The last five days on the Skagit 2012

So the guys I fish with like solitude and will give me a bunch of shit for this, but a river that many anglers believe is dead or dying doesn’t have many friends. So here are my thoughts on the Skagit in January. You can hit fish – the guys I fish and share info with, all together landed ten wild fish and two hatchery hens (both bonked). That’s a big number of man/fishing days. I don’t know or really count man/fishing days anymore – but its like any other winter fishery – time was invested. My thing is just being on that system where a chance of a wild fish grabbing the swung fly is all I need.

The other thing I didn’t really see were other anglers – that’s sad. I spent the last five days on that system – took some of my vacation time there. I saw very few anglers on the river and only one late in the afternoon on Tuesday the 31st – the river was in very good fishable shape, had about 3 feet of viz and was a good steelhead green. Out of the five-day trip four days had good fishing conditions, about a 24-hour period was designated to scotch and beer.

January is not a great month to get consistent angling, but they are there and a few are willing to grab a swug fly. We also got many nice Bulls – I got 4 or 5 that were over 20” and a ton in the 16 to 19 inch range.

So here are my thoughts on the Skagit – the lower (Concrete down) river fishes well under 21,500 to 8,000 cfs - if its high fish it on the drop. The Sauk (where I only spent one afternoon) fishes well at 9,000 cfs on the drop and with things now washing out better clears faster than people think.

Steelheaders are an independent bunch and underneath it all are very selfish – that’s what make us good anglers – but it also makes our systems where we like the solitude have less of a voice. My hope is that anglers that are new to the sport get out next year and hit a fish on the swing in late December and January.

But also remember this – when this system gets a year or two back over the magic 6,000 mark should be reopened. Please don’t believe the philosophy of – if we don’t fish the fish will come back – we are not the problem, neither are the nets the tribe has in the river – with proper management our take will not affect the run size. Do your own research – check out what has happened in other systems around the state and BC. In 2009 we had a low return, just like in 1979. From 2003 to 2006 we had good returns of over 6000 and last year we had 5500 fish back in the Skagit a thousand more then the state predicted. Lets hold WDFW accountable to get a Steelhead Management Plan in place, get the Feds to allow some angling and watch the Skagit come back strong – I see things getting better and hope for better marine conditions, better angling management and new anglers thigh deep in sexy steelhead runs hooking wild Skagit fish on the swing.

Just one guys thoughts


Well-Known Member
Good post Chris. Your story reminds me of one told by Martin Tolley about the depressed steelhead returns on Vancouver Island from the mid-70s on. The low runs didn't sustain a fishery, and anglers generally lost interest in fishing there. However, Tolley said that the fishing could be "relatively" good for the few anglers who accepted that hooking a steelhead every day or two was enough to keep them fishing when it wasn't good enough for the masses.



Ignored Member
I don't think WDFW at Mill Creek give a damn about you or I fishing. From what I can see they want to shut down all sport fishing except pinks. Not sure what the motive is but it isn't to save fish.
Its funny you say that SG - if the Skagit was open through March and catch rates were one fish per two to three fishing days - I think you would see a high interest in fishing that system from the angling community. Shit look how many people fish the Sandy now and catch rates can't be much more than what you see on the Skagit. I think we in the younger steelhead generation have accepted catch rate at that level for winter steelheading. People my age never saw the glory days and still fell in love with winter Steehad fishing - so our history starts in lean years and our expectations are low numbers of fish caught.
Kerry - I don't think its as much WDFW as it is NOAA these days. If the numbers come back - we may be abel to make CnR a priority to WDFW and them working with NOAA and the Tribes allow a limtied and more managed fishery - someday.

I hope your still alive, can unload the boat and fish a run or two. :)
Thanks for the positive post Chris.

This is my last winter of wrestling coach/dad responsibilities and I have already told the family that from next year on, it's time for me to 'get serious' about my steelhead fishing so I'll be making a lot more runs up north and to the OP. Hell, they'll probably be glad to have me out of the house anyway.

Charles Sullivan

ignoring Rob Allen and Generic
Well said. Run sizes have been low before.

It's all about that plan. It's really the only thing that ESA listing makes the state do with the exception of reducing sport oppertunity.

Go Sox,

Jason Chadick

A Fish, A Fish, A Fishy, Oh...

As a younger guy who just recently began swinging flys for steelies I can't tell you how great it is to see a little bit of optimism on this forum. I'm obsessed to the point that a chrome bumper on a truck sends me off in day dreams. I can't speak with any sort of wisdom on the subject, but I've looked at the stats, and listened to the vets quite a bit. I don't think the skagit will go the way of the buffalo and fish counts are never going to keep me from standing in one of the most breathtaking stretches of river on planet earth.



Hal Eckert

Active Member
Sad, sort of like visiting a once proud sports stadium which is vacant and thinking about all of the great history that was made their, like Yankee Stadium, Polo Grounds, Comiskey Park, Giants Stadium, Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Cowboy Stadium, all of which I saw when vacant. Would definitely spend a day on the Skagit though fishing even if I knew there was no hope of a pull.


Purveyor of fine hackle, wine & cigars!
Thanks for sharing Chris! I only made it up there one day this year.. very sad.. and it was a cold, wet, windy day with snow on the ground. I had planned to go up on the last Monday, but saw the gauges and assumed it was not in good enough shape to fish.. I've heard otherwise from you and a few other guys.

Great post!


Ignored Member
Kerry - I don't think its as much WDFW as it is NOAA these days. If the numbers come back - we may be abel to make CnR a priority to WDFW and them working with NOAA and the Tribes allow a limtied and more managed fishery - someday.

I hope your still alive, can unload the boat and fish a run or two. :)
My statement isn't just about fishing for steelhead. They have shut down the entire river under the guise of protecting steelhead. When asked about the lower river closure, their reason for closing is to protect young steelhead. When asked about evidence that fishing the lower river causes harm to steelhead they give nothing but their opinions. When pressured further for justification for closing the river they end the conversation. The only reason I can think of for them to eliminate fishing opportunity is they want to stop all sport fishing. Again what their true motive is I don't know. This has nothing to do with NOAA.
Kerry I understand what you are saying about the lower river and that fishey you enjoy. I think you should dig a little deeper in this and you will see that the way NOAA put mortality standards on WDFW fro steelehad - their only option is to shut everything down. With out the Steelhead Managment Plan in place they can't justify any fishery on that system that is in the same time-frame of the wild steelhead run timing.

Its a he said, she said kind of thing and as you well know getting the Feds involved does not streamline any kind of long term plan or cut down on red tape.

Its funny - you can call Mill Creek and get the direct number to the person that is responsible for the Skagit system. Try calling NOAA and getting in touch with anyone that is responsible for the Skagit, the accountability localy from NOAA is non-existant and could have too many chefs in the kitchen.


Ignored Member
Chris, if what you say is true then the river should be closed to all fishing, all year. There are wild steelhead in the river all 12 months of the year. Likely the pink fishery causes more deaths to steelhead than any other fishery on the river including the C&R season. Closing the lower river is pure bull shit and I think WDFW knows it.
The State doesn't track wild summer steelhead in our PS rivers - they only track the winter/spring and that's what is listed on the ESA. I would hope that with a management plan in place - we would see seasons open like the lower river - call the Skagit Bio and ask that person for the contact at NOAA. Then send them a letter asking why they havn't come to an agreement on the Steelhead management plan. I think you would also be interested in NOAA's response (or lack there of) to what the state has already submitted for a Steelhead Management Plan.

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