Some good news for a change - Rising From The Ashes (Elwha Summer-runs)

Thomas Mitchell

corvus ossifragus
WFF Supporter
Wild Steelheaders United will release a short film by Shane Anderson Friday showing some of their work documenting the return of summer-runs to the Elwha since the dams came out. I feel privileged to have played a very small role in this project and am encouraged by what we're learning and the collaboration across a set of diverse stakeholders that worked on or supported the effort. Hopefully, we can use the data that comes out of this and other similar projects to make better management decisions in the future.

Launch details: https://wildsteelheaders.org/rising-from-the-ashes/

Trailer:
 

kamishak steve

Active Member
Lots of reason not to get too excited yet. It's pretty likely that big return was just the stored up resident fish above the dam that outmigrated. Numbers may level off later. Additionally, the tribe is planting hatchery fish, so it seems possible that these are just hatchery fish returning, rather than a miraculous surge in wild numbers. I want to be optimistic, but I don't think we have enough data to really be overly confident about the success of the dam removal. For the record, I support the project 100%, but I want to have a lot more data before I start to get really excited...
 

Jakob B

Washington Native and college age angler
After taking a closer look at that last clip, on the right side mid screen within all the steelhead holding there is a hugeeee bull trout. Bigger if not the same size as the steelhead. Excited to see the film and everything happening in this river as it rebounds.

Jakob
 

Smalma

Active Member
I find it very interesting that if indeed the resident rainbows are the source of much of the steelhead rebound that the summer-run life history seems to be what they produced.

Maybe that supports the theory that the steelhead the colonized the Puget Sound region were summer-run rather than winters. Maybe from the upper Fraser. It will be interesting as more detailed information is developed.

Regardless the whole Elwha experiment highlights the role of having intact habitat plays in recovery.

Curt
 

DenWor54

Active Member
Thanks for posting Thomas, I always new that there was a population of the landlocked steelhead that would migrant from the lakes. My fishing partner and I used to target these fall migrating fish. They existed between the middle dams and also the upper dam as far as the percentage of the population I have no idea. We used to see these fish in the fall when nobody was up there so it makes sense that there is a population now of steelhead. Having also fished for the hatchery summer run on this river I have a hard time believing that they are strays. Where the fish are being found is also were we found the landlocked version. Just hope to get a chance to shake hands with these fish one of these days. As far as studying this recovery I personally think it’s time to move and let nature do the rest.
 

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
WFF Supporter
Additionally, the tribe is planting hatchery fish, so it seems possible that these are just hatchery fish returning, rather than a miraculous surge in wild numbers.
Last I heard the Tribe is planting Chambers Creek hatchery winter steelhead, not summer runs. I don't think any hatchery summer runs are being stocked in the Elwha, so these summer fish are most likely wild. Given the robust population of mostly land-locked rainbows, this return of wild summer steelhead seems entirely plausible to me. Wild smolts from the resident trout population have been dropping downstream through the turbines and over the spillway for a hundred years. Without the reservoirs, the number of migrants would be even larger, and without the dams, the number of smolts surviving to the estuary would be magnified significantly.
 

Chris Bellows

Your Preferred WFF Poster
Last I heard the Tribe is planting Chambers Creek hatchery winter steelhead, not summer runs. I don't think any hatchery summer runs are being stocked in the Elwha, so these summer fish are most likely wild. Given the robust population of mostly land-locked rainbows, this return of wild summer steelhead seems entirely plausible to me. Wild smolts from the resident trout population have been dropping downstream through the turbines and over the spillway for a hundred years. Without the reservoirs, the number of migrants would be even larger, and without the dams, the number of smolts surviving to the estuary would be magnified significantly.
Yep, there are zero summer-run plants in the Elwha. Nice to see that the velocity barriers so many discussed prior to removal are not stopping summer fish that are in the river for longer time period to get the proper flows to access the upper river and the most intact habitat.
 

kamishak steve

Active Member
Last I heard the Tribe is planting Chambers Creek hatchery winter steelhead, not summer runs. I don't think any hatchery summer runs are being stocked in the Elwha, so these summer fish are most likely wild. Given the robust population of mostly land-locked rainbows, this return of wild summer steelhead seems entirely plausible to me. Wild smolts from the resident trout population have been dropping downstream through the turbines and over the spillway for a hundred years. Without the reservoirs, the number of migrants would be even larger, and without the dams, the number of smolts surviving to the estuary would be magnified significantly.
any idea what elwha winter escapement has been like?
 

gt

Active Member
great news and a wonderful video. glad the folks could make it up there while the temporary bridges were still in place. you can still get up there but it is a very long hike.
 

DenWor54

Active Member
Nice video and cool to see the fish rebound, definitely need to get my backpack and gear in order. I hope they open the fishery before I get to the point we’re I can’t make the hike.
 

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