What happend to the steelhead in Washington?


Active Member
Okay, fellas, perhaps I'm a bit lazy in not wanting to do the research myself, but I thought I pose a question that I feel is silly, but I truly don't know the answer.

What happened to the steelhead populations in Washington?

Our rivers are raging due to the wet weather and most are toast for a while, so I find myself either a lot at the computer visiting steelhead forums and sites or re-reading books like "A Passion for Steelhead". It seems like not so long ago, Washington rivers were loaded with big, bright, solid, hard-fighting steelhead. The book is loaded with awesome pics of these gorgeous fish. But a good portion of the book is depressing, with an almost, "you should have been there, it was awesome" theme. The book wasn't written by some guy who could be my great great grandfather, it was written by a guy my age!

Here in Northern California, we can attribute the decline to logging (coastal rivers), mining (inland rivers) or damming (both). Some is simply mis-management of the water resources... the tug for water between farmers and So Cal and environmentalists, especially during drought periods. Perhaps a bit of greed and overfishing, too. Of course, there are other factors undoubtedly, but the purpose is not to start a debate, simply to understand, in general, what happened to the steelhead in your rivers.

You have so many rivers and so much water! I look at a map and see long stretches of rivers before being dammed, what appears to be plenty of habitat left. I never hear talk of rivers being "silted in" from logging but I know that must be an issue.

I look at rivers on the map like the Sauk, Skagit, Snohomish, Skykomish, Snoqualamine, which seem to flow for miles before being dammed. I don't see that all are. So was it the dams? Was there not enough habitat left? Was it logging? And I never hear anything written about the fishing in rivers like the Green or Cedar just to the south?

I'm self-admittingly uneducated on this subject. Anyone care to give me the unabridged history lesson?
Logging, dams, urban development, commercial/tribal overfishing, poor management (managing for harvest and not abundance), ocean conditions, and severely increased angler pressure on the few remaining streams that have fish left.


Active Member
yur right, should have been swingin' flies for steelhead in the 60s-70s-80s, the pictures don't lie. good news is you can still find wild steelhead at your local fish market or select restaurants courtesy of our conservation minded coastal tribes who believe in killing the golden goose.

Upton O

Blind hog fisherman
Add contamination of the gene pool by stocking genetically different fish populations into river systems with the goal of short term increases in harvestable numbers of fish.
Uh, guys, according to our US senators, a former governor, and several high level appointees, especially in the Bush Administration, we're all a bunch of alarmists. The steelhead are doing fine--we have hatcheries. I'm in with the guys above.
I blame Obama :thumb:.

Not really, I vote dams. Below ever dam you can find massive bottem feeders which are sitting there eating everything that get chopped up in food sized chunks. In all actuality its a combo of everything listed above.
I blame Obama :thumb:.

Not really, I vote dams. Below ever dam you can find massive bottem feeders which are sitting there eating everything that get chopped up in food sized chunks. In all actuality its a combo of everything listed above.
Dams have nothing to do with the Puget sound's lack of steelhead


Piscatorial Engineer
Co-managers and MSY top my list. "The White Man"??? Who do you think is netting and selling wild steelhead from the Peninsula?


Active Member
Have the runs in the Skykomish improved at all? If I recall correctly, which indeed I may not. Several years ago Chris and I were fishing the Sky having taken the boat out at Lewis St . We had a conversation with , perhaps it was even Curt, a biologist talking about the upcoming early closure. He said at the time that there was a grant or tribal money that was going to fund a study of the Skykomish native steelhead run. The story went something along the lines of the study is going to last 8 or 10 years and even if the fish population improved to the point the fish were overflowing into the Monroe prison they would not be re-opening the river late season until the completion of the study. Did that come true? Was that true? I never heard.
Why doesn't anyone think that pollutants have as big or bigger impact as the other popular punching bags listed here? I have no proof but it seems that tons of lead + even more tons of mono line + new fancy fishing gear every year + giant jet boats + relativity small river = lots of chemicals dumped into an eco system over several decades has got to add up eventually.

Every boat launch I go to on every river has at least some trash that I pick up without exception. Granted some more than others but it is a really bad problem, if the fish will take an artificial fly I'm sure they will eat some of this junk freely floating down the river as well.

Plus I have been fishing for two years now and have NEVER had my license checked or even seen a game warden which just doesn't make sense, I mean they are out there somewhere right? This just seems like enforcement is very light if this is the case. In Texas when we would go dove hunting we would be checked at least 50% of the time.

Any who seems like there is a garbage problem but I could be wrong.

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