Sea-run cutthroat "game on"

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by Roger Stephens, Mar 17, 2013.

  1. It has been over a month since I have fished for sea-run cutthroat. it is the fisheries which I enjoy the most. I was going through withdrawal so I was anxious last Friday to check out two areas near stream mouths to look for sea-run cutthroat feasting on chum fry. The last time which I fished these areas there were few sea-run cutthroat around. On Friday the fishing was excellent at both stream mouth areas with many 12 to 16 inch sea-run cutthroat landed. The photos show the typical size of most of the fish. The sea-run cutthroat appeared to have already spawned. They looked healthy and were not skinny.

    At the first stream mouth area no chum fry activity was seen but a lot sea-run cutthroat were just "there" with excellent fishing for 1 1/2 hours. I only saw 2 or 3 fish jump or swirl and no fish were seen chasing after chum fry. Delia's conehead squid pattern was the fly of choice. However, the fish would not look at a top water version of the pattern. The streams in the area have normal run(Nov.) spawning chum salmon. The chum fry don't normally out migrate to saltwater until early April but it appears that the sea-run cutthroat have already spawned and out migrated.

    At the second stream mouth area the chum fry have out migrated. The streams in this area have early run(Oct.) spawning chum salmon. A lot of sea-run cutthroat were seen chasing after chum fry. The fish wouid not even look at the Delia's conehead squid pattern since the sea-run cutthroat were so keyed into chum fry. It was a "match the hatch" situation and was necessary to use a chum fry pattern to get any hookups. It appears that the chum fry have out migrated a couple of weeks earlier than normal this year probably due to a milder past winter.


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  2. Roger-

    Just wondering if you hit it at outgoing tide, or if that really makes no difference in this case?

  3. Both of the areas were fished on a big ebb tide(approx. 14 ft. exchange) and they fish best on ebb tides vs. flood tides. However, at 2 spots the tidal current was too fast. I prefer to fish moderate tide exchanges of 8 to 10 ft. Also, I prefer to fish ebb tides since there are many more locations that set up nicely vs. flood tides.

  4. Roger,
    Thanks for your clear description of conditions and results. It's time to hit the salt! Do you keep a journal from year to year? I notice how many variables you consider in sizing up the fishery. How long do you expect SRC in the South Sound to be keyed in to chum fry?

  5. I have kept a fishing journal for almost 25 years. I refer to it often to see what was happening in past years at many locations that I fish. Before retiring I was a hydrologist and have a mindset to observe and look for relationships. My fishing journal reflects this approach when fly fishing on Puget Sound.

    Some important variable which I consider to size up the sea-run cutthroat and coho fisheries on Puget Sound are:

    (1) Time of year and food sources available(chum fry, sand lance, amphipods, krill, etc.). This information helps me determine what areas I will fish during different times of the year. For example: sand lance are available as a food source from early/mid-June through mid-Nov. There are certain areas historically where there are usually sea-run cutthroat or coho chasing after sand lance. The same situation occurs during the winter for resident coho as they feed on amphipods. IMHO understanding the life cycle and preferred areas of sand lance is a key to have consistant, excellent success for sea-run cutthroat and coho in the summer and early fall.

    (2) Timing of chum fry and sea-run cutthroat out migration determines where I will fish for sea-run cutthroat in late winter/early spring.

    (3) I prefer to fish moderate tidal exchanges(8 to 10 ft.) since it is easier to find locations with optimum tidal current(approx. 1 1/2 to 2 mph.). Also there are many more locations with optimum tidal current during ebb tides vs. flood tides at least in the areas which I fish.

    (4) Low light conditions are best particularly for coho and somewhat for sea-run cutthroat Early morning and cloudy conditions are best since many food sources are light senitive. I try to avoid sunny conditions.

    (5) I fish locations which have bottom structure and tidal current preferred by sea-run cutthroat.

    (6) etc, etc.

    IMHO once chum fry out migrate, sea-run cutthroat will key into them for 2 to 3 weeks maximum in the general area around stream mouths. The chum fry seem to move quickly along shorelines in their journey towards the Pacific Ocean. The sea-run cutthroat are also spreading out rapidly through out Puget Sound during this same time period.

  6. Roger,
    This is really helpful information, thank you! I am copying your reply to put into my own journal work. For me, understanding the "big picture" of the fishery adds greatly to enjoying these beautiful fish.
  7. Two weeks ago, I moved to a beach house within 1500 feet of a well-known chum stream mouth. So far, nothing seen moving....................Dang it!!!! :)
    mad_boethius44 likes this.

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