Sky Steelhead

Stonefish

Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater....Know Grizzler

Can someone confirm that the Sky only got back 178 wild winter steelhead last year.
If that is correct, I had no idea things were that bad on the Sky system.
SF
 
Last edited:

bhilton

Active Member
It’s that bad. Last year, end of December when I checked, 11 fish had come back to Wallace and 55 to Reiter. Then there was a short term emergency closure in January due to low returns.

Edit: Opps, that’s hatchery fish. Does not pertain to native fish.
 

TomB

Active Member
I'd bet every dollar I have in the bank and every dollar I have yet to earn there were more than 178 spawners. While the run was undoubtedly bad, even relative to recent years, that number is implausibly low, and if anything, is a testament to the utter incompetence in wild population monitoring that is on full display in some parts of this state.
 

Smalma

Active Member
Sf -
it is that bad - my understand that the entire Snohomish basin escapement was in the 800 range so only 178 spawners in the main Skykomish sounds about right.

In 2018 the entire Snohomish basin escapement of wild winters was 1,252 spawners. Just another indication of how dire the situation for Puget Sound steelhead is.

Curt
 

bk paige

Wishin I was on the Sauk
I thought we had this discussion in July when a similar article was released and that number was only for the Sultan river.
The last few years there hasent been a lot of clear water to to good surveys. Still not very promising, one more step to never fishing for steelhead in Washington.
 

Jakob B

Washington Native and college age angler
I think they should accept the petition to ban bait fishing in the system. When fishing the Sky for salmon if I tip my jigs with shrimp I will instantly hook a residential trout or smolt. Where as a pass with a naked jig does not. Subsequent casts if I tip it with shrimp I will be bit like before. I think this does have a possible impact on steelhead and native trout in the river. More so than old winter fish.

Secondly, I recall a few years ago the Sky getting at least around 500 winter spawn each winter for a few years in a row. I was not so sure it had plummeted this much in just a couple years.

Is the low returns this past season of winter fish mostly a consequence of 2015 low flows?

Jakob
 

Smalma

Active Member
Jakob -
Bingo - The 2015 drought likely adversely affected recent steelhead returns on the Sky and elsewhere. Such low flows are a double whammy for fish like steelhead (sea-run cutthroat and bull as well). Those low flows severely limit the amount of habitat available to both young fry of the year and the second year parr meaning fewer out-migrating smolts and in turn fewer returning adults (3 to 5 years later). The recent poor adult winter steelhead returns were foreshadowed by the poor wild coho (1 year smolts) in 2017 and the lack of sub-adult sea-run cutthroat and bull (typically 3 year old fish) in 2017 and 2018.

While the drought impacts are regional concerns basin like the Skykomish may have experienced an additional impact. I remember at the time being concern that given the early end to the snow melt run-off that there might be an issue of steelhead redds being dewatered. Normally on the Skykomish the peak winter spawning is mid to late April with the peak fry emergence in mid-July. Because the snow melt run-off period on the Sky typically lasts through late June the average the average flow at peak fry emergence is typically less than 1 foot lower than at the time of peak spawning. In 2015 that difference is nearly 2.5 feet; shallower redds were at risk of being dewatered.

Events like that drought often have magnified impacts for compromised populations. The first 1/2 of 2020s is going to tells a lot about the resilience (and over all productivity of their habitat) of Skykomish winter steelhead. With reasonably productive habitats the fish should bounce back quickly; a 3 or more fold increase in a single generation. That resilience or lack of will a lot about the long term viability of those steelhead.

Curt
 

Jakob B

Washington Native and college age angler
Jakob -
Bingo - The 2015 drought likely adversely affected recent steelhead returns on the Sky and elsewhere. Such low flows are a double whammy for fish like steelhead (sea-run cutthroat and bull as well). Those low flows severely limit the amount of habitat available to both young fry of the year and the second year parr meaning fewer out-migrating smolts and in turn fewer returning adults (3 to 5 years later). The recent poor adult winter steelhead returns were foreshadowed by the poor wild coho (1 year smolts) in 2017 and the lack of sub-adult sea-run cutthroat and bull (typically 3 year old fish) in 2017 and 2018.

While the drought impacts are regional concerns basin like the Skykomish may have experienced an additional impact. I remember at the time being concern that given the early end to the snow melt run-off that there might be an issue of steelhead redds being dewatered. Normally on the Skykomish the peak winter spawning is mid to late April with the peak fry emergence in mid-July. Because the snow melt run-off period on the Sky typically lasts through late June the average the average flow at peak fry emergence is typically less than 1 foot lower than at the time of peak spawning. In 2015 that difference is nearly 2.5 feet; shallower redds were at risk of being dewatered.

Events like that drought often have magnified impacts for compromised populations. The first 1/2 of 2020s is going to tells a lot about the resilience (and over all productivity of their habitat) of Skykomish winter steelhead. With reasonably productive habitats the fish should bounce back quickly; a 3 or more fold increase in a single generation. That resilience or lack of will a lot about the long term viability of those steelhead.

Curt
Thanks for the insight Curt. That was my initial thought granted steelhead are a two year smolt it would make sense for steelhead to feel those repercussions a year or two after.

I too am curious to see how resilient these fish are. Wild fauna of all sorts can make great comebacks after great setbacks granted near normal conditions return. Given runs used to be relatively strong in this basin in recent years (previous to 2018) I will stay optimistic.

Jakob
 

Jakob B

Washington Native and college age angler
Jakob runs haven’t been “strong“ since wild escapements were measured in the thousands. Might need to go further back than that.
Well in my lifetime “relatively strong” is nearly a thousand so that’s all I have to go off of. Forgive me, I meant to say relatively not completely dismal compared to the past.

Jakob
 

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