It may seem soon, but it is the time for anglers to start watching for winter steelhead occupying rivers in our area. Historically, these fish will be seen at or around the Thanksgiving Weekend and that time frame is near arrival.
So, anglers can expect to see the first of several steelhead pushes throughout the season. About the time the salmon start slowing down, steelhead begin their spawning cycle.
The actual steelhead smolt for this season were released in 2017. A cooperative between the state, federal and tribal enhancement groups were responsible for this program.
For the Grays Harbor Region, the plant effort occurred in three locations: Humptulips River, the lower Chehalis River and the upper Chehalis River. The count of smolt in the Humptulips River at Stevens Creek was 127,000 fish. The lower Chehalis River at the Satsop River received 64,300 fish and the Wynoochee River received 175,575 fish for this season. The upper Chehalis River at Carlisle Lake in Lewis County received 5,000 fish, Eight Creek obtained 24,000 smolt and Skookumchuck Creek received 87,000 fish.
The return ratio amounts to between one and three percent of these numbers. So, if anglers do the math, they could invision the actual number of steelhead to return.
By the same token, the Northern Washington Coast got its fair share of smolt. The Quinault River at Cook Creek obtained 202,228 smolt and Quinault Lake in Grays Harbor received 286,265 fish. The Queets River at Salmon River got 179,871 fish. Further north, the Quillayate River system was broken down into two plants. The Bogacheil River with 110,000 and the Calawah River with 55,000 smolt. Also, the Hoh River received 81,000 steelhead smolt.
When it comes to the Willapa Bay area, there were three such plants. The Naselle River got 73,495 fish, North River 9,800 fish and the Willapa River at Fork Creek got 42,954 fish while Stringer Creek managed to get 15,620 smolt.
So, as it pertains to the steelhead season, anglers can be optimistic. The fish should be there and with a little effort sports fishermen can realize a harvest.
The key to a successful steelhead season this year will unquestionably be the weather. November is generally when we start to see rain in volume. Rain causes the rivers to swell. At first, they can run muddy, but once the surface dirt and mud settle, they begin to clear. Fast moving water will wash away leaves and debris which become a nuisance while fishing. This moving water can create new pockets and holding water for fish. Whereas, a river will usually retain its characteristics, anglers may discover some changes. These new areas are worth a try. It does not take much to provide a resting place as holding water for steelhead. Since, they do not travel in huge numbers as salmon, it doesn’t take a large area to hold theses migrating fish.
Although times are changing, one should not overlook the obvious. Salmon are in the rivers and are ready for the taking as well.