Get those bobbers and eggs off of your line, or if you choose to fish for them that way, be happy with 1 or 2 fish a day. If we continue to practice our current fishing techniques and guide catch expectations, we will love these beautiful fish to death. Too many out of state guides and too many bobber doggers are making the fish catch rates skyrocket with an already dwindling fish population. Check out the article for yourself and think about how your actions effect the Hoh steelhead fishery.
Idaho department of fish and game is considering opening up the Clearwater to fall Chinook fishing upstream from Memorial Bridge in Lewiston this fall. This will lead to more fishing pressure on the already crowded clearwater river and will also most likely lead to bi-catch deaths of wild Steelhead. The return numbers of steelhead in the Snake river tributaries last year (2018) were piss poor at best and this year is looking even worse. Considering these low return years and an overall decline in Steelhead numbers, I don’t see how adding more pressure to the river, could be of any benefit to rivers health?
Please read the article and comment! Thanks!
By Gary Lewis For The Register-Guard
“Black on the bottom, white in the middle and black on top. Skunk hair,” Jim Dexter said.
The object of our conversation, a faithful-to-the-original version of the Skunk, a classic steelhead fly, sat on the table in front of me.
It was tied with oval silver tinsel, although the tinsel was buried in the black chenille of the body. It bore a black skunk hair wing, from which the pattern drew its name. And it was topped with polar bear.
Polar bear hair is hard to obtain these days, but its qualities have not been forgotten.
“It has a sheen in the water. There is nothing else like it,” Dexter said.
Dexter was born in Northern California, born a fisherman and a tyer of flies. He moved to Bend as a teenager and now makes his home in La Pine.
From his home base, it is not far to fish his favorite waters — the Deschutes and Lava Lake.
Dexter showed me another fly, this one an updated version of the Green Butt Skunk.
It sported a chartreuse tag with red hackle fibers, a shorter body and a wing tied of polar bear with pearl Krystal Flash.
In the book “Fish Flies: The Encyclopedia of the Fly Tier’s Art,” author Terry Hellekson gives the tying recipe for the original Skunk. It’s tail is crimson red hackle barbs. The body is black chenille ribbed with oval silver tinsel. The hackle is black, tied on as a collar, laying back and down. The wing is black skunk hair with an overwing of white skunk hair.
Hellekson discusses the origin of the fly, credited by some to Wes Drain, of Seattle, who tied a similar fly for the Stillaguamish River in the 1930s. Another claim, Hellekson reported, tied it to the North Umpqua. Hellekson didn’t lend that one credence, but he was probably referring to Mildred Krogel, a fly-tyer from Roseburg. A lot of the early Skunks came from her desk.
“My father,” Hellekson wrote, “obtained a sample of the fly from Jim Pray in 1934. I have concluded that it is most likely not an Oregon fly.”
Dexter would agree. He told me the rest of the story.
“Dad had the Redwood cafe down in Fortuna (Calif.). He was the chef,” Dexter said. Before that, the elder Dexter owned the cafe at the bus depot in Eureka (Calif.).
“His name was Rollin Benjamin Dexter, but his friends called him Rosie.” Dexter figures his dad was born about 1908, which would have put him in his mid-30s when little Jim was born.
“He told me about tying the Skunk ever since I was in diapers. He tied it for the Eel River; for steelhead,” Dexter said. “He had another fly he tied for silvers, it was called the Black and White Plastic.”
Dexter held one up.
“No one has ever seen this,” he said.
The Black and White Plastic was tied small, on a Mustad offset hook, long before the style of salmon and steelhead hooks in favor today. The Skunk, also was tied smaller in those days.
“The Skunk always had a red tail. Just hackle fiber. It had a black chenille body,” Dexter said. “It had a silver oval tinsel rib – large – you can’t buy it today. I can’t find the big stuff. It had black hackle up front and skunk for a wing. Black on the bottom, white in the middle and black on top. That’s where it got its name.”
Among Rosie’s best friends was Pray, the owner of a small fly shop in Eureka, 22 miles north of Fortuna. Pray sent a copy of Rosie’s Skunk off to Zane Grey and the steelhead fly tied with the hair of a common stink weasel began to gain admirers in the Northwest.
It has long been a favorite steelhead fly, although its offspring, the Green Butt Skunk might be more effective. An angler named Dan Callaghan added the green butt to the original Skunk in the early 1950s. Tied in many variations, both the Skunk and its kittens are topped with calf tail — sometimes black and white and most often in white. But to get it right, a person wants to tie with skunk hair. Add polar bear if you can find it.
If you get close enough to shave a skunk, save a little of that fine wing material for me. Dexter favors the chartreuse tag on the rear of the Skunk, but when he talked about it, he shivered.
“If dad saw me putting a green butt on that thing, he’d kick my ass,” he said.
Gary Lewis is the host of “Frontier Unlimited” TV and author of “Fishing Central Oregon,” “Fishing Mount Hood Country”, “Hunting Oregon” and other titles. Contact Lewis at www.GaryLewisOutdoors.com
*Note this article is recycled from the Gorge Fly Shop's blog:
The Current State of Steelhead
A couple notes, findings, and thoughts...
Gorge Fly Shop | Product Specialist
Here is a link to the full article: http://gorgeflyshops.blogspot.com/2017/09/the-current-state-of-steelhead.html
"Recently, it seems as though a day hasn’t gone by this summer where the question doesn’t come up. Whether it’s phone calls, walk in shop convos, or casual talks amongst peers. Pretty much every time the topic arises the underlying notion is that the current state of steelhead is bad, doomed, saddening, or just plain frustrating. Certainly I’m not here to deny any truth to such notions but rather attempt to learn a little more and read between the lines if at all possible. The point of this editorial isn’t to deny the fact that wild steelhead are in peril, or that human caused activity hasn’t hurt fisheries, nor does it look at other dams or regions and their current/historical status quo, but rather attempts to make sense of the current state of steelhead in regards to our local waters- specifically the Bonneville Dam fish counts."
Preface to the 1975 Edition
Fall is the time that most of the migratory runs come back to the rivers here on the Pacific Coast of North America. All our five species of Pacific salmon come home then except for a few early-running chinooks and cohos. Most of the winter-spawning cutthroat trout run into the rivers then. The last of the summer-run steelhead and the first of the winter runs almost close the gap between themselves. It is the liveliest, most exciting time of all the year. Gulls and eagles, goldeneyes and mergansers, bears and mink and raccoons all come down to the rivers.
We know so much more about these migratory runs than we once did: where they go in the oceans, how they move through the ocean years, even a little of how they find their way back to their rivers of origin. We know something of their fresh-water needs and timing. We know that each species of fish that runs to a major watershed has many subraces that are peculiarly adapted, each to its own particular part of the watershed. We know that these wild stocks have wide genetic variations that can enable them to survive and rebuild in the face of disease or natural disaster. We know much more than this—about survival rates and growth rates, the timing of downstream migration, the importance of feeding in the estuaries, and the river’s plume of fresh-water flow over salt. We know we can tamper with these things only at great risk to the survival of the runs.
How much more is there that we don’t know and should have learned by now? In British Columbia we do not yet recognize fish production as one of the uses of fresh water, yet without fresh water we would have neither salmon nor trout nor char nor eulachons, and we should be much the poorer for that. We know that logging and most other forms of land use can be very damaging to watersheds unless carefully controlled, but we have not yet learned how to exercise this control. We know that hatcheries are of doubtful value at best, and ruinous at worst, and we know there are better and more productive alternatives. Yet we haven’t examined those alternatives thoroughly and we haven’t learned ways of putting them to work. We know that streams can be protected and their productivity substantially increased, but we haven’t as yet really learned how to go about it or cared to put real effort into the learning. We still trust engineers and technologists, or say we do, which might be all right if the fish responded to them with equal faith, but they don’t. The fish respond to their own biology and to the fresh-and salt-water conditions that serve it.
We know so much and so little about the anadromous salmons and trouts. What we do know would be enough to save them if we put it to full use. In British Columbia, where we are not cursed with main stem dams on our major rivers, we could hope to return all our streams to full fertility and maximum production. It is a dream I like to dwell on when I am along the fall rivers. The salmon themselves clean and refresh the gravels of the stream bottom in their spawning activities; later their dead bodies feed fertility to the stream itself, benefiting all the creatures that use it, including their own progeny. There is a charm of interdependency in all this, some magic statement of unity and completeness that gives promise of a return to rivers of primitive abundance. It is more than a dream really. I believe we can achieve it, though there may have to be a little more order and regularity in the new abundance.
Campbell River, B.C.
Following an observation by a fisheries biologist and member of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe of a possible Chinook salmon in the former Lake Mills, two Olympic National Park fisheries staff conducted a snorkel survey of the Elwha River above the old Glines Canyon dam site.
They found three adult Chinook salmon, all between 30 and 36 inches long, in the former Lake Mills, between Windy Arm and Glines Canyon. Two fish were seen resting near submerged stumps of ancient trees;the third was found in a deep pool in the former Lake Mills.
"When dam removal began three years ago, Chinook salmon were blocked far downstream by the Elwha Dam," said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. "Today, we celebrate the return of Chinook to the upper Elwha River for the first time in over a century."
"Thanks to the persistence and hard work of many National Park Service employees, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and many other partners, salmon can once again reach the pristine Elwha watershed within Olympic National Park," said Creachbaum.
In addition to the three Chinook, biologists counted 27 bull trout, nearly 400 rainbow trout and two small sculpin during their survey above Glines Canyon.
The biologists began their snorkel survey in Rica Canyon three miles above the old Glines Canyon dam site. They then snorkeled downstream through the Canyon, through the former Lake Mills and downstream to a point just above Glines Canyon.
Last week, park biologists confirmed that two radiotagged bull trout had migrated through Glines Canyon and were in Rica Canyon. The three Chinook observed this week were not radiotagged, but were seen by observers on the riverbank and in the water.
The following day, biologists counted 432 live Chinook in a 1.75 mile section of river just downstream of Glines Canyon, but still above the old Elwha dam site.
Elwha River Restoration is a National Park Service project that includes the largest dam removal in history, restoration of the Elwha River watershed, its native anadromous fisheries and the natural downstream transport of sediment and woody debris. For more information about this multi-faceted project, people can visit the Olympic National Park website at https://www.nps.gov/olym/naturescience/elwha-ecosystem-restoration.htm
By: Bennet Hall, Re-posted from the Corvallis Gazette-Times.
SILETZ - Francis "Doc" Reedy raises a pair of binoculars to his eyes and scans the large pool of still water where the north and south forks of the Siletz River come together. It doesn't take him long to spot what he's looking for.
"Wow!" he says. "That's a huge steelhead!"
The Siletz, which has its source near the border of Polk and Lincoln counties and flows 67 miles to the sea near Lincoln City, is well known in fishing circles for its steelhead, an oceangoing variant of rainbow trout that, like salmon, return to their home streams to spawn. Anglers on the river have reported landing steelhead more than 30 inches long and weighing well over 20 pounds.
While there are plenty of good fishing rivers in Oregon, the Siletz is unique in one regard: It is home to the only wild summer steelhead run that originates in the Coast Range. For dedicated anglers like Reedy, president of the Corvallis-based Bluebacks chapter of Trout Unlimited, that's a distinction worth defending.
The river’s upper reaches have been managed as a sanctuary for wild summer steelhead since the mid-1990s, but in recent years hatchery fish have been finding their way past the barriers designed to keep them out, posing a threat to the genetic purity — and ongoing viability — of the region’s only summer run.
“The wild summer steelhead runs, they have been in peril for some years,” said Reedy, a semiretired large-animal veterinarian who lives in North Albany. “We just feel that’s an important resource for the area and the whole state.”
As recently as the early 1970s, state wildlife managers counted an annual average of 624 wild summer steelhead returning to the upper Siletz. By the early ’90s, however, the annual returns had plummeted to less than 100, with fewer than 50 counted in some years.
Starting in 1994, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife implemented a recovery plan aimed at giving the wild summer steelhead a fighting chance to survive.
The goal was to keep competing fish out of the upper Siletz by stopping them at Valsetz Falls, a 40-foot cascade that drops through a boulder-choked gorge not far from the onetime timber company town of the same name. While high winter flows generally keep most fish out of the upper basin, some winter-migrating steelhead and salmon were making their way past the falls during the summer, along with hatchery-produced steelhead.
“The thought was there was so much competition between winter and summer steelhead that the summer steelhead were just not doing that well,” said John Spangler, a fish biologist with ODFW.
To keep the winter-run steelhead (which spawn in the lower river) downstream, the state agency used a fish ladder and small dam at the falls.
When river levels begin to drop in the summer, ODFW crews place boards across an opening in the dam to divert more water through the ladder, making it a more attractive route for fish working their way upstream. Fish coming up the ladder are caught in a trap, which is checked regularly by ODFW personnel. Winter-run fish are trucked back to the lower river, while the wild summer steelhead are released above the dam to continue their journey to their spawning grounds in the basin’s upper reaches.
At first, hatcheries played a part in the recovery program, with the state releasing 80,000 smolts a year into the Siletz system. That number has since been reduced to 50,000, and the state stopped allowing hatchery steelhead to pass the dam at Valsetz Falls in 2002.
Today, no fishing is allowed above the falls. Anglers working the lower river can keep up to two fin-clipped hatchery steelhead per day, but fishing for wild summer steelies is catch-and-release only.
Any wild winter steelhead or salmon found in the trap are trucked back to the lower river for release, while hatchery fish are either delivered to area food banks, donated to high school biology programs for dissection or killed and placed in the river, where the nutrients they brought back from the sea can be recycled.
“We know hatchery fish pose a risk to wild stocks,” Spangler said. “(We’re) trying to find this balance between conservation of wild stocks and still having this opportunity for harvest of hatchery fish.”
The wild summer steelhead run seems to have responded well to that approach, according to Spangler, with a much higher annual return.
“Now we’re getting on average over 500 fish,” he said. “When we stopped those winter-migrating fish, it really zoomed back up.”
The hatchery threat
Apparently, however, some hatchery steelhead didn’t get the memo.
A few years ago, members of the Bluebacks monitoring the area above the falls started noticing clipped-fin steelhead in the upper Siletz. In 2014, some of the steelheaders donned wetsuits and snorkeling gear to do an in-stream count.
“We saw quite a few hatchery fish, and that alarmed us,” Reedy said.
Last year they commissioned a snorkel survey by professional fish biologists that confirmed their fears, finding that hatchery fish made up roughly 20 percent of the total steelhead population above the falls.
According to Reedy, that’s a problem for several reasons.
For one thing, hatchery steelhead compete with their wild counterparts for food. They can also create crowded conditions that facilitate the spread of disease.
In addition, hatchery fish sometimes prey on wild steelhead. But a bigger problem comes from the introduction of large numbers of hatchery smolts into the river at one time, which can act like a magnet for predators such as seabirds, herons, otters and mergansers that feed on wild and human-raised fish alike.
“When the hatchery fish come through,” Reedy said, “the predators just go nuts.”
Another concern has to do with DNA. Researchers have suspected for years that hatchery fish are less genetically fit to survive in the wild than native fish, a theory that appears to have been corroborated by an ODFW-Oregon State University study published in February that found hatchery steelhead differed from wild fish in more than 700 genes after just a single generation.
Specifically, the study determined that many of those altered genes showed adaptation to highly crowded hatchery conditions. Passing those traits on to the next generation could result in steelhead less suited to survive on their own while watering down the native gene pool.
“My worry is inbreeding,” Reedy said. “If you lose that resiliency and (genetic) diversity, you’re in trouble.”
In response to those concerns, conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited and the Native Fish Society are pushing the notion of establishing wild steelhead sanctuaries.
The state of Washington recently declared the Elwha and Nisqually rivers wild steelhead gene banks, where hatchery-raised fish are to be excluded and other measures taken to protect native steelhead runs. Oregon has taken similar steps in some smaller watersheds such as the Siletz, and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio recently introduced legislation to implement steelhead protections in the Steamboat Creek drainage in the North Umpqua River basin.
“We can’t go back to 1950,” said John McMillan, head scientist for Trout Unlimited in the Pacific Northwest. “But we do think there are places that are more special than others, and we think those places deserve special treatment so these fish can be protected.”
Plugging the gap
Those protections may not work, though, if hatchery fish can’t be kept out of wild steelhead spawning areas such as the upper Siletz. After learning of Trout Unlimited’s concerns, ODFW took steps to address the problem at Valsetz Falls.
Spangler thinks the hatchery steelhead found in the upper river got there by swimming up the falls over the last two summers, when the agency neglected to put in the dam boards to divert water into the fish ladder.
“Those weren’t put in, and it allowed more fish to get over the dam,” he said, but added that’s no longer the case.
“We put a lot of effort into keeping hatchery fish out of the upper basin this year,” Spangler said. “The expectation is we should have very few if any hatchery steelhead above the falls.”
To test that theory, McMillan led a snorkel survey of the upper Siletz on Sept. 30. Joining him were two other fish biologists, Nick Chambers of Trout Unlimited and Conrad Gowell of the Native Fish Society. Reedy drove a support vehicle.
Armed with wetsuits, snorkels and diving masks, the three scientists surveyed 11 miles of river. They moved methodically from pool to pool, counting every steelhead they could find and keeping a wary eye out for the telltale clipped adipose fin that marks a hatchery-bred fish.
They didn’t expect to spot every summer-run steelhead that made it past the falls this year. Instead, they wanted to see whether the proportion of hatchery fish had gone up or down from last year’s 20 percent.
The results were encouraging. The final tally: 147 steelhead. Of that number, only nine, or 6.1 percent, were hatchery products.
“That’s probably acceptable,” said Chambers, an organizer for Trout Unlimited’s Wild Steelhead Initiative. “We’d like to see that at zero, but under the circumstances … that’s certainly much better than last year.”
A delicate balance
Of course, hatchery fish are far from the only threat to the Siletz River’s one-of-a-kind wild summer steelhead run.
As in virtually every other river system in the United States, fish in the Siletz basin are under pressure from a host of human activities. Those include water withdrawals for residential, industrial and agricultural use; loss of forest cover to various types of development; the possibility of dam construction, such as the proposed Polk County reservoir project at the old Valsetz town site; and logging activity, which can lead to increased sediment loading, higher water temperatures, herbicide runoff, higher water volumes during flood events and loss of downed wood needed to supply nutrients, create channel complexity and provide habitat.
Logging is an especially sensitive issue in the Siletz basin, where about 75 percent of the total area is privately owned industrial timberland. The remaining 25 percent or so is held by the Bureau of Land Management, including the Valley of the Giants, a 51-acre old-growth preserve, and Boulder Creek, a key spawning stream for summer-run steelhead.
“This is the most deforested watershed in Oregon — 42 percent of the Siletz basin has been clearcut in the last 12 years,” Reedy said. “And the problem is they’re not happy with that 42 percent. They also want the BLM lands, to cut that.”
The federal agency is currently evaluating a new management plan for Western Oregon that Reedy fears could lead to intensive logging in the Boulder Creek drainage.
“That’s a great steelhead stream,” Reedy said. “In the back of my mind, I feel like that’s what kept the steelhead alive for a lot of years.”
If even more of the Siletz basin is logged, the wild steelhead supporters argue, it could upset the delicate balance that has allowed the summer run to bounce back, reversing the progress it has made so far. That could lead to a listing as threatened or endangered, triggering a cascade of legal restrictions on logging and other activities under the federal Endangered Species Act — something nobody seems to want.
“Our message at Trout Unlimited is that when you have a lot of uncertainty, you need to manage on the side of caution,” McMillan said. “Because these fish are really valuable, not only to fishermen but in terms of how we manage these lands.”
Or, as Reedy put it: “Part of what we’re doing is trying to preserve the fish, but it’s also to keep them from being listed as an endangered species.”
Spangler argues that ODFW’s management strategy is sound, pointing to the increased wild steelhead returns since the 1990s as evidence.
“I think it’s the best approach we’ve got at this point,” he said. “I’m pretty confident that the recovery plan that was developed is working.”
Despite some reservations about the state’s plan, Reedy hopes it does prove successful in the end.
He made his first visit to the Siletz River in 1972, not long after moving to the region as a recent college graduate from the Midwest. Since then, he’s fished these waters many times. Even when the steelhead aren’t biting, he says, he values his time on the river.
“It’s a unique experience in that respect,” he said. “Even if you don’t see any fish, it’s a beautiful area.”
The Siletz, he adds, is especially precious because of its location in the midst of an industrial logging zone. As an isolated oasis of natural beauty in one of the most heavily logged parts of the Coast Range, Reedy argues, it provides a refuge not only for wild steelhead but also for the outdoor lovers who fish for them.
“It’s nice to have those places, just to get away,” he said. “It’s good for the body, it’s good for the mind and it’s good for the soul.”
The Public Scoping meetings have been announced for the Draft EIS on the Columbia and Snake River Dams. This includes the following dams, Libby, Albeni Falls, Dworshak, Chief Joseph, Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental, Ice Harbor, McNary, John Day, The Dalles, Bonneville, Hungry Horse and Grand Coulee Dams. The Army Corp, BOR and BPA will hold 15 public scoping meetings during the fall and winter of 2016 to invite the public to comment on the EIS. The 15 public meetings will be held on:
October 24, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m
Wenatchee Community Center, 504 S. Chelan Ave.
October 25, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Town of Coulee Dam, City Hall,
300 6 Lincoln Ave.,
Coulee Dam, Washington.
October 26, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Priest River Community Center
5399 Highway 2,
Priest River, Idaho
October 27, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Kootenai River Inn Casino & Spa,
7169 Plaza St.,
Bonners Ferry, Idaho
November 1, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Red Lion Hotel Kalispell,
20 North Main St.
November 2, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
City of Libby City Hall,
952 E. Spruce St.
November 3, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Hilton Garden Inn Missoula
3720 N. Reserve St.
November 14, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Historic Davenport Hotel,
10 South Post Street
November 16, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Red Lion Hotel Lewiston, Seaport Room
621 21st St.
November 17, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Courtyard Walla Walla, The Blues Room
550 West Rose St.
Walla Walla, Washington
November 29, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Grove Hotel, 245 S. Capitol Blvd.
December 1, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Town Hall, Great Room, 1119 8th Ave.
December 6, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, River Gallery Room
5000 Discovery Drive
The Dalles, Oregon.
December 7, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Oregon Convention Center
777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
December 8, 2016, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., The Loft at the Red Building
20 Basin St.
For more information go to the US Army Corps of Engineers page: