Upper Columbia Steelhead Season

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Cruik, Sep 27, 2013.

  1. I was just wondering if anyone had any ideas about any sort of Upper Columbia steelhead season? I know the fish are still trickling in, but it's looking like the passage data is going to be pretty low, unless something miraculous happens. Maybe some of you are able to look at the data and make predictions better than I can. Many of the past years, these tribs have been open already by this date. Last year it was Oct. 16. This year looks even worse than last year. It's kind of hard to tweak my schedule to account for fishing if any sort of season in Oct. is questionable. I guess I'm starting to take the Upper Columbia steelhead season for granted. How does booking a guide work in situations like this? no bookings unless we get the word that it's open?

    It's kind of funny to me that the season for the Snake tributaries (Grande Ronde, Walla Walla, Touchet, Tucannon) isn't even questioned, even though the WDFW still lists those rivers as 'threatened' just like the Upper Columbia tribs and the runs look just as equally lower than the 10 year average. Anyone know why that is? Is it because some of the Snake tributaries belong to Idaho, and therefore we can't determine that the shortfalls are ours, like we can with the upper Columbia? I understand there was a WDFW 'roundtable' in Brewster (spitting distance from the Methow and Okanogan). Anyone attend and hear anything interesting about the Upper Columbia steelhead stocks? I would have loved to have attended.
  2. It doesn't look good for a Methow or Wenatchee season. This might be a good year to consider fall trout fishing instead.

    When the mid-C steelhead were listed as endangered, rather than threatened, that reasonably explained the discrepancy between it and the Snake and its tributary regulations. Having been upgraded to threatened status, there doesn't appear to be any logical reason, so there is probably an illogical reason related to the political boundaries involving WA, ID, and OR.

    Irafly likes this.
  3. I have asked this question several times--why the Snake tribs have open seasons in the regulations by default but the upper Columbia tribs are closed by default, unless opened by emergency. I never have gotten an answer that I was completely satisfied with yet even though I have asked it to some pretty high management folks at WDFW.

    I took half a day off Thursday and drove up to Pateros with the intention of attending the WDFW Round Table meeting in Brewster. Having attended at least 4 of these meetings over the years, they have become very predicable. I go with the intention of finding out about an upper Columbia steelhead fishery and end up listening to heated discussion between the ranchers and the environmentalists over the wolf situation. I found out what I wanted to know and instead of listening to a public debate, I spent two half-days fishing for trout. Had good wade fishing yesterday and a good float today, which was better than sitting in a meeting and somewhat better than most work days but I really enjoy what I do.

    The good news is it appears that a permit extension from NOAA for WDFW to conduct a steelhead fishery in the upper Columbia tribs has been or will be granted. That was the first step. If the appropriate numbers and origin are in order, a fishery just may be opened.

    The bad news (at least for many anglers) is the numbers are more "normal" and even if there is a season, fishing will probably be more akin to the last couple years rather than what the fishing was like in the mid 2000s. I would anticipate lots of pressure early on with fish being caught. Then it will slow down people will wonder why the fishing is so poor when in reality, it is still steelhead fishing, which means there are no guarantees. People's high expectations should be left in Pateros and exchanged for average catch rates that correspond to an average year.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the last two days; the simple pleasure and privilege of C&R trout fishing in the Methow during my favorite time of year. However, I find myself disliking the idea and mentality of mandatory harvest of hatchery fish...not that I don't agree with it, on the contrary. However, IF there indeed is a season and IF I decide to participate in the Gong Show this year, I am strongly considering leaving the fly rods at home and taking the gear rods instead. I fly fish for me and my enjoyment. However, if the state is using me for adult management of natural origin fish on the spawning grounds, then I almost feel obligated to use the method that gives me the best chance at catching and harvesting hatchery fish and getting off the river. I am very tempted to do as Sg suggests and explore fall trout opportunities so I can do it with a fly rod, instead of feeling obligated to take the gear rods to the Methow and help balance the PNI ratio. I guess we'll see.
    Rod Wittner and Dave Kaiserman like this.
  4. There's no such thing as a 'Native' steelhead in the upper Snake tribs anymore. There's only 'un-clipped' hatchery fish, with few wild spawners.

    At least that's how it was explained to me by a couple of bios a few years back.
  5. I have never been on that river and had a gear guy out fish me (Ok Willie keeps up and there was that one day were he did catch a silver and I didn't, but that guy is way the exception versus the rule). Take the fly rod, it works better when used correctly. Now if you have more confidence in your gear rod and you do better with it than the fly rod, than ok I get it.
    Ian Broadie likes this.
  6. Bobber + Bead = Win!
  7. Ira, I know indicators and beads on a fly rod catch fish like crazy. Whether or not that is considered is fly fishing has been debated on here ad nauseam. By definition it certainly is and I'm not about to debate that again. However, most hard core, skillful fly anglers that are equally effective at using the center pin admit to me that there is no way a fly rod, indicator, and bead will outfish a center pin by someone who knows how to use it. I totally agree with you on the confidence factor and also agree that a competent angler using a fly rod, bead, and indicator fish can catch a limit of hatchery steelhead on the Methow. But I'm not convinced it is the MOST effective way, which was part of the intent of my response. That and the fact that you are required to keep hatchery fish just gives the fishery a different feel to me.
  8. Tucannon (trib of the Snake) is probably going to continue with rules similar to the Wenatchee/Met. Mandatory kill, the season has been shortened, etc.

    Other rivers have other issues.
    Blake Harmon likes this.
  9. I have a gear toting friend who goes over to fish over there. He puts up some gaudy numbers even fishing in the areas with smaller numbers of sheelhead. If I were to fish it, I'd flyfish, because that's how I enjoy steelhead fishing. Just because dfw wants the hatchery fish dead does not mean you have to fish for them in the most effective way. I have heard that there are times where flyfishing for steelhead was more effective than gear, but I have never seen it. I'm pretty sure it's a rural legend or that you all don't fish with very good gear anglers.

    Go Sox,

  10. I could not agree more. Fly rod indicator fishing for steelhead ranks about fourth on my list as preferred methods as there are other ways I enjoy more. Contrary, I really enjoy fishing that way for whitefish. I have been told I think differently. I am beginning to think maybe those same folks are right.
  11. I have outfished my bobber/jig fishing cousin on multiple occasions on the Methow while swinging my spey rod. But when the spoons come out, there is none their equal.

    That, and centerpins are infinitely more enjoyable than indicator fishing a fly rod. Of the 50+ steelhead I've picked up in the Methow the past few years, not a single one was nymphing on a fly rod. Have picked up a few on the pin, though.

    Every year, the threads pop up on the Methow talking about how it's the easiest steelhead river and all that. Keep in mind, the reputation for "stupid easy steelhead" came from the unusually massive 2009 run. On any regular year, it's steelhead fishing business as usual. I think the Methow sends more people home disappointed and empty handed than most rivers. It's like any other river in that it has a learning curve. Quite a steep one at that. It took me several seasons of fishing hard there to even pick up my first steelhead since they re-opened it.
    salt dog and Ian Broadie like this.
  12. I don't think that the gentleman I am speaking of fishes bobber/jig at all. It's mostly a spoon show cuz that's how he prefers to fish. He's headed up to where the land of crazy moose signs right now and he'll fish spoons. Doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but that's why they make ice cream in different flavors...eh?

    I really like the Met and may fish it if they open it. I enjoy being able to fish floating lines. I'm definately gonna fish a different river with far less fish in Nov. because of it's wild fish and floating line fishing. The question is whether I can find a place to steehead in Oct. given my family responabilities. There will be no nymphing. I didn't move 3,000 miles to nymph for steelhead. I'd rather barbecue, brew beer on stick a needle in my own eye, personally.

    Canadians love whiskey.

    Go Sox,
  13. Not gonna lie, spoons are one of my favorite ways to fish. I make no apologies for it either. I just plain have a great time doing it.
  14. Interesting how easily this became a methodology thread, sorry about starting that out, well I kinda started it anyway. I don't fish beads, but I do nymph and I also swing (with an indicator no less). But I have pulled no punches about the fact that I absolutely love fishing indicators and I will only give it up when something else is obviously working much better. Because of that I imagine I have become a fairly good indicator fisherman. I have fished with plenty of very competent gear guys on smaller rivers like the Meth and I usually out fish them and I don't consider myself to be the greatest steelheader with the fly rod either, just a fact. I did fish next to a very accomplished center pin fisherman last year (Ian I believe) and it was fun to watch him work the rod and I could easily see myself enjoying that type of fishing (I love the float), and even though he did land a fish in front of me, I landed two in the same amount of time. Now this does not count any case where bait is involved.

    Now Charles, if your gear buddy is putting up gaudy numbers is it possible that he is now fishing illegally? Over the last few years I have not put up huge numbers because I tend to catch my hatchery fish early enough that more fish is not possible due to the mandatory keep. Last year was the first year that I hit two days that I didn't limit and was able to fish all day. I'm not trying to call your friend a poacher, but it does seem weird to catch double digit numbers on that river now without hitting your limit. Granted in the later season I suppose it is possible once many of the hatchery fish have been culled out and if that is the case I hope he is reporting his gaudy numbers of "wild" caught fish so they can close the season earlier. Maybe he does like Evan does and that's why the season doesn't last forever some years.

    With that if it opens this year, I have promised myself to leave it alone and focus on fall lake fisheries this year. Maybe if it is open in December-February I'll hit it up again.
  15. I've put up multiple double digit days on that river, largely because I have a few secret buckets that seem to never have clipped fish in them for whatever reason. I also always reported my catches to Keith, whether or not I saw him on the river that day or not (usually through email) just to let him know. I can say in all honesty that I still have never once released a (clipped) hatchery steelhead on any river in this state.

    And if I see you out there this year, you're more than welcome to run my pin rod for fun. You'll just have to find me.
    Irafly likes this.
  16. He very well may return hatch fish, although I think that the location(s) that he likes to fish are more likely to have much higher wild to hatchery fish ratios. He also generally catches multiple species in a day. In one day he quite regularly will catch cutt's, bull's, kings, and steelhead. I don't know if he caught any coho last year.

    I'm sure he does kill his alotted hatch fish though as I've had his smoked steelhead from there. Very nice!

    It's a lovely river and it can be quite soothing to have that eastside sun pound you when it's raining over here. I do enjoy it. I'm contemplating taking my daughters over if it opens to camp and fish, have a whiskey drink by the fire at night, and smile. The rain is here already so you gotta get your vitamin D somehow.

    Go Sox,
    Irafly likes this.
  17. You and I still haven't met up out there to swing a run or drink one of Blaze's delicious beers up in Winthrop.
  18. I would enjoy that. I'll let you know if I am headed over. His beer is nothing short of excellent. That Porter is just perfect when the chill comes at night. Impressive work indeed.

    Go So,
  19. I love fishing indicators in still water and can't imagine any other technique that lets you get the fish dialed in like that does...absolutely deadly. However when it comes to moving waters, I love the simplicity of tying one knot, casting, swinging and waiting for the big yank, whether it is a fly or spoon. Maybe I'm just too lazy but the idea of a bobber (and its necessary depth adjustment), split shot, double fly, mending, stripping, casting just amounts to more work than I want to do most days. I guess that is why floating line fishing rivers is so appealing; not as much work and a more pleasurable way for me to fish, if the conditions for success are conducive.

    Fish how you want, so long as it is legal and minimizes our impact on the fish themselves and you respect the resource.
    Irafly and Charles Sullivan like this.
  20. Let's not forget they eat on the surface there from time to time as well.
    cabezon and Charles Sullivan like this.

Share This Page