Last night I attended a meeting of the Wild Steelhead Coalition. The evening's speaker was Curt Kraemer, WDFW fisheries biologist, and his topic was steelhead management. His one-hour presentation turned into a freewheeling, two-hour-plus, open discussion with the membership. There were many interesting issues talked about or touched on and I thought that a couple of them might be of interest to the members of this board. Speaking about the mortality of parr and smolts, Curt wandered a bit onto the subject of resident rainbows. Most of us are aware that there were, and in some cases still are, small populations of resident rainbows in many of our Puget Sound and coastal rivers. What I was largely unaware of, however, is that there is a substantial body of scientific evidence indicating that the progeny of these residents are able to, and often do, adopt an anadromous lifestyle; in effect, becoming steelhead. The opposite also occurs, some pre-migrant steelhead choosing to adopt a stay-at-home way of life, becoming resident rainbows. Interbreeding and hybridization also occurs among the two groups. The resident rainbows, then, represent a sort of safety net for the existing steelhead, providing a pool from which new anadromous populations may be recruited. These residents may live for as long as ten years and grow to surprisingly large sizes. I've personally never caught one over fifteen inches but, according to Curt, they can get much larger. Unfortunately, these resident rainbows were largely extirpated in the "good old days" of 6-inch-minimum-size and twenty-fish limits. Due to slow growth and continued mortality (largely from baitfishing during the summer and fall months) their recovery has, at best, been glacially slow. When the WDFW (then Fish & Game Dept.) proposed extensive bait bans in the '80's, largely to protect these residents, the proposal went nowhere, except to frighten the salmon egg processors and other purveyors of bait into lobbying a bill through the legislature making it illegal for the department to outlaw the use of bait in the state's river on any large-scale basis. Currently any bait ban can only be applied on a stream-by-stream basis, and then only after extensive studies to justify such an action (which has been done on a few rivers such as the lower Stillaguamish and the Snoqualmie during the summer season). The existence of resident rainbow populations with the ability to turn themselves into migratory steelhead has important implications for rivers like the Elwha when the dams finally come out. Some, or even much of that river's steelhead gene pool may have remained relatively intact over the last ninety years, it's too bad that the same can't be said for its big chinooks. All of you who are steelheaders might consider joining the Wild Steelhead Coalition. It's a very active organization whose meetings almost always feature interesting speakers, usually people on the cutting edge of fisheries science. Check out their website at www.wildsteelheadcoalition.