Yak steelhead/rainbows?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by zmays, Feb 23, 2008.

  1. Steelhead or rainbow? Seems to be the talk of the town these days. In the last two weeks I've landed two fish pushing 23 inches and a ~25 inch fish that got away. I witnessed my friend Jeff land a 28 inch fish and saw pictures of a 24 inch fish caught in the canyon. Are they steelhead, or are they residual fish? Without taking scale samples from these fish we will never know for sure. Having said that, it seems obvious to me that there are a number of fish in this part of the Yak that exceed the norm and take on many characteristics of steelhead. I have reviewed radio telemetry data from 2002 and 2003. Over 100 fish each year were equipped with radio transmitters. These fish were between 22 and 32 inches in length with the average size being ~25 inches. Most of the steelhead crossed Roza in february and march and were done spawning in may. After spawning these fish either stopped moving (died?), or rapidly made their way back down the Yakima. The majority of these fish were Teanaway spawners (over 25%). When you consider 10 years of electofishing data it is extremely rare to find rainbows 21 inches or greater. Then take into account all the large fish landed by anglers outside of late winter/spring. Take 3 inches off all your buddies "monster" fish to find the ACTUAL length and it becomes pretty convincing to me that these large fish being caught are more than likely steelhead.


    What do you think of a Yakima river habitat enhancement project? Any specific ideas?
  2. Good thought provoking post here ZM. Not much interest though. Perhaps you should add a photo or two of those large O. mykiss to get the crowd going.

    I think a river habitat enhancement project is a great idea. However, it would be nice to do something worthwhile that made a difference. Sure we could always do a "feel good" restoration project but many times those do little other than improve community relationships. I think trout populations are pretty stable on the Yak. The limiting factor for more trout per mile is likely tied to river management which is tied to irrigation flip-flop. Good luck tackling that project.

    The RT reports sound pretty interesting. I might have to snoop around and find more info on that.
  3. If you start yanking bright (i.e. not a kelt), 28" fish in May/June/July (when thermal barries retard most of the steeleis from migrating) MAYBE it could be a resident.

    Without pics, given the timing, given the size...I'm voting steelhead. And don't worry about the low steelhead counts on the dams. While Yak steel is rare, the counts on this river are for shit so I suspect there are many more than thought.

    Also, steelhead will overwinter in the same big hole the trout will and will readily take slowly fished nymphs. I am guessing most are caught this way, but I don't know.

    One of the local streams around me is kind of the same situation (except the numbers are better and I can target steelhead). I'll spend warm days fishing for and catching 8-12" trout with an occasional 15"-30" (early steelhead) thrown in. If I am nymphing, the same gear catches both.

    Enjoy the encounter :)
  4. Ive made this post before but I think it was ignored.... these fish dont have to be just Residents and just anadroumous. Think about fluvial or adfluvial life histories. There is plenty of food in the columbia and dammed up lakes for these fish to reach large sizes. I know some of them are steelhead, some are residents, but I feel some of them are probably migrating down to the columbia to feed on the available prey/small fish.
  5. Sure could be.

    Many of my local streams (espcially in the stinking hot lower sections) produce trout only in the bowels of winter. Once the opener arrives June 1 many sections that produced incidental trout (hatchery smolts, a few natives and bulls) are completely empty of anything but Smallies, Squawa and assorted trashfish (suckers, chubs/dace, etc.). They move up where the temps are cooler. This behavior has been well documented as well during several fisheries studies in the local basins.

    So while I agree with your assertion that this is a plausible life history (though the Yakima has WAY more barries to migration than my local drainages), I don't think Adfluvial life histories would explain Dec-March encounters with 25" "rainbows" on the Yak. They're steelhead.

    It seems there is some communal interest in "huge" bows in the yak, but I think actual native fluvial/adfluvial trout over 20" are astronomically rare in WA in general and the Yakima is no different. One exception I am aware of (at least one that produces quanties of apparently native fish over 20") is the Jurassic. The Jurassic is many times more productive (more food, habitat etc.) than the Yakima which is not that productive in absolute biological terms.

    I assert anything of 24" is almost (like 99%) assuredly a steelhead (early return, overwintering or kelt).

    *puts on flame suit*
  6. IMHO with the dam(s) in place, there is only so much that can be done
    habitat wise...... the seasonal hijacking of the water flows mixed with
    tough barriers for fish to cross makes it hard to get any run size
    that could even be specifically fished for(targeted) all steelhead
    caught like yours are bycatch for trout fishing.

    all the tribs in the upper section are blocked by lake cle elum and kachess dams it just takes away the true upper tribs that make good spawning habitat. i don't even know if
    those dams have fish ladders or bypasses, but i doubt it. i know the run off is in the summer, but that must have some impact on juvenille steelhead
  7. it would be interesting to see if there were any decent run sizes
    prior to the dams
  8. iagreeiagree

    happens pretty much anywhere there are rainbow trout here, they migrate into the big lakes and rivers to overwinter
  9. there was.
  10. Yak used to support large runs coho, chinook, steelhead and sockeye.
  11. "Yak used to support large runs coho, chinook, steelhead and sockeye."

    3 of 4 of those are being supported now... either by a hatchery program or supplemental releases in some tribs above Rosa but below the res. dams. There has also been expressed a desire to bring back the 4th mention species. I would guess that one will happened eventually also.

    As far as habitat goes there has been improvements made on some tribs and there is a plan for yet another going into action now.

    The seemingly increased "steelhead" catches may be a direct result of such efforts?
  12. I wonder when the last sockeye were documented in the Yak? Weird to even think about a Columbia drainage Sockeye run these days.
  13. Probably a return within the next couple of years. Yakama Nation has started a sockeye re-introduction at Cle Elum lake.
  14. So these would be kokanee? I'm missing this concept. Where would the fish spend their lives.......and where would they spawn? To me it seems like if they were in Lake Cle Elum.......which already has a Kokanee population that spawns in the Cle Elum River above the lake They would spawn in the upper river also.
  15. Cle Elum, Bumping, Kachess, and Keechelus Lakes were natural lakes in the basin that historically support significant numbers of sockeye. The issue with the sockeye as well the other anadromous fish was getting the smolts and adults in and out of the lakes.

    Cle Elum, Kachess, and Keechelus lakes were dammed to raise lake levels more than a century ago and Bumping followed soon after; those dams blocked migration patterns. Safe to say the last wild sockeye probably returned before 1920. Some historic estimates place the Yakima basin sockeye run size in the 100,000 to 200,000 range as well as 100,000 coho and as many as 500,000 Chinook. Have also heard estimates of 10,000s of steelhead.

    All and all there has been a huge loss in anadromous fish in the basin - current resident trout population only represent a small portion of the salmonid population the basin once supported.

    tight lines
  16. Got it! So the reservoirs up there were all spawning streams flowing freely, so are these planned "new" sockeye introduced by the Yakamas goin to bypass the dams somehow to get to the upper rivers, or spawn below the dams?
  17. You're right, lake fish in Silver lake, Cavanaugh, Lake Stevens, and Lake Watcom (no two cycles allowed) outboard that is. :)
  18. I will find out how to access the telemetry data if you want. It's very enlightening.

    Think more on a microhabitat level for habitat enhancement. There are some areas of the Yakima that support a large population of fish, and many spots fish just don't occupy. What is it about the spots with all the fish? What are some of the limiting factors for carrying compacity? I think that is what the thought process is. Of course, backing this up with actual data will be a bit more convincing!
  19. I agree!!! Any way to get a little size to increase egg production? I will check but I'm pretty sure all out-migrating fish tagged and tracked in 02 and 03 (that didn't die) were picked up at Bonneville.
  20. 500,000 that'd be incredible... like the Nush... 50,000 maybe?

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