Tag Archives: winter steelhead

SW WA, Lower Columbia, Gorge Pools Fishing Report (3-13-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

The first spring Chinook was counted at Bonneville Dam March 11, 2019.

2019 2018 10-yr Avg
Dam Date Adult Jack   Adult Jack   Adult Jack
BON 3/11/19 1 0 3 0 24 0

 

Salmon/Steelhead:

Lower Columbia mainstem from Warrior Rock line to Bonneville Dam– 55 salmonid boats and 28 Washington bank rods were tallied during last Saturdays flight count.

WINTER STEELHEADING ON THE COWLITZ RIVER IS PICKING UP AS THE LATE-TIMED STOCK BEGINS TO ARRIVE IN BETTER NUMBERS. JASON BROOKS TOOK THIS PIC AT BLUE CREEK SEVERAL RUNS AGO. (JASON BROOKS)

Lower Columbia Washington only creel checks:

  • Sec 3 (I-5 area) bank – 5 salmonid bank anglers had no catch.
  • Sec 3 boat – 5 boats/14 salmonid anglers had no catch.
  • Sec 4 (Vancouver) bank – 22 salmonid anglers had no catch.
  • Sec 4 boat – 31 boats/ 65 salmonid anglers had no catch.

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 7 bank anglers had no catch.  5 boats/14 rods kept 3 legal sturgeon and released 51 sublegal sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool- 15 bank anglers had no catch.  2 boats/6 rods had no catch.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 3 boats/6 rods kept 20 walleye.

The Dalles Pool- No anglers sampled.

John Day Pool- 11 boats/23 rods kept 26 walleye and released 3 walleye.

Bass:

John Day Pool- 1 boat/1 rod had no catch.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 4 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 2 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.  1 boat/3 rods released 1 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 60 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.  4 boats/5 rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  17 bank rods released 3 steelhead.  31 boats/106 rods kept 22 steelhead and released 4 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered two winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

All of the fish collected last week were held at the hatchery for broodstock needs.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,160 cubic feet per second on Monday, March 11. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 41 F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

Kalama River – 32 bank anglers had no catch.

Lewis River – 5 bank anglers had no catch.

East Fork Lewis River – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Salmon Creek – 9 bank anglers had no catch.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Catchable Trout Plants:

Lake/Pond                           Date Species Number    Fish/lb Hatchery

LEWIS CO PRK PD-s (LEWI)    Mar 07, 2019 Rainbow 2,000           2.5 MOSSYROCK HATCHERY

KlineLine PD (CLAR)                Mar 05, 2019 Rainbow 1,500          2.3 VANCOUVER HATCHERY

Lacamas LK (CLAR)                  Mar 04, 2019 Rainbow 4,000          1.9 VANCOUVER HATCHERY

Lower Columbia, Gorge, SW WA Fishing Report (3-6-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Salmon/Steelhead:

Lower Columbia mainstem from Bonneville Dam to Warrior Rock– 47 salmonid boats and 6 Washington bank rods were tallied during last Saturdays flight count.

ANTHONY CLEMENTS SHOWS OFF A NICE BROODSTOCK WINTER-RUN FROM AN OREGON NORTH COAST STREAM. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Washington only creel checks: February 25-28, 2019

? Sec 8 (Longview) bank- 2 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 8 boat -2 boats/4 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 9 (Cathlamet) bank- 3 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 10 (Cathlamet) boat – 1 boat/2 salmonid anglers had no catch.

Washington only creel checks: March 1-3, 2019
? Sec 3 (Vancouver) boat – 1 boat/2 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 4 (Vancouver) bank – 2 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 4 boat – 4 boats/ 6 salmonid angler had no catch.

John Day Pool – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- No anglers sampled.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention. No report.

John Day Pool- 8 bank anglers had no catch. 1 boat/4 rods had no catch.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 1 boat/3 rods kept 3 walleye.

The Dalles Pool- No anglers sampled.

John Day Pool- 11 boats/25 rods kept 9 walleye and released 8 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:


Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click HERE to learn more.

Columbia River Tributaries

Elochoman River – 6 bank anglers released 2 steelhead.  1 boat/2 rods kept 1 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.

Germany Creek – 6 bank anglers had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 106 bank rods kept 7 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  25 bank rods released 4 steelhead.  47 boats/137 rods kept 46 steelhead and released 3 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 12 winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

Tacoma Power employees released three winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and one winter-run steelhead adult into the Cispus River near Randle.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,060 cubic feet per second on Monday, March 4. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 41 F.

East Fork Lewis River – 16 bank anglers released 2 steelhead.  1 boat/1 rod had no catch.

Salmon Creek – 7 bank anglers had no catch.

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Catchable Trout Plants:  No report on angling success.

Lake/Pond Date Species Number Fish per
Pound
Hatchery Notes
KLINELINE PD (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5BATTLE GROUND LK (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5
Feb 25, 2019

Mar 04, 2019

Rainbow

Rainbow

1,500

2,000

1.9

2.3

VANCOUVER HATCHERY

VANCOUVER HATCHERY

LACAMAS LK (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5
Mar 04, 2019 Rainbow 4,000 1.9 VANCOUVER HATCHERY

 

Smelt

Reports of smelt in showing up in the Lower Columbia and Cowlitz River.

Mainstem Columbia and all other Washington tributaries – Closed to sport fishing for smelt (eulachon).

Lower Columbia, Gorge Pools, SW WA Fishing Report (2-27-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Salmon/Steelhead:

Lower Columbia mainstem from the I-5 Br. downstream – Water looks good for salmon fishing but only 31 boats and 68 bank rods were tallied during last Saturdays boat count.

Washington only creel checks:
Sec 4 (Vancouver) bank – 9 salmonid anglers had no catch.
Sec 5 (Woodland) bank – 9 salmonid anglers had no catch.
Sec 5 boat – 1 boat/ 1 salmonid angler had no catch.
Sec 6 (Kalama) bank – 2 salmonid anglers had no catch.
John Day Pool: 1 bank angler kept 1 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

A BIG WALLEYE CAUGHT ON THE MID-COLUMBIA STRETCHES THE TAPE TO MORE THAN 34 INCHES. IT WAS CAUGHT BY TRI-CITIES ANGLERS DURING A RECENT GUIDED TRIP AT NIGHT. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 4 boats/8 anglers kept 1 legal sturgeon and released 29 sublegal sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention. No report.

John Day Pool- 12 bank anglers had no catch. 10 boats/22 anglers kept 1 legal sturgeon.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 2 boats/4 rods kept 3 walleye and released 3 walleye.

The Dalles Pool- No anglers sampled.

John Day Pool- 9 boats/22 rods kept 5 walleye and released 2 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:
Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 6 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 3 bank anglers had no catch.

Abernathy Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Germany Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 65 bank rods kept 3 steelhead. 2 boats/6 rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br: 21 bank rods kept 1 steelhead. 19 boats/53 rods kept 12 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered seven winter-run steelhead adults during four days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

All of the fish collected last week were held at the hatchery for broodstock needs.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 8,930 cubic feet per second on Monday, Feb. 25. Water visibility is 9 feet and the water temperature is 41.9 F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility

East Fork Lewis River – 24 bank anglers released 4 steelhead.

Salmon Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Catchable Trout Plants:

No report

SW WA, Lower, Middle Columbia Fishing Report (1-29-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORTS WERE TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN AND PAUL HOFFARTH

Washington Columbia River and Tributary Fishing Report Jan 21-27, 2019

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 27 bank anglers released 4 sublegal sturgeon.  31 boats/85 rods kept 14 legal sturgeon and released 8 legal, 236 sublegal and 2 oversize sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool- 34 bank anglers released 2 sublegal sturgeon.  24 boats/59 rods released 1 oversize sturgeon.

WALLEYE ARE STARTING TO BITE IN THE COLUMBIA SYSTEM. GLENN STEFFLER CAUGHT THIS ONE ON THE UPPER RIVER RECENTLY. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 5 boats/7 rods kept 2 walleye and released 3 walleye.

The Dalles Pool- No report.

John Day Pool- 17 boats/36 rods kept 26 walleye and released 7 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 17 bank anglers kept 4 steelhead and released 3 steelhead.

Abernathy Creek – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Germany Creek – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 16 bank rods had no catch.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  27 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.  10 boats/28 rods kept 1 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered one winter-run steelhead adult during four days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released one winter-run steelhead adult into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,370 cubic feet per second on Monday, Jan. 28. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 44.6 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

East Fork Lewis River – 16 bank anglers had no catch.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Salmon Creek – 6 bank anglers had no catch.

Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Trout Plants and stocking schedules:

https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?orderby=StockDate

McNary Steelhead Sport Fishery: January Update

WDFW staff have interviewed 76 boats in January with 13 hatchery steelhead harvested, 1 hatchery released, and 67 wild steelhead caught and released. Anglers averaged just over 1 steelhead per boat, 8.8 hours per fish including wild. The majority of the steelhead caught were A run but 4 B run fish have been harvested and 24 wild “B” run were caught and released. In addition, 79 bank anglers were interviewed with 3 wild caught and released. Fishing has been very slow from the bank (47 hours per steelhead).

ODFW Begins Culling ESA-steelhead-eating Sea Lions At Willamette Falls

Three Willamette Falls sea lions have been killed so far by state managers under a recently issued federal permit, an action being taken to help the watershed’s threatened wild steelhead.

A CALIFORNIA SEA LION CAPTURES A SALMONID BELOW WILLAMETTE FALLS. (BRYAN WRIGHT, ODFW)

ODFW plans to lethally remove as many as 40 California sea lions in the first four months of the year, and are allowed to take out up to 93 a year.

The news, first reported yesterday by OPB and followed up by the Associated Press this morning, comes as at least 145 wild winter steelhead have been able to navigate past pinnipeds feasting below the falls as of the end of last month.

In 2015, they ate 25 percent of a very weak return, according to ODFW, which in 2017 estimated that there was a 90 percent chance that one of the Willamette’s ESA-listed runs would go extinct if nothing was done to counter predation by sea lions.

Attempts to capture and move them to the Oregon Coast were unsuccessful as the male marine mammals tended to just swim right back.

“The only fish in the river right now are the winter steelhead,” ODFW’s Bryan Wright told OPB. “If we can remove all these sea lions right now that will be a huge benefit to them.”

In mid-November, his agency was authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service to begin killing CSLs seen at the falls and in the lower Clackamas River for at least two days or observed eating steelhead or salmon.

Last month, Northwest states and tribes were also authorized to lethally remove as many as 920 California sea lions and 249 Steller sea lions in portions of the Columbia and its salmon-bearing tributaries such as the Willamette to help address too many pinnipeds taking too big a bite out of ESA-listed salmon and steelhead stocks and help keep one of their new favorite targets, sturgeon, from ending up on the list too.

Southwest Washington Fishing Report (1-9-19)

The creel checker was a little surprised when I volunteered the city that my zip code – which she’d asked for – belonged to.

Shoreline was a mighty far way to come fish Vancouver’s tiny Salmon Creek for hatchery winter steelhead, she noted.

A SALMON CREEK STEELHEADER POSES FOR A SELFIE ON THE VANCOUVER STREAM.

One hundred seventy miles, to be exact, but I had other business in the neighborhood last Saturday — namely, picking up my two sons at a halfway point between the Seattle suburb and Newport, where the boys had just spent a week with their Nana.

Dropping them off or retrieving them during school and summer breaks over the years has always given me a chance to try a few casts in the creek, or the Kalama or East Fork Lewis Rivers.

Can’t say I’ve been very lucky overall, but that jig-biting winter-run on the blog’s skyline did come from Salmon several years ago, during a better run.

Hooked it twice, the first time on a spoon, lost it, let it rest, came back 20 minutes later, hooked it again, got it in and then made a mad dash to the pickup point where my mother-in-law was waiting with one of the boys.

This season, however, steelhead so far have been few and far between in this part of the Evergreen State, as well as elsewhere.

WDFW’s weekly creel summary for Southwest Washington has been pretty woefully low on fish actually creeled, and last week was once again no exception.

As she enquired about what I’d been using, its hook size and how long I’d fished (about half an hour’s worth more of one more last casts than I should have — sorry, Diane!), the Salmon Creek checker told me she hadn’t actually checked any fish of late and had only heard rumor of two caught since New Year’s.

When the official stats were emailed out this morning by the agency’s Bryant Spellman, it reported 40 of my fellow bankies had had no catch either.

Pretty discouraging. Other weekly reports this winter haven’t been any better and, frankly, I didn’t even bother posting the last one or two from Spellman, they were so grim compared to years past.

Washington Columbia River mainstem and its tributaries sport sampling summaries for Dec. 29 (2014)-Jan.4 (2015)

Cowlitz River – 72 bank anglers kept with 3 steelhead and 3 coho kept.  49 boat anglers had 31 steelhead and 8 coho kept and 7 coho released.

Partially it’s poor ocean conditions.

Returns are much lower than recent years at this same time at state hatcheries throughout Western Washington, and last week that led to closures on my home waters, the Skykomish and Wallace, as well as the North Fork Stilly, to meet eggtake goals.

Partially it’s a question of access.

That’s the case on the Elochoman, which saw smolt releases doubled, but where the new owners of a prime spot aren’t allowing access across their property.

And mostly it’s just the long-term switch away from early Chambers Creek fish to late-timed local stocks.

The former used to fuel solid holiday steelheading, most notably on the Cowlitz — 1,980 were harvested in December 2012, a figure which had slumped to just 88 in December 2016.

Future flame runs to pick up River and Kiran this time of year will just see fewer and fewer steelhead around.

With the new Mitchell Act biop, WDFW said the last release of Chambers smolts would be in spring 2017, into the Kalama, Coweeman, Washougal Rivers and Rock and Salmon Creeks, for return this winter.

Starting last year, Salmon and Kalama releases were being switched to a late-returning stock, while the other three were to be bridged with Eagle Creek, Oregon, fish.

WDFW said it hoped to develop an early-returning strain of winter steelhead out of late-timed broodstock, but warned that “will likely take a decade or more.”

By then I won’t have to taxi the boys anymore — they’ll be able to drive themselves back and forth to their Nana’s.

The younger one is more likely to detour to one of the streams along the way, and hopefully there will be some fish around for some midwinter break angling.

Ahhh, the continuing changing world of winter steelheading in the Northwest …

For what it’s worth, here is Spellman’s latest Southwest Washington fishing report, covering Jan. 1-6

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 3 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 31 bank anglers kept 3 steelhead and released 1 coho jack.  2 boats/7 rods kept 2 steelhead.

Abernathy Creek – 3 bank anglers had no catch.

Germany Creek – 4 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 3 boats/5 rods kept 1 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  8 bank rods released 1 coho jack.  2 boats/4 rods had no catch

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 35 coho adults, 57 coho jacks, one cutthroat trout, one summer-run steelhead adult and four winter-run steelhead adults during four days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released one coho jack into the Cispus River near Randle and they released two coho adults and 15 coho jacks into Lake Scanewa in Randle.

Tacoma Power released 27 coho adults, 36 coho jacks, three winter-run steelhead adults and one cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 8,680 cubic feet per second on Monday, Jan. 7. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 44.8 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

East Fork Lewis River – 24 bank anglers released 2 steelhead.  3 boats/8 rods released 1 steelhead.

Salmon Creek – 41 bank anglers had no catch.

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Skykomish, Wallace, NF Stilly Closing Due To Low Steelhead Returns

THE FOLLOWING ARE EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Portions of Skykomish and Wallace rivers to close to fishing

Action: Closes the Skykomish and Wallace rivers to fishing.

DUE TO LOW RETURNS OF HATCHERY STEELHEAD, THE SKYKOMISH (HERE), WALLACE AND NORTH FORK STILLAGUAMISH WILL CLOSE TO FISHING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Effective date: Jan. 7, 2019 through Feb. 15, 2019.

Species affected: All species.

Location: Skykomish River, from the mouth to the forks
Wallace River, from the mouth to 200 feet above the hatchery water intake.

Reason for action: The Wallace River and Reiter Ponds hatcheries currently have less than half of the early winter steelhead broodstock on hand needed to meet egg take goals. The early winter steelhead goals are 140,000 smolt from Reiter Ponds and 27,600 smolt from the Wallace Hatchery.

Additional information: Fishing will reopen when egg take goals have been met. The Snoqualmie, Snohomish rivers and tributaries remain open as described in the fishing rules pamphlet.

North Fork Stillaguamish River to close to fishing

Action: Closes the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River to fishing.

Effective date: Jan. 7, 2019 through Feb.15, 2019.

Species affected: All species.

Location: North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, from the mouth upstream to the Swede Heaven Bridge (includes the Fortson Hole area).

Reason for action: The Whitehorse Hatchery does not have enough early winter steelhead broodstock on hand to meet egg take goals. The goal is 130,000 smolt and the hatchery currently has 72,400 eggs on hand.

Additional information: Fishing will reopen when egg take goals have been met.

2018-19 Winter Steelhead Season Smolt Release Figures Out

The latest smolt release data for Western Washington rivers shows three you might want to put on your radar this coming winter season.

IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO START THINKING ABOUT WINTER STEELHEAD SEASON, AND THE LATEST SMOLT RELEASE DATA FROM WDFW BEGINS TO PAINT A PICTURE ABOUT WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE COMING MONTHS. ONE THING YOU CAN COUNT ON IS THAT HUNTER SHELTON WILL BEAT A PATH TO THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA FOR A SHOT AT CHROME-BRIGHT BEAUTS LIKE THIS PAIR FROM LAST NOVEMBER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

They doubled on the Elochoman and Naselle in 2017 for return this season, and were up sharply on the Quinault system as well, according to state figures.

Now, whether the fishing’s twice as good as last year on them is anyone’s guess, as ocean conditions play a strong role in returns, but they will be ones to watch for reports in the coming months.

On the Lower Columbia trib, releases jumped from 66,000 in 2016 – a year-class that produced a “phenomenal” return that allowed managers to recycle and even surplus fish – to 139,000 last year.

According to a WDFW hatchery tech’s report, last season’s fish were the first smolts at the Elochoman’s Beaver Creek facility protected from predation by netting and fencing since 2009.

A bit further west on Highway 4, the Naselle jumped from 37,000 to 73,000, bringing it back up to where it’s been in recent years, outside of 2015 when Puget Sound smolts were let loose here due to a court settlement.

And releases into Lake Quinault and Cook Creek climbed by 73,000 over 2016 and previous years, to 488,000. You’ll need a tribal guide to fish the system.

The one major blip is that Cowlitz stocking dropped by 161,000, but the number of late-returning smolts that went out is still nothing to shake your fish stick at – 437,000 from Blue Creek, 13 percent of all the winter-runs released in the state.

Elsewhere on the Westside, the number of young steelhead turned loose in most waters didn’t vary all that much from the prior year.

But for the record, they were up slightly on the Nooksack (+13,000), Salmon (+10,000), Wynoochee (+7,000) and Willapa (+7,000) and down somewhat on the North Fork Stillaguamish (-20,000), Bogachiel (-20,000), Satsop (-17,000) and Skookumchuck (-13,000).

Skagit-Sauk Catch Estimates Show A Hot Day, And Mostly Good Fishing

If you were lucky enough to be steelheading in Washington’s North Cascades on April 18, you most likely had a very, very good day.

DRIFT BOAT ANGLERS MAKE THEIR WAY DOWN THE SAUK RIVER DURING APRIL’S 12-DAY FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

One-fifth of all the wild winter-runs caught during the recently concluded 12-day catch-and-release fishery on the Skagit and Sauk Rivers were landed that Wednesday, according to preliminary estimates from state monitors.

That didn’t surprise Brett Barkdull, the district fisheries biologist, who’d dropped some not-so-subtle hints that it might be a good one to call in sick.

BOBBER AND SPOON RODS AWAIT EMPLOYMENT ALONG THE SAUK THIS SPRING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“I thought the total catch on that first Wednesday when the Sauk was first in shape might have been higher actually,” he said.

The Sauk, which shot up to 9,500 cubic feet per second as rains swept in on the eve of opening weekend, had dropped back to 6,000 cfs by that morning, and the river’s fish had yet to feel the hidden sting of fishermen’s pink worms, plugs and spoons.

GLACIAL FLOUR FROM THE SUIATTLE RIVER CLOUDS THE SAUK BELOW GOVERNMENT BRIDGE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Barkdull cautioned that data his team of creel samplers collected haven’t been finalized yet, but the early estimates show that anglers caught 118 steelhead on April 18, or one for every 8.86 hours of effort that day, a figure that may be a high mark for some time to come.

“I don’t expect there will be a day like that again unless we get a year with a huge return,” noted Barkdull.

WHITEHORSE MOUNTAIN RISES OVER THE FLATS NEAR DARRINGTON. AT ONE TIME SEVERAL THOUSAND YEARS AGO, THE SAUK ACTUALLY DRAINED WEST THROUGH THE NORTH FORK STILLAGUAMISH RIVER VALLEY, BUT NOW MEETS THE SKAGIT AT ROCKPORT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Over the dozen days of fishing, 565 steelhead were caught in 11,504 total hours of fishing, or one every 20.36 hours.

A rate of 20 hours a fish is considered to be “off the charts good,” Barkdull said.

“Three hundred hours for a fish is more the norm for Puget Sound,” he said.

The slowest day was the final Saturday, April 28, when it zipped up to 85 hours a fish as several consecutive days of hot weather wilted mountain snowpack, sending both rivers back up.

While the National Marine Fisheries Service holds WDFW to a 10 percent mortality rate in C&R steelhead fisheries, Barkdull personally feels it’s likely far lower. He pointed to a study from the Vedder showing a 2.5 percent rate as a good surrogate, but acknowledged the feds’ 10 percent as the management standard.

Barkdull said there wasn’t anything unexpected in the preliminary figures, which he said are probably within 10 percent of where final ones will be.

“We put people right on top of a bunch of naïve fish late in the season when they were all upriver staging to spawn,” he said.

THIS DOUBLE-STACK SPOON HAS BEEN SLUMBERING IN THE EDITOR’S TACKLE BOX FOR NINE YEARS IN HOPES OF ONE DAY AGAIN SPLASHING DOWN IN THE SAUK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

He doubts that this year’s 20-hours-a-fish rate will hold up in the coming four federally permitted winter-spring fisheries, what with their likely earlier start dates and longer seasons.

“The fish will trickle in, get caught, some will get smart, some will move out of the fishing area, and effort will even out and be less,” Barkdull forecasted.

It took what felt like forever to get this year’s fishery approved. The last season here was in 2009, and following a number of poor returns, the rivers were closed.

But in 2013, the group Occupy Skagit began rallying to reopen the rivers. A management plan that WDFW and three area tribes sent to NMFS in 2016 was finally approved early last month.

TILL NEXT SEASON! (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It requires strict monitoring of catches, and Barkdull’s estimates show that steelheaders also kept three hatchery steelhead, released 219 bull trout, 12 rainbow trout, six cutthroat and three spring Chinook, rounding up and down.

“We saw no illegal kept fish of any sort,” he added.

He said there are plans in the works to break out catches for bank, jet, drift, conventional, fly, and guided and unguided anglers.

My Pitch For The Fish: Turn Tukwila Soccer Fields Into Side Channels For Salmonids

With the World Cup coming up in June, it might not be the best time for me to tell Tukwila’s aspiring Mo Salahs, Kevin De Bruynes and Neymars this:

I want to rip out your four soccer fields and put in a big huge giant side channel for imperiled salmon and steelhead instead.

TARPS COVER PORTIONS OF FOUR SOCCER FIELDS AT STARFIRE, ALONG THE GREEN RIVER TRAIL IN TUKWILA SOUTH OF SEATTLE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Look, kids, I love the beautiful game — what an MLS debut for Ibra! — and really do want you to be on our 2022 team.

USA! USA! USA!

But those 6, 7, 8, 9 acres right alongside the lower Green have a higher and better purpose than close-cropped grass, limed lines and practicing Olivier Giroud-style scorpion goals.

(OK, the third is negotiable.)

BEHIND A SCREEN OF INVASIVE BLACKBERRIES, THE GREEN RIVER COURSES OVER A SET OF ROCKS, RARE IN ITS LOWER END. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

They could instead be a network of thickly wooded, winding, tidally influenced habitat for Endangered Species Act-listed Chinook and winter- and summer-run steelhead, as well as coho, to rear in, boosting fish capacity in the highly developed King County river system.

Similar projects have gone in downstream at Codiga Park, Cecil Moses Memorial Park, the Turning Basin, Highway 509 Wetlands and Kellogg Island, and well as upstream.

One, a 700-foot-long constructed reach known as Riverview between Kent and Auburn, held way more young kings and across all stream flows than four other surveyed stretches.

ANOTHER VIEW OF THE SOCCER FIELDS. THE GREEN RIVER IS JUST TO THE LEFT OF THE PAVED TRAIL. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

So why not return a portion of the city’s (and formerly the county’s) Fort Dent Park to its original purpose lo these many decades ago?

“The area historically had a bunch of side channel habitats and wetland slough-type areas that were great for rearing, but most of that habitat has been filled in and developed and the river has largely been diked throughout that area,” notes one fisheries biologist.

JUST BEHIND A STARFIRE PRACTICE FIELD, A MONUMENT MARKS WHERE A STEAMSHIP USED TO DOCK IN THE LATTER HALF OF THE 1800S, WHEN LAKE WASHINGTON DRAINED OUT THROUGH THE BLACK RIVER INTO THE GREEN/DUWAMISH, WHEN THE SYSTEM WAS ALSO STILL CONNECTED TO MT. RAINIER’S WHITE RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

While the region’s Powers That Be continue with their offsides thinking that they can somehow recover ESA stocks by restricting our fisheries into oblivion, we can raise all the yellow and red cards we want on gillnetting and pinnipeds — along with stormwater runoff and pollution — because they do have an verifiable impacts.

But honestly, the best way to help our favorite fish out is to increase the amount of habitat available to them.

That was the point of a recent stellar educational simulation posted on Tidal Exchange, and it’s what I hear over and over and over from biologists: Quit festering so much about fishery impacts on adult fish and focus instead on adding rearing space for the young’ns.

So, with that idea in mind early one afternoon last week, I made the rounds of the fußball fields next to the Seattle Sounders practice facilities.

Walking along the paved Green River Trail as warm sunlight poured over me, I imagined an army’s worth of dump trucks hauling off millions of cubic feet of topsoil (with a load or two of the rich fill headed for my yard).

ANOTHER VIEW OF THE FIELDS, WITH THE GREEN RIVER TO THE RIGHT OF THE PATH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Pausing next to a bench, I saw earthmovers sculpting subtidal flats and fingered drainages, as well as berms and islands down where a couple dogs played fetch with their owners, and moving the dike from next to the river to over where cars parked.

THE GREEN FLOWS UNDER THE STARFIRE WAY BRIDGE, NEAR THE UPSTREAM END OF THE SOCCER FIELDS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

From the Starfire Way bridge, I mulled where I’d put in a diversion from the river to flood the former fields and later, standing down by the Fort Dent landing monument, I considered where I’d put an outlet.

GOALS STAND ON A SLIGHT RISE ABOVE THE FIELDS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

With the scent of cottonwood sap in my nostrils, I envisioned fishermen joining soccer squads and other volunteers to participate in annual mass plantings of native plants, shrubs and trees.

I saw a forest growing up and shading the channels, providing perches for kingfishers, and boardwalk pathways and informational displays on how the project was helping young kings, silvers and chromers.

FISH HABITAT RESTORATION PROJECT IN SKAGIT COUNTY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

And then I really actually did see Clint Dempsey in the Starfire parking lot and I was like OMG, it’s Deuce, right there! OK, just be cool, Walgamott, don’t run over for a selfie and to hassle him with your hairbrained idea, breathe through your nose, man.

Ahem, I will admit that this project would face some challenges.

It pits little kickers against little finners, and sadly, I don’t know that Pugetropolites really have the stomach for helping the latter group out like they should.

There’s convincing the Tukwila Parks & Rec Department to get on board and mitigating the four lost playfields (those nice, level though rather noisy grassy strips just over the hill in SeaTac are right out).

The required permitting and buy-in from the city, county, flood control district, state and Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies.

A MOWER CLIPS THE GRASS ON A PRACTICE FIELD BEHIND A SCREEN AT STARFIRE. THE SOUNDERS’ FACILITIES ARE OUTSIDE THE EDITOR’S FISH HABITAT PROJECT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

And the price tag. The morning of my walk I’d picked up a MegaMillions ticket for Friday’s half-billion-dollar drawing, but I only got one number, so NMFS Section 6 and Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board grants will be key and the project would have to compete well with others to score money from either of those two heavy-lift sources.

So, yeah, my project is probably a long shot for salmon and steelhead, but sometimes you gotta think big — kinda like Wayne Rooney did from his own half last November.