Big Steelhead Redux - Done Right This Time


Banned or Parked
Alpine, that fish was kept so I'm not sure where the fish handling comes into play.
It wasn't a question of handling, but one of ethics and how one person's ethics aren't necessarily the same as those of someone else. Personally, I think it's despicable that you killed such a nice roosterfish because such an act violates my personal ethics. For someone so outspoken and emotional about one species of fish, it's too bad you don't share the same passion across the entire spectrum of wild fish.
Thanks for the responses, I realize I "hijacked" the post, but, I am new to Washington and the WDFW rules. I must admit, I fish alone most times and have a bit of anxiety related to my reading comprehension. I apologize to any who may have taken offense to my question, and......GOD THAT'S A BEAUTIFUL FISH.

Trout Central

Dan "Rooster" Leavens
On another note, with regards to fish "numbers" - and sizes of runs.
We are expected to believe the "counts" of two agencies - the tribes and WDFW.
Ever think they may not have accurate numbers?

Ever think that complaints of low returns may come from folks that dont fish at optimum times, with effective techniques?

The numbers this season were unquestionably lower in the early part of the season compared to the last several, however water conditions were, in my opinion, poor as well. Low clear water for a good part of the early season may have kept some of the fish in the salt for longer than usual. With the late March rains, we had a great push of fish in all the systems on the coast. Maybe the run was a bit "late". Just an opinion, and it may not be correct.

I know its a big can of worms, but when someone starts tossing around statements like "unethical", when in several instances we are fishing DIRECTLY around, and sharing water with people anchoring and pulling bait divers, and bonking fish, and indian nets - and every other technique under sun, are we really the problem?? Jergens is right. If we can't get it together as a group we may as well forget it. The tribes will have ALL the fish. Listed or not listed.

And to remove ANY shade of doubt - lots of us do wrap it up for the day after enough fish to hand to meet my, or my guests expectations. However, it's pretty rare that we say "Thats enough - you are done".

What about wild trout? Should I start stopping at 20 in Montana as well? That would make for some short days!

Fire away.

Will Atlas

Trout central, if you are suggesting the escapement estimates on the coast are below the actual size you are flat out wrong. If anything WDFW and the tribes overestimates the numbers to allow more harvest. Also, the exploitation rates on those stocks is extremely high. An extremely bright biologist I know who spent 10 years living and fishing on the coast believes that up to 90% of fish on the Sol Duc are caught before think that's not having an impact? If you catch 20 fish in a day you're impact is probably actually more than some Jim who kills his one fish and quits. Conservative estimates of CnR mortality of 5%.

Certainly I agree that there were more fish around towards the end of March however that doesn't mean the runs are excellent. My impression of the status of those populations is based on data, not fishing experience. Even as runs are collapsing there can still be windows of fantastic fishing.

Interesting anecdote....During the 90's there was a small westside river that was closed to fishing for summer steelhead. The closure came about because of a small NGO that was monitoring the population extremely closely concluded that the population had declined to below 50 fish. It was heartbreaking for the leadership of the NGO to lobby the state to close the river as it was their favorite summer steelhead stream and they had been fishing it for decades. That being said it was even more heartbreaking to snorkel a reach of stream where there was once dozens of fish and find only one or two. At the time there was a small bit of controversy within the organization. One of their biologists who fished the stream said "how can it be so bad, I've been catching fish all summer!!" When asked how many fish he'd caught they figured out that he'd probably caught almost every fish in the river and probably caught a number of them more than once....

fishing isn't a great way to estimate abundance unless you are using a well designed mark recapture methodology and even that has its limitations.



youngish old guy
On another note, with regards to fish "numbers" - and sizes of runs.
We are expected to believe the "counts" of two agencies - the tribes and WDFW.
Ever think they may not have accurate numbers?
On the Columbia, unfortunately, it's an exact science. On the OP you got good point, population projection is only as good as the sampling.

Very nice fish, thanks for sharing.
Anytime any one of us heads out on river full of endangered species with and willingly fishes over that endangered species we also admit that untimately our own amusement is more important than that species truly recovering. And I speak for myself first. The hypocritical and finger pointing stance of the phony assed catch and release position so many of us take is a fucking joke. We are PART of the problem, not a solution, not a higher consciousness, not a position of higher intelligence. We are willingly stabbing an endangered species in the head, playing it to exhaustion, and then releasing it so it can be fucked with again. I can live with that, and have no problem realizing it and in fact are about to fly home and try to hook a few more before they are gone forever. I love the steelhead like no other fish, and its thread is woven deeply into the Northwest fabric I am made from. But this my friends is a blood sport once and for all, and in fact the most perverse of all blood sports in the way we fool, scare the shit out of, and then release the prey. There is no humane kill here, no putting the animal out of its misery, no we let him/her go so we can fuck with them again endgangered or not. Once again, I can live with myself knowing that if I follow protocol, (put down by scientists types like you) the fish has a great shot of making it and spawning again for all of our benefits. So before you attack a guy like Braz who I've known for a long time, take a long look at your fisheries degree and your quiver of speyrods and look at yourself. Braz is a conservationist, a great family man and a true friend. And a guide for the ages. Nobody, I mean nobody in this steelhead realm has clean hands with no blood on them. Mine are coated in blood. So either put you rod up and quit targeting these near extinct fish or keep fishing for them without living in a glass house. That goes for a whole shitload of us. How do we come together and mesh all of our hidden agendas, and self serving purposes to aid this and other species recovery? When do we really become united? Hell even I'd buy a beer for one of those bobber throwers if the delivery method is a fly rod!:hmmm: Well maybe.......:D Kidding of course. That is the target question. So far we've failed miserably and posts like yours young William (although well intentioned and from a big steelhead loving heart I know well) keep us apart. Only the steelhead suffers. What's next to ease your hunter gatherer guilt? A limit on fish catch and released? Tight lines and good fishing to all. The Coach

PS Beading has become the new hotshotting. Very very deadly it seems and those guys are putting up numbers the great plug fisherman used to put up.

PSS What the hell does endgangered mean and who is challenged enough to spell like that? ME.

Will Atlas

Duff, I acknowledge that fishing is a blood sport but it's shades of grey not black and white. Hooking 25 fish in three days is alot bloodier than any three days of fishing I could possibly have swinging flies with tips. Hell a good fly fisherman might hook 25 fish in a season. Still an impact but in my opinion much lower. An emphasis on numbers rather than the search and challenge is short sighted and is detrimental to peoples understanding of the true condition of the resource.

plus fishing an indicator is like flyfishing with training wheels ;).

Trout Central

Dan "Rooster" Leavens
Duff - well said. We should fish sometime. I fished with a buddy of yours this winter and got our butt kicked, it was great.

Let's not open the damn bead door. Keep those dogs in the kennel.

As far as the indicator comment - I have one example.

Day one with a well known fly box manufacturer -
"Heck with nymphin' - lets get one on the swing".
I am fine with that. It means less rowing on my "rowers elbow".

Day two - one fish on the swing, not bad. About 3 in the afternoon I casually mention that we might shake out some nymph rods inbetween runs - afterall it's easy and you just automatically start catching them that way - right? Wrong. One got away on a hookset that I remember someone saying "Way to swing your purse at it".

Day three of swinging and nymphing we got some kinks worked out and landed 4 sweet chromers. "That really isn't as easy as it looks, is it????"
First, Nice fishes! Thank you for releasing them.

Now, the sidetrack.. I think it is the responsibility of every (swing, nymph, gear, bait) fisherman to take stock of his/her own overall impact on the fish - and make sure its a positive one.

It is true that just by fishing for these rare fish we are endangering the individual fish we encounter. However, just by buying a license we are telling the State that we exist and should be considered in their management plans. That's something. But if you fish more than a couple times a year I don't think it is enough to offset your impact.

It's tough to know how much is enough, so err on the side of a positive impact. Join conservation groups, donate $$, write letters to your politicians, clean up your local waterway. If you're not sure that you are doing enough, do more.

There is no reason to hang your head b/c of the possibility that you might hurt an individual fish. I can say with absolute certainty that my footprint on the population as a fisherman, is a positive one. But, I only hook 3 or so in a good year, and have yet to land a wild fish.. If you are a bait fisherman, catching 50 steelies a year, you better work you ass off. If you are a guide, you'd better be preaching conservation like your life depends on it.

This probably all goes without saying.. but it bugs me to see people talking about the negative impact of us (and all conservation minded folks) fishing for steelhead. Humans are simultaneously the biggest threat and only hope for the fish. It all depends on the person.

Don't hang up your rod. Fight for the fish.


Fly Fishing guide "The Bogy House" Lodge
For the record,,,It was another fish that was 20 lbs.
Nymphing techniques for steelhead is way harder than anyone thinks before they do it, they don't magically apear at the end of your stick, and swinging, done as I usually see it, is done mostly wrong. You can catch fish swinging but it takes just as much expieriance of the currents as nymphing. We have caught four and hooked six over the last week of fishing wile fishing the swung fly. We have also hooked another eightteen and landed maybe half in the same period on the same floats and the same water. Its all how one want's to catch them that is the glory of fishing steelhead, the darn things will bite a piece of tin foil if you throw it right. As for how many is enough, believe me when we have six to the net and each angler has caught some the boat goes a little faster.

Will,,,love your passion keep the faith...the reason we have done a little better as of lately,,,NO TRIBAL NETS! Its like a water faucet they( gill netters) go in and the valve get's shut and sometimes the washer leaks and we get a few.

Thanks for the Kind words Duff, Rooster, and Joe!!!

Heres a concept on saving the steelhead, don't kill them, don't buy them dead, and don't support any business that offers them dead. The steelhead is a tough animal that is cold blooded, it has survived every natural disaster for the last millenium, the only thing that will bring about there demise is a gill net, period....Wild fish forever!!!
Beautiful fish man!

I am new to the winter steelhead game, and to this website. I spent this spring seeking out my first wild winter metal on the WA coast and was rewarded with one fish out of 6 days spent between the Hoh, Sol Duc, Queets(my favorite), and Sauk. Coming from the Grand Ronde and Salmon rivers I have been use to 1-4 A-runs per day.

Fishing for 5 days alone before anything happened really tested my confidence, but when that Sol Duc buck slurped my intruder I was ecstatic and.... absolutely terrified. The buck surfaced and I knew I was in for a ride. It seemed like an eternity, but after less than 15 minutes I had the brute in shallow cobblestone water next to me. The fish stretched to the first ferrule of my 13'6 Beulah spey, a length I would later find out to be 40". I guess I cashed in all my "luck" on this one, odds are I won't ever see such a beast again.

My question is, to the members of this site and any guides who fish the OP, how often do you come across fish with net burns/cuts (I think)? My fish had slashes/rubs down the sides of his face and across his back tearing his fin open and exposing some mushy flesh. I tried to get a picture prepared but the tough old bastard made a break for it as soon as I pulled the hook and I couldn't regain control before he was back into the current and zipped up stream. As happy as I was to see him go with such power I was deeply saddened by his torn-up state and the lack of photo documentation. The only witnesses to this event were a bait chuckin father and son hootin and hollering from the high bank on the otherside of the river.

I will be back next spring for sure, hopefully with some sort of boat this time and better spey skills, for now its back to Montana to graduate. Winter steelheading will clog my mind till then.

Just wanted to get some opinions and questions answered about the cuts and tears.


Fly Fishing guide "The Bogy House" Lodge
During the netting season 9 out of 10 steelhead will have net marks or seal bites or both. Incedently the netting season this year was 4-6 days a week since December and just a week ago monday they stopped till the 15th. Occasionally after a long period of high water the percentage of marked fish drops and they get this scrape on there dorsal fin, possably from hiding under logs and rocks, I think this because I see the mark again during very low flows as well.