Ihv2fsh, Several things have happened to steelhead in WA. And it's not the same things in the same proportions throughout their range in this state. There are five separate steelhead eco-regions in WA when you think of how the watersheds work and the factors affecting steelhead productivity and survival. The regions are: Puget Sound, N. Coastal, S. Coastal, lower Columbia River, and the Columbia River upstream of Bonneville Dam (the lowermost dam on the mainstem Columbia). Steelhead runsizes are presently averaging between 5 and 10% of their estimated levels in the 1850-1895 time period, with some populations even lower. Nearly all populations are adversely affected by logging, roads, and urban and rural development across all the regions. Puget Sound populations are additionally significantly affected by dike and levee systems, dams on about 8 rivers, and very likely over-fishing on some Hood Canal rivers. Occasional water pollution of rivers is likely, and it's equally likely that the over-all effect in minor at most. These factors have collectively reduced stream productivity, capacity, and population diversity. Managing wild and hatchery steelhead in aggregate negatively affected wild runs until the mid-70s, but over-harvest is not been a proximate cause of the current status of almost all the individual runs. Puget Sound steelhead populations appear to be affected by low marine survival, significantly lower than coastal steelhead and even lower than Collumbia River populations, which is a reversal of what we know of historic survival trends. Presently, Puget Sound steelhead smolts, which average around 8 fish per pound and surviving at less than one percent to the returning adult stage. Contrast that with the small pink salmon which smolts and goes to the ocean at the tiny size of about 1200 smolts per pound, and they are currently surviving to the adult stage at three to five percent. In a world where we understand size directly correlates with survival, something has gone totally lop-sided here. Coastal rivers are affected mainly by the first three factors described above. The main difference between the N. and S. coastal rivers is that the N. coast rivers have their headwaters in a national park and thereby the habitat is more protected than that of the S. coast rivers. S. coast rivers were the last to receive any wild steelhead protection, so they might still be affected by over-harvest. Same with lower Columbia River tributary steelhead, with some more dams thrown into the adverse effects list mix. Steelhead populations upstream of Bonneville Dam are affected sorta' roughly in proportion to the number of dams they have to cross - first going downstream as smolts and again going upstream as adults. These populations also have the greatest amount of hatchery steelhead genetic introgression, making the plight of wild steelhead in this region just a bit more difficult. While the 4 Hs - hatcheries, harvest, hydro, and habitat are frequently listed as the cause of decline of steelhead and salmon, the present effects of each varies significantly from population to population. Over-harvest is presently the least of the problems for wild steelhead in WA. Harvest by non-treaty commercial and recreational fisheries is strictly controlled and hasn't posed a significant threat in years. And while treaty fisheries typically harvest more wild steelhead than non-treaty fisheries, they are not a limiting factor to steelhead habitat productivity or capacity, but may affect diversity to a measurable degree. Many fishermen attribute the poor status of wild steelhead to treaty Indian fishing, but you won't find one single biologist who is familiar with the data and the situation of these fisheries who agrees with that. If you do, I'll buy you the drink of your choice. Returning once more to Puget Sound steelhead, the loss of fish during the early marine life history phase must be due to pollution, disease, or predation, or some combination of these. If there is another factor, we haven't a clue what it is. As some posts have noted, a number of predator species have increased in abundance. Couple that with a reduction in species like eel grass and kelp that are associated with the production of some food species, as well as providing cover for juvenile fish, and it's possible that a significant reduction in key forage has occurred coinciding with increased predation due to diminished cover. This is an untested hypothesis on my part, but one must begin somewhere if there is going to be an answer to what has happened. Sincerely, Salmo g.