hatchery smolt) has pink stripe
    fresh steelhead from the sea don't
    "jacks" usually refers to dwarf chinook and coho salmon males
    and they die after spawn too
  14. guest

    guest Guest

    I always thought that the term "jacks" was used for one year fish.
  15. skyriver

    skyriver Member

    These fish were wild....they had their adipose fin. They may not be truly native since there are hatchery influences all through this system presently and historically, but they were at least spawned from the gravel of that stream. Whole other discussion…..
    To answer Gene's questions:
    1)It is generally agreed that we have 1 salt fish, but these are usually the 3-4 lbers….18-25 inches present in some systems. Locally, we do not call them half-pounders. We don't have the numbers of 1 salt fish that Oregon and California have. Most are your average 6-10 lb 2 salt fish.
    2)I think both.
    3)Locally, jacks usually refer to 1 salt salmon males and specifically Chinook(king) or Coho(silvers).
    4)They bite the big one I believe.

    I agree Steelie L. Clipped fins would put them directly from a hatchery, but the ones I caught were wild resident trout more healthy than the last several I hooked in the Yakima.
    They hit dries by the way!!
  16. cz

    cz New Member

    The half-pounders of the Rogue aren't really what you'd call jacks. The Rogue fish don't come into the river to try and spawn prematurely like most jack salmon or steelhead do. Actually, there not sure why they come back but they live in the river for a while and feed just like trout. Then they head back to the ocean for another year before returning to spawn.

    That's also one of the reasons they guess that Rogue river steelhead are so prone to be taken on nymphs and other flies that you might use for trout - they have spent a longer period of time living in rivers, eating river food. They say 90% of returning adult wild fish have a half-pounder history and 50% of the hatchery fish as well.