Smolt and fry identification

nic

Active Member
#1
About one mile from two creeks, I'm seeing schools of smolt size fish 4-6 inches in the salt.
Is it likely, at this time of year that this would be coho smolt (coho spawn in the creeks)?
And, if so, how long are they likely to stay in the area?

There are also numerous schools of smaller fry approx. 2inches in length in the same area?
Any idea what these fry may be at this time of year, and how long they are likely to stay in the area?
 
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nic

Active Member
#3
There are sandlance, herring, and salmon fry out there right now, and lots of them. Tough to ID without a net
The profile of the fry seems a little too chubby to be sandlance, and the size of the smolt look too small to be herring found in this area at this time of year.
Yes, a net would be very helpful in designing a pattern for the fry that would attract SRC.

The smolts, as mentioned, are 4-6 inches and chunky.
I've never used such a large chunky pattern for targeting SRC, and wonder if it's common practice.
 
#4
I doubt 6 inch “smolts” (juvenile salmon) would be hanging around, chilling by a beach in big schools. Salmon that size in the salt would likely be actively migrating. I’m guessing that the chunky 4-6 inchers are something else.
 

Chucker

Active Member
#5
4-6” “chunky” fish, that are just hanging around in a school... sounds like shiner perch. They are starting to aggregate for spawning at this time of year. There could be coho smolts around too, but generally they wouldn’t be in big schools.

2” fry could be chum fry - I saw a bunch of them today by downtown.
 

nic

Active Member
#6
4-6” “chunky” fish, that are just hanging around in a school... sounds like shiner perch. They are starting to aggregate for spawning at this time of year. There could be coho smolts around too, but generally they wouldn’t be in big schools.

2” fry could be chum fry - I saw a bunch of them today by downtown.
After reading your post, I googled 'shiner perch' which, of course, took me full circle back to a really excellent thread I'd missed in WFF entitled 'Shiner Perch and SRC' which Salty had contributed to.
They certainly could be 'shiners', and although these 4-6" fish look chubbier than sandlance, they seem a bit more streamlined than the shiner profile. (.... then again, until such time I can get a closer look, I'm viewing these fish from 15' above them).

Yes, it's possible 2" fry could be chum; however, from the data I have, there was once a decent population of chum in the creeks in the distant past but there's been only one chum recorded at the counting fences of both creeks between 2006-14.
 

nic

Active Member
#7
I doubt 6 inch “smolts” (juvenile salmon) would be hanging around, chilling by a beach in big schools. Salmon that size in the salt would likely be actively migrating. I’m guessing that the chunky 4-6 inchers are something else.
Matt, I'm looking down at the schools from a 15' high bridge spanning a waterway, so I'm guessing they are between 4-6" but they may be closer to 4 which, if I'm not mistaken, is the approximate size of coho when they leave rivers and creeks.

Apologies for the vagueness. If they hang around, I'll try to get more accurate info on them in the next week.
 
#9
We saw a bunch of these smolt sized fish you are describing on the south sound today. Definitely not perch, they are salmonoids of some sort. I wasn't able to get a clear look at one but saw many jumping and had a bunch follow flies right to the boat. We caught one that turned out to be a tiny little cutthroat but I'm not convinced that's what they all were. They were in the 4-6" range and most definitely not perch, although we saw plenty of them as well.
 

Chucker

Active Member
#10
Is it just me, or does anyone else have the impression that shiner perch populations in the sound have increased tremendously in the last 10-15 years? I don’t remember seeing the massive schools that I see now.

This is about the right time to see hatchery coho smolts leaving the south sound, and they are in the 4-6” range. Saw a few in the north sound yesterday, as well as a bunch of decent sized residents and/or blackmouth crashing schools of what looked like tiny herring on the surface. And we didn’t have a fly rod on the boat (and it’s closed for salmon anyway) :(
 

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