Surplus hatchery steelhead from a closed Washington Coast river system are beginning to be placed in Chehalis Valley lakes, but anglers may not have received word.
That’s if a swing through the region by Frank Urabeck and a friend this week is any indication.
The duo hit Fort Borst Park Pond where none of the handful of anglers at the lake in Centralia along I-5 were aware that steelhead were being transferred there, according to Urabeck.
Some 50 steelhead from the Skookumchuck River hatchery were released here February 8, according to WDFW’s fish stocking report, while the agency’s Medium blog has been updated to show that another 50 were put there this Wednesday.
Over at Elma’s Vance Creek Pond 2, also known as Lake Inez, there were no anglers on hand when Urabeck stopped by, he said, but 50 fish splashed in on the 15th, according to WDFW’s amended blog.
Lake Sylvia, in a state park due north of Montesano, is also slated to be stocked with surplus steelhead.
With closures on the Chehalis system due to below-escapement-forecasted returns of wild steelhead in recent years, last winter Urabeck, a longtime angler advocate from Pierce County, pushed for a terminal-zone opener on the Skookumchuck to tap into its abundant hatchery return but was shot down. This year he’s urging WDFW to get the word out more widely on the overall lake stocking program, which the agency has via its Medium blog and 2,300-plus followers, but not as a traditional press release.
Outside the Chehalis watershed, Kress Lake near Kalama, Horseshoe Lake near Woodland, Black Lake in Ilwaco and Cases Pond in Raymond, among others, have also received surplus winter steelhead from hatcheries on the Kalama, North Fork Lewis, Willapa and Naselle Rivers, all of which are open to fishing, though under restrictions on the latter two.
“This is part of an ongoing effort to give anglers an opportunity to harvest surplus hatchery steelhead with minimal to no impacts on wild fish,” WDFW explained on Medium. “It is expected that hundreds of these high-quality ‘landlocked’ steelhead — weighing an average of 8 to 10 pounds apiece — will be trucked to these lakes and ponds in the weeks ahead.”
Aside from anger generated by the closing of access to abundant excess hatchery steelhead on the Chehalis system due to a lack of a fishery agreement with a coastal tribe concerned about poor wild returns, the stocking of surplus steelhead in lakes draws mixed reviews from anglers. Some see it as at least providing a fishing opportunity for larger fish, while others say they’re not as aggressive in stillwater.
Anglers using PowerBait or other dough off bottom, eggs, shrimp or nightcrawlers under a bobber, or using spinners are finding success, WDFW reports.
The agency says it will be monitoring how well the surplus stocking program in Region 6 works. Steelhead placed in lakes such Borst, Vance 2 and Sylvia will have a tag on their dorsal fins with a number for anglers to call.