Sea Run Cuthroat symposium

Jim Kerr

Active Member
Well I went,
I was invited to speak, which was a little intimidating seeing as how the audience was composed of the leading coastal cuthroat researchers in this country and Canada, and I was "opening" for Les Johnson. However once I got that out of the way I spent a day and a half having an incredable time.
I learned a ton of things about sea runs and met lots of super inteligent people who are impasioned about discovering more. Many of the attendies from the scientific comunitiy repeatedly stated that they would love to see more anglers in atendance. So, next time we will have to get the word out better.
Here are a few of the things I picked up that I found most interesting.
In a couple of studies there was data to sugest that cruns travel farther out to sea before their first spawn, and after they have spawned once, tend to stick closer to the estuaries. That would explain why so often in the summer we catch alot of real big ones, and alot of real little ones, but not so many 9 to 13 inchers proportionatly
Also, where genitics where done, the incedence of Sea run/steelhead hybrids was really high, 30% in some area's tested (I think, I didn't write it down) these hybrids were extremly dificult to dectect visually.
Oh yea, and they do eat shiner perch, though not alot.
And tons more...


Active Member
good job on your presentation - sorry I didn't get a chance to talk with you.

I agree that the symposium was interesting. The collective understanding of the critter we call sea-runs is slowly increasing. While I thought this symposium was better than the one 10 years ago at Reedsport I too was disappointed in the number of anglers in attendance. I have long felt that those passionate anglers the chase our sea-runs are potential source of information and man-power than would be an asset to the professional managers/researchers. However by in large it has been impossible to tap that resource in any meaningful way.

Tight lines

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
Wow, I wish I had known about that sooner, as I'd love to sit in and learn what's known about searuns. I would be able to offer up anecdotal information based on my extensive searun hunting experiences on at least two local streams in my area, for what that would be worth.

Searun/steelie hybrids: I've caught a few that could have been, as they had steelhead colors (back a greener hue instead of bronze, spotting only above the lateral line, etc.) but a cutthroat mouth, and absolutely no orange slash at all. They were holding in with the cutties, about 15"-16" long, and I would have surely thought that they were steelhead jacks except for the mouth, which was big and had the lower jawbone extending beyond the eye.

Thanks for the info!



Active Member
One of the interesting thing the researchers had to say about the hybrids was that often the fish were thought to have been cutthroat based on physical characteristics. They were using genetic tools to ID the cutthroat, rainbows/steelhead and hybrids.

While it is certainly possible that the fish were caught were hybrids one can't rule out the possibility of them being resident rainbows or even half pounder steelhead. While fishing sea-runs in the Skagit I have caught 3 fish that I believe to be "half pound steelhead" - they were caught in the lower river in the same area as the cutts in Sept., were chrome bright/steelhead looking, about 15/16 inches, and based on scale samples were returning after migrating as smolts at age 2 and spending just the summer in the salt (typically life history of the Half pounders in Southern Oregon/Northern California).

If you catch another you might check for hyoid teeth - these are teeth found on the floor of the mouth at the back of the tongue where the first gill arches meet. These are found in cutthroat and not rainbows/steelhead. The hybrids typcially have some hyoid teeth. Just slide your finger back long the back of the tongue and you should feel the teeth (might try it with a couple of cutts) - of course watch out for the other teeth or your finger will likely get "raked".

One of the neat things about these guys is your are always seeing/catching something new.

Tight lines
Smalma said:
I have long felt that those passionate anglers the chase our sea-runs are potential source of information and man-power than would be an asset to the professional managers/researchers. However by in large it has been impossible to tap that resource in any meaningful way.

Tight lines

Pretty easy to rally the troops through the website... I would think something like this sypmposium would be pretty interesting.

Thanks for the report Uncle Jimmy!


It would be easy to contact local fly clubs to get volunteers for special projects or research. Years ago, our club did a two day survey on Hood Canal for a couple years, along with a number of other west side clubs. The focus was to see if hatchery production of sea run cutts actually produced a catchable return. The results showed few, if any, hatchery produced fish.


Dale Dennis

Formally Double-D
If I had known of the Searun symposium I would have taken time from work to attend. Of all the fish that I fish for the Searun is the most facinating to me, there is a lot to be learned.
I would have loved to go. Too bad it was kept a secret. That reminds me, my local flyshop is giving away free Sage rods, yesterday only.:beathead:
I finally did get the word out to clubs and both the PI and Times fishing editors but this was at the last minute when I was asked to do so by Joe Jaquet. It was too late.
The 1995 Reedsport Sea-Run Cutthroat Symposium was very well attended. This was because the American Fisheries Society took care of the scientific side of things and left the pr, advertising and marketing to the Reedsport Fly Fishing Club who had a cadre of people skilled in public relations, marketing and outdoor writing (connections with outdoor journals).
I would strongly urge the next group of biologiists, scientists and academincs to assemble a future symposium (perhaps at the University of Victoria, I've heard) to bring in a club, or clubs early on and turn over the advertising, marketing, public relations, audio/visual and other non-scientific responsibilities to professionals in various organizations. There are plenty of skilled people available to do it.
I'm also with Smalma in that those of us who angle for, and care about the coastal cutthroat could provide a whole lot of important data to WDFW. This would be worth a sit-down meeting with the Departmental powers that be.
Good Fishing,
RE the steelhead/rainbow/cutthroat ID problem. Here's a recent abstract from Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. Field ID is not always easy!
Baumsteiger, J., Hankin, D., & Loudenslager, E. J. 2005. Genetic Analyses of Juvenile Steelhead, Coastal Cutthroat Trout, and Their Hybrids Differ Substantially From Field Identifications. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 134, 829-840.
Abstract: Because of their similar appearance and frequent hybridization, juvenile steelhead Oncorhynchus tnykiss and coastal cutthroat trout O.clarkii clarkii are difficult to distinguish visually. Nevertheless, field biologists often use Visual methods to classify juvenile individuals. This study investigated hybridization between these species and determined the accuracy of field identification where hybridization occurred. Using a five-point classification system, two evaluators identified 500 fish collected from three watersheds in Humboldt County, California. Individuals were then genotyped at seven single-copy nuclear DNA genes and one mitochondrial gene, all assunied to be diagnostic for each species. Sin.-le-locus Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, pairwise genotypic disequilibrium, and cytonuclear disequilibrium calculations revealed that subpopulations of these species were mating assortatively. Presumptive F, hybrid individuals were rare, whereas introgressed individuals were more common. These presumptive later-generation backcross hybrids were produced with both parental species but were more frequently produced with coastal cutthroat trout. Interspecific matings appeared to be bidirectional. Conditional classification probabilities between evaluator identifications and genotypes showed that both evaluators had moderate to substantial success identifying individuals less than 85 turn total length, whereas individuals 85 nim and larger were identified less successfully. Evaluators Successfully identified coastal cutthroat trout but had moderate difficulty identifying steelhead (sometimes misidentified as hybrids) and always misidentified hybrids as coastal cutthroat trout. Although visual identifications are not without error, approxiinately unbiased estimates of the percentage of hybrids may be generated front a combination of visual assignments and supplementary genetic analyses.
Contact:Baumsteiger J,Us Fish & Wildlife Serv,Abernathy Fish Technol Ctr;1440 Abernathy Creek Rd;Longview,Wa 98632 Usa.
Coastal cutthroat/half-pounder steelhead ID has been a problem in northern California streams for years. This was addressed by Eric Strung, California biologist at the 1995 Sea-Run Cutthroat Symposium. He figured that a lot of coastal cutthroat were taken as part of the half-pounder limits in the Klamath, Smith, Redwood Creek, etc. I addressed this in my new cutthroat book.
Years ago I saw a photo of a long stringer of "half-pounders" taken at Happy Camp on the Klamath. Upon close inspection I could see that at least four to the approximately 30 trout on the stringer were sea-run cutthroat.
Good Fishing,