WDFW reaches agreement with Wild Fish Conservancy Over Steelhead

If you weren’t aware the Wild Fish Conservancy and the WDFW have been battling for several years over the release of hatchery steelhead.

Is releasing hatchery steelhead detrimental to wild steehead runs? That is what is still being decided!

In its March 31 complaint, the Duvall-based non-profit group claimed the department’s Puget Sound hatchery steelhead programs violate the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) by impairing the recovery of wild steelhead, salmon, and bull trout. All three species are listed as “threatened” under the ESA.

The theory being that hatchery steelhead harm the survival rates of wild steelhead.  For now the two have agreed to suspend the lawsuit while the WDFW has their steelhead Hatchery Genetic Management Plans (HGMPs) reviewed and approved.  Before this lawsuit, the WDFW was going to release about 900,000 juvenile steelhead into Puget Sound rivers.  Now they will release only 180,000 and only into the Skykomish river.

Other provisions of the federal court agreement include:

  • WDFW may release up to 180,000 hatchery steelhead in 2014 and again in 2015 into the Skykomish River, which flows into the Snohomish River near Monroe.
  • The Conservancy will not sue WDFW over its Puget Sound hatchery programs during the next 2 ½ years, or until NMFS approves those programs, whichever comes first.
  • WDFW will refrain from planting early winter (Chambers Creek) hatchery steelhead into most rivers in the Puget Sound region until NMFS completes its review.
  • A 12-year research program will be established in the Skagit River, during which no early winter steelhead will be released into the watershed. In cooperation with the Conservancy, WDFW will work with tribes to evaluate and potentially implement a steelhead hatchery program in the Skagit River using native steelhead.
  • The department may release hatchery steelhead into other rivers around Puget Sound when NMFS approves the department’s HGMPs. This provision will not apply to the Skagit River watershed, which will not receive early winter hatchery steelhead releases during the 12-year study period.
  • Early winter steelhead from WDFW hatcheries that cannot be released into Puget Sound-area rivers will be released into inland waters that have no connection to Puget Sound. The department will give the Conservancy 14 days’ advance notice of those releases.
  • WDFW will pay the Conservancy $45,000 for litigation expenses.

Is This Decision Good Or Bad?

Drop a comment below and let me know what you think?  Is it better to protect the biodiversity of the wild steelhead, or more important to keep good returns of catchable steelhead coming back?

Best Spinning Reels for Fishing for Steelhead

High Quality Steelhead Spinning ReelsSpinning Reels for Catching Steelhead.

Spinning reels built for Steelhead fishing are a special breed. Built to deliver solid hook sets, with fast retrieves for when they run right for you, and with durability to survive year after year of fishing in cold weather with frozen fingers, these are unique spinning reels.

I like these reels for fishing spinners, spoons and the like because they offer fast retrieves and great casting ability.  If you are wanting to use floats to fish for Steelhead, then you are going to want a reel made for casting braided line such as the Wavespin line of reels.

The following are a couple of high quality spinning reels that work for fishing for steelhead!

Okuma Spinning Reels for Steelhead

High Quality Shimano spinning reels for SteelheadThe Okuma Inspira is a great spinning reel for fishing for steelhead. Designed for durability and stopping power, it is what you need in your hands when there is a pissed off steelhead on the end of your line.

The Okuma Inspira has 9 stainless steel HPB ball bearings for a smooth retrieve, and features a multi-disc, Japanese-oiled felt drag washers to suck up those long runs. The entire reel, inside and out is built to be corrosion resistant and has a Hydro Block watertight drag seal to keep things clean.

Shop for the best price on this reel:
Okuma Inspira Spinning Reel

Shimano Stradic Spinning Reel for Steelhead Fishing

Stradic spinning reel for steelhead fishingYou might think that the Shimano Stradic is a bit too much of a finesse reel for Steelhead, but sometimes you need to run lite line to pick up those spooky steelhead. Plus the styling on this reel is just so damn cool that you all most have to buy it!

The Shimano Stradic features the Super Stopper II anti-reverse that uses a one-way bearing that eliminates backplay. This provides you with instant hooksetting power.

Shop for the best price:
Shimano Stradic CI4400


Steelhead Fishing Seminar Dec. 1st, 2012 in Woodinville, WA

Would you like to catch more Steelhead this Winter?

steelhead fishing seminar

Every year countless anglers take to the frigid waters of Washington’s rivers in search of the elusive Steelhead.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be among the few that actually manage to bag a few trophy size Steelhead instead of going home empty handed time and time again? Then this Steelhead fishing seminar is a must attend event.

Free Steelhead Fishing Seminar in Woodinville

3 Rivers Marine is great about putting on very informative seminars covering a wide variety of subjects, ranging from Salmon fishing to Winter Steelheading.  This fishing seminar is taking place on December 1st, 2012 and will go over what you need to be a successful Steelhead fisherman.

If you want to catch Steelhead, be sure to attend this event!

To attend, be sure to register by sending an email to Kent@3riversmarine.com and letting him know you are coming.  The address in case you are wondering where 3 Rivers Marine is:

Three Rivers Marine and Tackle
24300 Woodinville Snohomish Rd.
Woodinville, WA 98072

UV Pink Bug Fly- by Lucian Vasies

The UV Pink Bug Fly Pattern

UV Pink Fly Pattern

This fly is originally credited as being for Grayling, but I can definitely see it being adapted and used as a Steelhead hook.

Now as you will know if you read this blog at all, that I am not by habit a fly fisherman.  However, I will say that from time to time, it is is an effective technique for catching fish, particularly if they are being finicky and you need to go small with your presentation.

UV Pink Bug Fly- by Lucian Vasies

Being that I am not a fly fisherman, how would you Steelheaders that fly fish modify this pattern to work here in our Northwest waters?  The hook looks small to me for Steelhead, but I of course, may be wrong about that not being fully versed in fly fishing.

Leave your comments below and lets hear what you have to say on the matter!

Gear for Winter Steelhead Fishing

Winter steelhead fishing can mean standing in the rain and snow and lots of it.

winter steelhead fishing riverWinter steelhead fishing and the words “rain and snow” shuts most people down immediately.  Probably because they associated it with a cold, hell like misery. However, cold rainy or snowy days fishing for winter run steelhead don’t have to be uncomfortable, if you wear the right gear.

Steelhead fishing on rainy or snowy days can be beautiful.

Everything along the river is washed and clean when it rains. Rain softens the edges of the landscape. It dampens sound and a rainy day on the river in the winter steelhead fishing can almost be likened to communing with nature. Snow turns the landscape into a virtual painting of a magical winter wonderland. The best reason to chase steelhead in the rain and snow, is that the steelhead are more aggressive on cloud-cover days and the worse the weather is, the fewer people you will have to compete with for a spot on the water!

If you wear the right gear, you can be comfortable, no matter what form the water is falling from the sky in. If you don’t then you will get cold, wet and miserable. Additionally, as you lose heat, your motor skills will suffer, making it hard to tie knots and work your reel. Warm muscles perform better than cold ones and a shot of whiskey doesn’t help. Dress to keep yourself warm and dry with the right layers. Start by keeping your skin free from damp. That is one of the biggest keys to staying warm.

Staying dry means more than a rain coat and chest waders.

That isn’t to say that a great quality rain jacket and tough waders aren’t important. What you wear under this outer layer is what will keep you comfortable though. Moisture trapped within your clothing will conduct heat away and even if your wader and coat are keeping water out, you are perspiring and creating moisture inside your gear. When dressing for cold or wet winter steelhead fishing plan your layers from the inside out.

Remember that the layer of clothing next to your skin is the one you will feel all day.

Layer with the right clothing to stay warm.

The maximum perspiration zones are your arm pits, groin and feet. All these areas need special clothing and attention. Your inner layer of clothes should be made from synthetic material for maximum comfort and dryness. It should be soft, well fitting and designed to wick moisture away from your skin.

Never wear cotton clothing under your waders.

Cotton for all its glory,retains moisture and has virtually no insulation value when it is wet. Moisture from perspiration tends to “pass-through”, rather than soak into synthetic materials. Nylon, acrylic and polyester are a much better choice for a base layer than cotton or silk. Wool if you can stand it, is the only natural fiber that will keep you as warm as synthetics. Of course wool is more expensive and often less durable than synthetics (and usually itchy).

You can maximize your comfort by dressing with layers of synthetic material. A layer of synthetic fabric next to your skin topped with a layer of a synthetic fleece should keep you roasty-toasty during most wet fishing trips. Of course you need to pay special attention to what covers your legs and feet. If you are going to be wading, when water temperatures are below 50-degrees (aren’t they always?) doubling up on the layering is recommended. Water temperatures below 40-degrees and you will want to look at heavier double-layering.

Socks are critically important. Water runs down hill and feet sweat, so at least some of your body’s perspiration will collect at your feet. Breathable waders reduce this, but is still something to be aware of, especially if you are hiking between Fishing spots. There is no way for wader feet to breath inside your wading boots.

Thick wool/nylon blend socks are a good choice for inside your waders. The knitted loop pile on the inside gives them the capacity to retain loft or fluffiness, even with the squeezing pressure of your waders around them. This acts as a reservoir for perspiration and helps keep it away from your skin.

When shopping for socks to wear in your waders, go long. Knee high lengths provide another layer of insulation for the lower leg. Remember that all socks are made from knitted yarns which tend to break down as you launder them, loosing loft and insulating qualities. Replace your wader socks often for maximum comfort.

Find the Best Price on Hodgman Men’s Pipestone Breathable Booted Chest Wader with Work Table

Your outer layer is your first layer of defense.

The jacket and waders you choose to wear out winter steelhead fishing must be water-proof. They  also must be able to vent the moisture that will collect inside it. Good quality gear accomplish this by a special membrane called Gore-Tex sandwiched between two layers of protective fabric. This membrane is has small enough pores that water vapor can escape, but liquid water cannot enter.Non-breathable waders and rain jackets are slowly fading out of the market place.

Wading boots or shoes serve three purposes. First is to protect your feet and enhance your balance and traction. The high top leather or man-made leather wading shoes give you better support and last longer per dollar spent, than the less expensive canvas models.

Be sure that your wading shoes fit correctly for maximum support and have enough room so as not to impair your circulation.  No blood flow means cold feet! Always try on wading boots while wearing your waders and full under garments.

Your wading jacket is the roof to everything below it. A parka hood is a must and has to be impenetrable to rain and snow. A winter steelhead fishing jacket must also be designed to keep water from running down your neck or down into your sleeves. Like your waders, the outer shell material should allow perspiration to pass through without allowing rain water to get in, allowing you to remain comfortable in about any kind of weather you may encounter while standing along the river steelhead fishing.

Gloves are an important an often overlooked item. Neoprene gloves are great for cold weather.  There is nothing fun about fishing with frozen fingers. Both slit-finger and fingerless gloves have their places and you need to try a few out to see which you like best.

Try out these insulated fishing gloves!

Lastly, the hat you wear is important. It must be waterproof, even though it will be under the hood of your jacket if it is raining or snowing. A baseball cap with a bill will shield your face and glasses from rain. If the weather is really cold, a cap with ear flaps is a solid choice even if it will look funny.

Regardless of what brands and styles you choose, your winter steelhead fishing gear needs to keep the water out, breath to release sweat, be comfortable and keep you warm.  Skimping on any of these elements can make for a long cold fishing trip!


WDFW Shuts Down Steelhead Fishing in Puget Sound

Straight from the WDFW wire, here is their update on what Puget Sound rivers are closing to Steelhead fishing.  Not surprised considering the flooding that we have had this year.  That has to do a great job of flushing the fish out of the rivers.

So the question now is, is there any hope at all for fishing in Puget Sound?

Fishing in rivers around Puget Sound to close due to low wild steelhead returns

OLYMPIA – Fishing for steelhead and other game fish will close early in several river systems in Puget Sound and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to protect wild steelhead, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.

The early closures will affect the Nooksack, Snohomish, Stillaguamish and Skagit river systems, as well as several streams along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Most rivers will close Feb. 1, although, some waters near WDFW fish hatcheries will remain open through Feb. 15 to provide anglers an opportunity to catch and keep hatchery steelhead.

Pre-season estimates developed by WDFW last fall indicate that wild steelhead will return in numbers far short of target levels, said Jim Scott, assistant director for WDFW’s Fish Program. The closures are necessary to meet the conservation objectives of WDFW’s statewide steelhead management plan and comply with provisions of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), he said.

“We’re closing these rivers early because of conservation concerns,” Scott said. “With low numbers of wild steelhead expected back, we need to take this action to protect those wild fish that do return.”

The early closures are timed in each watershed to coincide with the traditional dates returning wild steelhead begin to arrive, said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager.

Wild steelhead returning to most of the rivers scheduled to close are listed as “threatened” under the ESA. Although anglers are required to release any wild steelhead they catch in these rivers, some of those fish inevitably die from the experience, Leland said.

Waters closing to fishing Feb. 1 include:

Nooksack River System

  • Nooksack River mainstem from the Lummi Indian Reservation boundary to the confluence of North and South forks.
  • North Fork Nooksack River from Maple Creek to Nooksack Falls.
  • Middle Fork Nooksack River from the mouth to the City of Bellingham diversion Dam.
  • South Fork Nooksack River from the mouth to Skookum Creek.

Snohomish River System

  • Snohomish River from the mouth (Burlington Northern railroad bridge) upstream to the confluence of the Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers.
  • Skykomish River from the mouth to the Highway 2 Bridge at the Big Eddy Access.
  • Pilchuck River from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Snohomish city diversion dam.
  • Sultan River from the mouth to 400 feet downstream of diversion dam (river mile 9.7).
  • Wallace River from 200 feet upstream of water intake of salmon hatchery to Wallace Falls.
  • North Fork Skykomish River from the mouth to 1,000 feet downstream of Bear Creek Falls.
  • South Fork Skykomish River from the mouth to 600 feet downstream of Sunset Falls fishway.
  • Snoqualmie River from the mouth to the boat ramp at Plumb access.
  • Tolt River from the mouth to the USGS trolley cable near confluence of North and South forks.
  • Raging River from the mouth to Highway 18 Bridge.

Stillaguamish River System

  • Stillaguamish River from Marine Drive upstream to forks.
  • Pilchuck Creek from the mouth to the Highway 9 Bridge.
  • North Fork Stillaguamish River from the mouth to the mouth of French Creek.
  • South Fork Stillaguamish River from the mouth to 400 feet below the Granite Falls fishway outlet.
  • Canyon Creek from the mouth upstream.

Skagit River System

  • Skagit River mainstem from the mouth to the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport.
  • Skagit River from the mouth of the Cascade River to the Gorge powerhouse at Newhalem.
  • Sauk River from the mouth to the Whitechuck River.
  • Cascade River from the Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge upstream to headwaters.

Strait of Juan de Fuca

  • Dungeness River from the mouth upstream to the forks at Dungeness Forks Campground.
  • Morse Creek from the mouth to the Port Angeles Dam.
  • Salt Creek from the mouth to the bridge on Highway 112.
  • Deep Creek from the mouth upstream.
  • Pysht River from the mouth upstream.
  • Clallam River from the mouth upstream.
  • Sekiu River from the mouth to forks.

Waters closing to fishing Feb. 16 include:

  • North Fork Nooksack River from the mouth to Maple Creek.
  • Skykomish River from the Highway 2 Bridge at the Big Eddy Access to the confluence of North and South forks.
  • Wallace River from the mouth (farthest downstream railroad bridge) to 200 feet upstream of the water intake of salmon hatchery.
  • Snoqualmie River from the boat ramp at Plumb access to Snoqualmie Falls.
  • Tokul Creek from the mouth to the posted cable boundary marker.
  • North Fork Stillaguamish River from the mouth of French Creek to the Swede Heaven Bridge.
  • Skagit River from the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to the mouth of the Cascade River.
  • Cascade River from the mouth to Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge.

Leland reminds anglers that the lower Green River (King County) and the White, Carbon and upper Puyallup rivers closed to fishing for steelhead and other game fish Jan. 16. The upper Green River closes Feb. 1.

For more information on the closures, check the emergency rule changes on WDFW’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/rules_current_order_by_date.j.

Winter Steelhead Lures – The Old #5 Spinner

Winter Steelhead are special critters and it takes something impressive to get them to bite.  Think about it, they just swam up a river, it is bitch-ass cold and they are thinking about sex.  Why would they want to bite a lure?

For my favorite Winter Steelhead lure, it is because it is in their space and pissing them off.  What is it?  The good old #5 spinner!  Why do I love spinners so much for Steelhead fishing?  Beyond the fact that they work for me, they are a no-fuss lure.

I am sure the guys with the fly poles, the shrimp and all the fancy shit will tell you they do better than me, and they are probably right.  But when it is 43 degrees out and I am cold, I don’t want to mess with all that stuff.  I want a lure that works, and I don’t have to re-bait, adjust and fiddle with.

Top quality spinners for catching Steelhead Trout
A selection of spinners for catching Steelhead

In the Winter you will want a bigger spinner with lots of flash to really wake the Steelhead up.  A BIG #5 in silver with some red on it will do the trick.  Big means lots of thump for them to hear/feel and silver means more flash to cut through the murky water you will usually encounter during the wetter months.

What do you think?  What is your favorite spinner for Winter Steelhead fishing?  Post a comment and let me know!