Skagit Summer Runs

Wondering if any one can point to historical abundance wrt Skagit Summer runs, any history, timing, current state, hatchery supplementation, impact of hydro, etc etc.

I have done a search on the site, and not found much - except an awareness that there are some very experienced bio types who may be able to point me in the right direction


Ignored Member
There aren't nor have there been enough summer fish in the Skagit to talk about. There has been hints dropped here and there of one of the larger tribs getting some summers. 'bout all I know.


Active Member
Kerry stated there never were very many wild summer steelhead in the Skagit basin - just not the kind of water that selects for the summer life history.

Hatchery summer steelhead have not been planted in the basin for 15 years or so though a potential out of basin stray is possible.

While there are a lot of negative impacts on fish populations from the varius hydro projects eliminating summer steelhead habitat probably was not one of them. The upper Skagit projects Gorge, Diablo and Ross on the main Skagit are located above or just below what is believed to be themodern time upper limit anadromous passage. The Baker projects have cut off significant amounts of anadromous habitat but in regards to steelhead the available information indicates those impacts were on winter steelhead (though the very headwaters of the Baker could have potentially supported summer fish).

Even with the above there has been presistent rumors of summer steelhead in the basin. The most significant (and one popular with some "old timers") was that there was a decent run of very early and large sized summer fish. That fishery took place in late May (used to be the stream opening day) and conitnued well into June after which the fish disappeared. Pretty clear that fishery was based on winter fish. With a winter spawning timing that peaks in mid-May and continues until late July that steelhead would caught that time of year. In fact the odd kelt is caught throughout the summer and into the fall.

There has also been persistent rumors of smallish summer wild fish to be found in various remote locations in the basin. In chasing those down it was discovered that most were hatchery fish or if wild either resident rainbows or summer coho. There may have been a fair number of those early summer coho in the basin though they now appeart to be much rare. They are typically smallish fish (2 to 4#) with early run timing (I have caught them as early as late June) that are sometimes found holding in small pods in upper tirbs in August as chrome birght immature fish (spawn timing similar to that of the "normal timed" fish. - easy to see why they might be confused with steelhead.

In spite of all the above there are a handful of true summer steelhead found in the Skagit basin. They tend to like rest of the wild Puget Sound summer steelhead. That is mid-summer run timing with most fish being 1-salt fish; resulting in a smallish body size. With the down turn in smolt to adult survival over the last couple decades like their winter cousins the numbers of wild summers has been reduced even further. Origin of those fish is a bit of a mystery as they are found in waters also occupied by wild winter fish and limited genetic sampling that the juvenile fish rearing in those areas aligned with the winter fish.



Well-Known Member
Smalma pretty much covered it. The few native wild summer runs seem to be scattered among several tributaries and over lap with winter fish, as there is no geomorphic barrier separating them. Only their respective run timings. Hard critter to figure out. And hard to tell a smaller one from a larger resident trout without scale samples. Almost as hard to study as Sasquatch and almost as rare.



Active Member
was told many years ago that the Cascade had summers in it. did some exploring up there in july. never did find anything other than some trout. course if they are there, its a tough stream in a canyon type water with lots of brush. the farther you get upstream the tougher it gets. so who knows?


Active Member

During the 1970s until well into the 1990s the Cascade was planted with hatchery summer fish (at the salmon hatchery) so not surprised that you heard of summer runs in the Cascade. Post hatchery release did hear about summer fish so much. The upper Cascade is one of the place early coho can be found.

O. mykiss parr collected at the forks of the Cascade in the early 1990s; the genetics of those fish aligned with the winter runs from through out the Skagit basin. On the main Cascade there really no significant migration barrier that one normally thinking of separating summer and winter steelhead..



Active Member
Aaronk -
In the case of the Skagit the probability would be high that such a fish would be winter fish. Whether the fish was a summer or winter fish would depend on the sexual maturity of the fish. A "chrome" wild fish could potentially be in one of 3 stages of sexually maturity.

At that time of year if such a fish was entering the river as a sexually immature fish that was 8 to 12 months from spawning it would be a summer fish. If on the other hand the fish was days to weeks from spawning it would be a winter fish. The other possibility would be that such a fish could be a kelt that has brighten back up after spawning a few weeks before. During June one might encounter any of the three possibilities though as mention the vast majority of such fish (95% ?) would be winters.

Thanks Curt! I caught one last spring on the Skagit while targeting Spring Chinook. I'd heard of dark winter fish being caught around this same time, but I was a little confused by this one.
Well after the Cascade ceased releasing summers, I've encountered a few clipped summer steelhead on the Skagit while fishing for humpies and silvers. The theory I've pulled out of my rear is that they're stray fish from the Stilly seeking cooler water.


Active Member
Smalma, also have heard rumors of summers in the upper Sauk. anything to that one?
if true, are not most summer run in need of some kind of upper river deep pools like on the Kalama or Wind ?