The Fishing Corner: Many reasons why February is hard core steelheading time

  • Sat Feb 8th, 2020 12:40am
  • Sports

By Larry Dublanko

For the Grays Harbor News Group

The month of February in Grays Harbor is hard core winter steelheading time. This is the case for many reasons. Most of these have to do with our region and nature itself.

Grays Harbor is filled with drainage systems which eventually lead to the Pacific Ocean. The Olympic Mountain Range, in addition to the outlying hill country, all allow for excess water to drain forming streams and eventually rivers.

The abundance of rainfall which results from storms coming off the ocean keep this water supply constant. Sometimes this drainage system becomes overtaxed and results in flooding; but, this case is not a daily occurrence. The snow pack which builds up during the winter months in the Olympic Mountains will keep river levels favorable during the spring and early summer. Depending on temperatures at that time of the year, it can be a time frame for testy fishing conditions.

Within Grays Harbor, and adjacent Pacific and Jefferson Counties, there are primary rivers that host both salmon and steelhead. Anglers pay close attention to these waterways and learn them well in preparation for the sport. They are reasonably predictable and draw fishers from far and near with the challenge of hooking some big fish.

The reason these fish have size to them is the Pacific Ocean. These andronomous fish which are born in our local water, eventually make their way to the ocean where they engage in a feeding frenzy. They grow in size and strength and when the time is right, they will occupy our hosting rivers to complete their spawning cycle.

Our rivers are relatively short in length and the drop off is fairly significant. This means fish will have to work their way to spawning water. They need to take rests in the journey; and so, this is where they meet up with anglers seeking to intercept their migration.

It is the natural instinct within these fish which propels them toward fresh water. This will happen in a timely manner. Summer steelhead enter rivers during the spring and summer. They will occupy rivers and eventually arrive at their spawning territory. Summer steelhead will complete their spawning cycle around the month of March and April. They will then seek to return to the ocean though in a weakened state. Spawning is hard work.

Winter steelhead arrive in our waterways around the Thanksgiving Weekend. They are more mature than their summer counterparts and are due to spawn at a similar time. They, too, will attempt to return to the ocean to repeat their cycle only to return much bigger and much stronger. These bigger and stronger returning fish can likely be wild steelhead and are protected by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

So, the subject of steelhead and steelhead fishing is a multifaceted topic. Anglers who grasp the many aspects of this subject; as well as, the science of fish movement tend to do better in the field.

This is definitely the time to catch a steelhead. A little cooperation from the weather and the effort put forth by anglers should result in a positive experience.