"Lights Out" Fishing for Staging Coho???

Chris Bellows

Your Preferred WFF Poster
#16
if you think of puget sound as one large estuary, it doesn't surprise me that by the time they get to the actual mouths of rivers and creeks they would be more lock-jawed than estuaries closer to major feeding grounds. even in the puget sound "feeding" grounds the fishing changes for boat anglers the further you get from the ocean. this means less surface activity the further you get down the strait and the gear guys fish deeper progressively down the strait. why is bucktailing so good on the coast and progressively gets worse the further you get into puget sound? even the difference between neah bay and sekiu is massive and the difference between sekiu and port angeles is roughly comparable. most offshore fly guys that i know do not worry about using stingers on sub-surface flies because frankly they are not necessary with super aggressive fish... where the beach guys almost always fish them to stick soft biting fish.

fishing pressure likely does have an impact, but i am still not convinced that biting is a genetic trait passed on down the generations. i believe that if you removed the pressure, the bite would improve regardless of the previous generations non-biting parentage. i think you combine massive pressure from the moment they enter puget sound, plus a longer estuary time-frame, and you get less aggressive fish.... or it is all the fishermen sore-mouthing the wild fish down the west coast of vancouver island, neah bay, and sekiu? :)

interesting thread.
 

Chucker

Active Member
#17
I Suspect that the poor biting of PS coho has more to do with more or less constant fishing pressure on those fish. For the last 6 weeks there been constant pressure on those fish (from their ocean feeding grounds, during their migration to the sound, as they stage in the terminal areas and while they make their way into and up the river). Can we really be surprised that the more aggressive fish have left the population. This has been going a number of fish generations. One result of that selection is the most seasons the majority of the mature coho are less aggressive and have ceased feeding before reaching the terminal areas.

Curt
I agree. The amount of angling pressure on salmon in this area is immense, and I am sure it has selected for fish that don't bite when they are migrating. All the work done on selection in fish has shown that it does not take many generations to change a physical trait, why would a behavioral on be any different?
 

ten80

Active Member
#18
I imagine that there is a fair bit of mixing of genetics in salmon (it has been shown that hatcheries don't maintain distinct genetics), so I do not see there being distinct populations of biters vs non-biters.

We must ask if the pressure exerted by anglers is actually intense. I know that the fish I personally target shake in fear at the mention of my name, but when I consider that only a few thousand anglers dispersed throughout the immense Puget Sound are targeting tens or hundreds of thousands of fish passing through at great speed, it seems unlikely that a majority of the fish ever see an artificial lure or fishing pressure. It seems to me that the sheer volume of Puget Sound (ie. >>billions of cubic feet of water) would dilute the effect of sport anglers fishing off of beaches and boats.

One might ask an old-timer if salmon were better biters "back in the day," but the answer is invariably always that everything was better back in the day :p

EDIT: the text below didn't post the first time for some reason. Apparently DimeBrite and I are thinking on the same wavelength today...

It might be impossible to isolate all of the variables that contribute to a lessening bite as fish move upriver, but my guess is that it may have to do with water temperature and depth; it seems reasonable that fish may encounter increasingly warm water as they enter the Sound, then estuaries, and finally rivers. The water also becomes shallower and is more easily penetrated by light. I have often found that the bite is better in rivers after rain has decreased their temperature and increased turbidity and depth, perhaps this is indicative of the effects of these variables on the bite
 

DimeBrite

MA-9 Beach Stalker
#19
Let's not forget water temperature and turbidity. River silvers bite better once the river temperatures drop from my experience. Warm temps seem to make the silvers lock jawed. In general, hatchery silver runs enter the rivers first during low flows before the big rains of fall cool down the rivers. Could it be that these hatchery silvers shut down due to warmer water temps and clearer water conditions? It may not be genetics at all, rather the timing of their river entry. The "wild" silvers enter the rivers over a greater time period, many not leaving the salt until the rivers have risen, cooled, and picked up silt. These are the silvers that will bite in the lower stretches of the river, and most of them happen to be "wild". My hypothesis does not apply to boot coho that will snap at almost anything.
 

Smalma

Active Member
#20
Dimebrite -

Under your theory it should be game on for the various "S" rivers. They all have undergone a significant rise the last couple days. The Snohomish rose from 3,000 to 8,000 cfs and the Skagit jumped to 22,000. Looking forward to lots of reports of "light out" fishing on those Staging coho.

Curt
 

DimeBrite

MA-9 Beach Stalker
#21
Patience. A temporary river bump now is not the same as sustained higher median flows in October. It might help fishing over the next 24 hours though. The hot reports for coho in the Snohomish system will come next month.
 

ten80

Active Member
#22
from my limited experience, >1,500 cfs in the Sky is when I've seen coho fishing improve and 2,500 cfs is just about right. Any more and flies can be a little challenging to fish. Plenty of chrome should be moving through as the river drops back to ~1000 cfs

Lastly, this has not been brought up yet, but I call BS on the idea that fish can sense barometric pressure. I cannot understand how a fish could sense a very slight change in atmospheric pressure; a big pressure swing would be something like 750 to 765 mm Hg, equivalent to ~200mm (20cm) of water pressure increase. Given that fish move up and down in the water column on a regular basis (sometimes up to several hundred feet in salt water), it seems improbable that they could keep track of major changes in pressure due to their movement versus the comparatively insignificant barometric changes. I think that the changes mentioned above (temperature, turbidity, light, and depth) are quantifiable and more likely to be the cause of a good or bad bite.
 

Clarki

I'd rather be reading water
#23
Don't underestimate, after-all they track their movement and return to their natal streams using the earth's magnetic field. If a fish can sense and imprint the magnetic force of our earth, from water, then it seems not improbable nor unreasonable that they would be incapable of detecting even the slightest change in atmospheric and barometric conditions.
 

skyrise

Active Member
#24
i do agree with the water temp idea. however there have been years when the temps were no different than this year but the fish were much better biters so to speak.
i am not sure you can pin it down to just one thing.
 

Smalma

Active Member
#25
Just looked at the river forecasts and looks like we should be having more than a temporary river bump.

Both the Skykomish and North Fork of Stillaguamish are forecasted to reach 20,000 cfs by the end of the weekend and remain above 3,000 through next weekend. The Skagit is expected to go above 65,0000.

Still lots of coho in the salt; the last few days the checks at Everett have been in that 2 1/2 to 3 coho/boat. About as good as it gets this time of year. With better than average return and good flows should October be good times?

Curt
 

SilverFly

Active Member
#26
I agree that water temp is a major factor, and possibly one of the reasons the late run silvers in SWW bite so much better than the early run fish. I still think there is a big difference in lock-jaw between different stocks, but that's based on experience and intuition on my part. It would be extremely difficult to prove either way.

Not sure how much exposure to, or time in fresh water has to do with biting in staging coho. I caught my first silver of the year last week in a Columbia trib mouth above Bonneville dam. That's 150-ish miles from the ocean. The water temp there is running in the mid 50's. This was a chrome fish that ate a #10 euphasiid pattern fished in extremely clear/still water. I have no idea if it took the fly for a euphasiid, but the point is it wasn't a reactive bite to something big and flashy. The fishing pressure at this location is epic, so not sure the argument that pressure kills the bite is an absolute factor either. Most of the pressure there is focused on steelhead and chinook though, and I found this school of silvers in a relatively undisturbed spot.

I dunno, so many factors to consider. I just know that there are coho runs on some rivers I won't waste the gas on.
 
#28
That's a bright fish, too. Was that a summer coho or was it in the fall?
Interested in this thread and thinking about it with my fairly limited experience with Coho. On a weeklong trip to Alaska last year, we were limiting almost daily, but these were Summer Coho and part of a harvest hatchery system they're using in SE Alaska (from what I was told) Basically these Coho behave like sockeye in that they first run to lakes, sit for a while, then do their final spawning migration in the feeder streams in the fall. Where I fished, these Coho were intercepted on the first stage of their migration through a fish ladder, gassed, gaffed, then bled and packed for consumption (They show up at local groceries stores as Snow Pass Coho). We fished them staging and in the rivers and they bit all day long. I'm wondering whether these summer fish were more active because of the different nature of their migration. Also, I was wondering if there are other summer runs like this in WA?

When I returned, I fished for staging Coho in Dabob bay--casting to similar numbers of fish but nothing biting. Moved up to the mouth of the Quilcene and fished out on the estuary at low tide--nothing. Only people I saw catching were those either snagging or flossing on the river.
 

Smalma

Active Member
#29
Cook -
Summer type coho were historically found in several north Puget Sound streams (I have caught in-river fresh coho in those river as early as the last week of June). However those populations (which typically ran towards the headwaters) are not very common today with just the rare fish found in a few tributaries in a couple of the major basins

There also is a hatchery summer coho program on the Sol Duc.

From what I hear and my own experience on the north Sound rivers fishing for those summer coho also suffer from periods of "lock jaw" fish.

I suppose that the early Columbia coho (head above Bonneville Dam) with their August early September river enter could be called summer or at least early fish. In the estuary they are decent biters don't know how they fish up river.

curt
 

SilverFly

Active Member
#30
I suppose that the early Columbia coho (head above Bonneville Dam) with their August early September river enter could be called summer or at least early fish. In the estuary they are decent biters don't know how they fish up river.

curt
I'm not sure what the above Bonneville fish are classified as, but probably more of an "S-type" stock. I'll have to look that up. I think a lot of those fish return to federal hatcheries on the main Columbia, so they really don't get the typical river fishing pressure that we associate with putting coho off the bite. They see their share of plug cut herring at Buoy 10 and the gauntlet of chinook lures in the main river though.

My experience with them is "mixed" and limited to the still water trib mouth fisheries in Bonnie pool. They seem to be catchable by trolling/casting plugs and spinners and of course on eggs. I have had multi-fish days on flies when I have found them in relatively undisturbed areas and when they weren't rolling like crazy. It doesn't matter what you throw at them when they are doing that.
 

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