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Okay gang, here is another one! What do those that fish the Yakima River really think about it's fishery? Given fish counts per mile, size of drainage, being a tailwater and production of fish landing.

SAK
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For it's proximity to Seattle (also Yakima and Tri-Cities), the Yak is the best trout stream day in and day out. Could it be better, Yes! What would make it better in my opinion, see below.

In a "perfect" world, Wilson Creek would be cleaned up, the flows out of the dams would be better regulated year around (sorry irrigators!), the inner tubers wouldn't be allowed on the river (or at least relegated to a small section of the river), the river from Rinehart to Roza would be fly fishing only, no salmon would be allowed about Roza Dam and the Canyon Road would be closed to large trucks (especially those that carry hazardous cargo that would be deadly if they had a spill in the river). There would be better enforcement of the regulations (have a F&W officer in the cnayon daily)so that the people that plead ignorance to the regs and keep fish would be ticketed/arrested.

Just a few things that I feel would improve the size and number of fish.

Greg

"In our family, there is no clear
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I fished the Yakima for the first time twelve years ago when I was just learning to fly fish. My brother-in-law and I hired a guide from Kaufmann's for $300 and got skunked -- not one fish between us. So I went back a month later on my own and waded the canyon section. I remember I caught one 10" trout all day (by accident while fighting my way upstream with my line dragging behind me). But I kept hearing stories, so I went back again the next summer and waded the upper canyon section and caught just one 10" trout (this time intentionally) in a side channel. Then I decided I'd do better if I floated it, so I rented a raft for $100 and did the canyon again. Skunked again. Naturally, I grew pretty frustrated with the Yakima and stopped going. Instead, I started honing my skills on the Snoqualmie forks (where I always seemed to catch something, even if only 6") and planning week long trips to places like St. Joe's in Idaha; Deschutes, Oregon; and Rock Creek Montana. These are the first places I really started to catch fish and become truly passionate about flyfishing.

Well, four years ago I started going back to the Yakima and in that time I have not had one bad day. Now I go as often as I can (about twice a month) and on my very worst days, I still average about one fish an hour. On really good days I'll "turn" 50 fish and bring 20+ to the net.

Honestly, I can't really explain what changed. Of course I'm a much better angler now than I was ten years ago, but when I think back on where I was fishing and what I was doing in those day, I should have been catching at least something. Here are a few things that I think may have made the difference.

1. I began fishing the Yakima more in the Spring and Fall, rather than the summer. In my experience, the river fishes much better during those seasons.
2. I began using nymphs and emergers more (only using dries when I see fish feeding very actively).
3. I began choosing my days more selectively, calling off trips if the forecast was too windy, too hot, water too high, etc.
4. I learned how to cast a dry very close (within 2") of the bank during high water conditions.
5. I bought a pontoon boat.

Perhaps I got better, or perhaps the river is just fishing better these days. Maybe its both.

Sorry for the length of this post, but I'd bet money that there are a lot of learners who are experiencing some of the same things as I did early on in the Yakima. Stick with it. Once you really learn how to fish a river (make in your "home river"), it can be very good to you. These days, the Yakima and I are having a bit of a love affair.

db

"If I don't catch them today, I'll catch them another day." Art Flick
 

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I think that the Yak is the best squawfish river in the state! I never fail to catch those ugly, smelly bad boys in the 16-18" range, My buddy always catches these classy looking fish that he calls "trout". I don't know, maybe one day I should fish for them.
 

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Is there current information of fish counts per mile for the Yak? I have seen the data from years ago but nothing current. Are they surveying the river regularly? I have looked a bit but come up with nothing recent. If you have a source would you mind letting me know. Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I have no idea what current fish (trout) counts are, nor do I know that there are any current counts. The last conversation I had with a fishery biologist out there was two years ago when they were doing salmon counts. He did tell me that AFTER roza was put in, there were "Blue Ribbon" numbers stocked with more stocking taking place in heavy fished areas. As to when these last stockings took place, I am unsure and would hate to give information that I have not confirmed. I agree, as for a trout fishery, it can be hard on the new comer, I myself have had days where I have landed 5-8 fish over the 16 inch range, even a few days where I have landed 2 or 3 20 inchers and days where I have landed nothing more than a headache and a sore casting arm! I do give credit to the guides and outfitters that they DO put clients into fish, but what does the average, everyday fly angler get on a day there? What do they think? Do you want it to be a Salmon/Steelhead fishery as it seems that is what is turning BACK into as before the Roza days? Or do you like it to be a trout fishery?
 

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Keep the salmon /steelhead below Roza Dam and keep the waters above the dam for trout. Though the Yakima below Roza needs a lot of help as well with irrigation/runoff problems, etc.

Greg

"In our family, there is no clear
line between religion and fly
fishing" Norman Maclean
 

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There was an article this spring in the Seattle PI regarding fish counts. It stated that in 2001 there was an average of 1,020 trout 8" or larger per river mile. The highest number of fish per mile was an area near Ellensberg, with 1,317 fish. The largest fish surveyed in 2001 was 19.2". The largest fish ever surveyed on the Yak by the WDW was 22.5" according to the article.
There are lots of rivers in other states with higher counts, but the Yak is as good as it gets locally. I now there are larger fish in the Yak then 22.5", I just think there are not to many of them. I've fished it for a number of years, and my largest bow has been just a tad over 20"
I hope this helps.
Brian
 

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He [a fishery biologist] did tell me that AFTER roza was put in, there were "Blue Ribbon" numbers stocked with more stocking taking place in heavy fished areas. As to when these last stockings took place, I am unsure
According to Steve Probasco's Yakima River Journal, the Yak has no been stocked since 1983.

db

"If I don't catch them today, I'll catch them another day." Art Flick
 

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I can relate clostley to this. My very first fly fishing experience was on the Yak. That was about 8 years ago. Granted I was only 11 at the time, I didnt catch anything. I still return atleast a couple times a year. But I still have not yet cought anything. I've tried fishing the spots where everyone says to go. But no luck. Ususally I just get frustrated after a few hours and go to Rocky Ford, where I usually have success. I was wondering if maybe one of these times you go I could tag along and learn some things.

I too fished rock creek in Montana. But I got skunked there too. I think a lot of my techniques are off because I thought everyone cought fish there. So if there is someone out there who is willing to help me that would be awesome.

CL
 

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Thanks for posting those estimated fish/mile. The data that I found a few years back indicated fewer fish/mile than you found. I do believe that the data I had was from the mid 90's. That data indicated around 800 fish/mile of the same size you indicated in the Ellensburg area. So, it looks like the fish/mile may be increasing which I think is evident in the quality of the fishery. I definitely think the average size had increased over the last 10 year as well.

The Yak is getting to be a quality fishery. Definitely the best we have to offer here as far as a non-anadromous fishery goes. The Yak is a tough river to figure and in my experience, if you can catch fish day in and day out on the Yak, you are pretty well suited to catch fish on any western river.

However, if I had a week to go fishing on a trout stream within the northwest/west states (ID, MT, WY, OR), I probably would not spend it on the Yakima.
 

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Keep the salmon /steelhead below Roza Dam and keep the waters above the dam for trout.
For the most part, the anadromous fish in the mainstem Yak spawn in the upper watershed, above Roza Dam. What you're advocating, gdm43, is annihilating these runs of fish, some of them wild. So far there isn't much data that I've seen indicating that recovered salmon populations will harm the trout fishery. Lots of talk among non-biologists, but little evidence.

I talked to a fisheries guy this spring who had an interesting tidbit that was news to me: that we're mostly catching native 'bows in the Yak. He said despite all the years of misguided stocking, the present fish are not, by and large, mutts. Which makes sense when you consider the reproductive capacities of stocked fish. The natives held on through all this insult, and now, given a chance, they're proving nature's wisdom. I think this also helps explain why a 12" Yakima rainbow has so much fight in it.

As for the quality of the Yak itself, well it just seems to be getting better in the 11 years that I've fished it, mainly due to the instituting of C&R regs I'd guess. It's not Montana, but the numbers are going up, especially based on those 2001 counts. I found a bunch of online archived WDFW counts from the '90s, and the numbers were more in the 600-800 range per mile. So that's good news. My personal experience is that the last few years I've caught more fish, but this year they were on average smaller than last year. Bottom line: Like any worthwhile stream, you need to learn it.
 

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I'll keep you in mind, CL. When I fish the Yakima, its usually a last second thing. I get an irresistable urge to catch a trout, I look at my calendar for the following day, then look at the weather/river conditions to see if everything is lined up; and then I just go. But if your schedule is as flexible as mine, it may work for us to pair up sometime (although probably not until next Spring, as I don't make it out much in the winter).

db

"If I don't catch them today, I'll catch them another day." Art Flick
 

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You mean this is supposed to be easy catching fish in the Yakima? I suppose that if it were, there would be none left, catch and release or not. Its supposed to be tough, thats why its called fishing, not catching. I have had good days, great days, fantastic days, and world class crappy ones.... But the main cause of this is me, not the fish, amount of fish, or anything else. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Wrong flies, wrong presentation, wrong day to be on the water... We all have stories about someone catching fish while you smell like skunk. And visa versa, thats the way it is. Who cares about fish per mile, (and that is not a slam to who started this thread) you need to get to know the river, its tendancies, its personality, learn its hatches, learn where to be at certain times, learn where fish hang out during certain weather or water levels. I have spent over 20 years fishing the canyon with a fly rod, never took one fish out of there even when you could, and spend countless hours, days, weeks there learning what it takes to be where I want to be and when. I'm by no means perfect and by no means know everything there is about that river. I have so much to learn I will probably go to my grave still bewildered why at times they don't want to play with me.

I am not saying we need to increase fish counts, or get salmon out of the water. To me, the biggest thing is give the fish the best quality water they can have. Cleanliness.... get Wilson Creek cleaned up, or better yet diverted to the treatment plant before getting to the Yakima. Seven years ago, Wilson Creek, for those that didn't know, would hit the Yakima looking like dark brown paint. For miles below it, you could smell animal waste and at mile marker 18, and you could not see your feet in knee deep water. Thats over five miles down river from its inception to the Yakima. The amount of suspended solids that would fall on aquatic life and such no way could not suffer from all that organic matter in the water. I have seen water quality tests taken by Central and they showed levels so high coming out of Wilson Creek, it was amazing. No one would do anything about it and just turned their backs. It has greatly improved to almost the point of where it was before Wilson Creek did its personal touch on the Yakima. And yes, there was a time Wilson ran clear. I've seen it with my own eyes.

This creates the other issue with the Yakima being an irragation venue for the entire central portion of the state. What is the Yakima River, a irragation river with blue ribbon trout, or a blue ribbon trout river that is used for irragation. I know there will be two defined groups on that one. Someone said something about more fish and game officers in the canyon, if you didn't know, at one time, the state patrol can and will do the citation, I have called to report poaching more than once and they were the ones that would show up and take care of the problem. This river is very special to me. Fished it for half my life with a fly rod. Fished it before fly fishing was cool, and as others took fish any way they can, I trecked along with trusty flies. The scenery, wildlife, and seclusion all make it what it is. Sure, there is the road, but unless you have a boat, thats the only way in there. And years ago, that was the only way to Yakima, and it had tons more traffic on it than it does now... But yes, limit what can be carried on that road. Thanks guys, sermon over, my fingers are tired.... Greg
 

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To quote Charles Barkley,I may be wrong but I doubt it. The salmon that move back up the Yakima are mostly hatchery fish that the Yakima tribe put into the system a few years ago. From what I've read, these hatchery salmon were not allowed to go over Roza dam this year. I'm not too worried about hatchery salmon spawning. If they were a native run then I'd rethink my original statement!

Greg

"In our family, there is no clear
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Well here are my thoughts. I have fished the yak the last 9 years off and on. I think it is a great river to fish, especially now since I have a drift boat. What I have noticed the number of fish I catch on Yak has gone down, however the size of the fish have gotten bigger. I also noticed, more people are fishing the river with streamers.

Is this the result of the new salmon hatchery in Cle Elum?

who knows

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According to a conversation I had with Steve Worely (who seems very knowledgable about theYak) it has native runs of Chinook , Coho and Summer Run Steelhead. It also had a native run of Sockeye that he suspects are still genetically in tact as Keelchus resevoir Kokanee

I also have heard that the Chinook stocked in the Yak and Cle Elum by the Yakima tribe were brood stock fish.

To improve this fishery I would increase enforcement, require a use permit for all recreational users of the river (rafters, tubers etc), regulate the flows to reflect a more natural state, and eliminate agricultural run-off into the river (ie Wilson).

Edit,

here is some info I found out about the native runs in the Yakima:

http://ceed.wsu.edu/wsu_StudentProjects/Yakama_Indian_Nation/declineinsalmon.htm

WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY

Decline in Salmon

In the early 1800's, more than 900,000 salmon thrived in the Yakima River, according to the Bonneville Power Administration (Lee, 1998). The spring chinook salmon alone used to have runs of close to 200,000 fish (Lee, 1998). Sadly enough, this is not the case today. According to Bill Yallup Sr., "There are a lot less fish. You are fishing for about five percent or less of what it used to be. Sometimes there are no fish at all…it's getting worse every year" (Lee, 1998). In fact, in the summer Chinook and sockeye salmon are now gone, and the spring Chinook salmon run has declined to runs of only 7,000 fish, according to the Bonneville Power Administration. This decline in fish is so bad that at the traditional salmon ceremonies that are held by the Yakama Indians, some members might get only one small slice of salmon, whereas in the past they could eat basically as much as they wanted. (Lee, 1998)

From this same web site is a list of sources they used. There are lost of links to hsitorical data about the river and Yakima Tribe:

http://ceed.wsu.edu/wsu_StudentProjects/Yakama_Indian_Nation/references.htm

One of those links is an interesting story on the Tri-cities herald web page

The Yakima: A River Wasted

http://www.tri-cityherald.com/yakima/
 

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I stand corrected if they are indeed "brood stock" fish and not hatchery fish. That said, I'll stick by my statement that the salmon should stay below the dam if there is any chance that there might be a season for salmon fishing on the upper river that might negativelly impact the native trout.

I also would love to see the requirement of a use permit to use the river (similar to the fee paid to float the Deshutes (Oregon), regulate the flows and control the runoff from Wilson Creek (as I stated in an earlier post above). I'd like to see the campers on BLM land regulated and these campsites ("The Slab") set up with some type of toilet facilities, if they're going to allow camping there.

I think that those who fish the Yak regularly would agree that anything that will improve the quality of the water will only enhance the quality of the fishery.

Greg

"In our family, there is no clear
line between religion and fly
fishing" Norman Maclean
 

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YAKIMA!!

Thank you very much for your post, I reflect the very same feelings about "our" river, although I have only 15 years of experiance upon her. Agreed that Wilson needs to be cleaned up even more,and also that the fish arent easy.. they are earned. If you can catch fish on the Yak, then you will have no problem reading the waters of more famous rivers. Learn the water friends.. look for the hatches.. understand where a trout will yearn to lie.. work on your drag free drift.. your casting, your mending...learn to put the fly where it needs to be !! All aspects of flyfishing come into play on this river, and your skills need to be at their finest to consitantly catch fish. Off of soap box now..
Steve
 
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