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Fall Steelhead Review and Winter Steelhead Forecast
By Jason Tonelli
Welcome to the Pacific Angler January Newsletter: Winter Steelhead Edition.
I hope this edition finds you healthy, happy and refreshed after the holiday season.
Fall Steelhead Review: Well this Fall was certainly bitter sweet. As most of you know by now the Thompson was closed for the first time in history as the likely hood of there being more than 800 to 900 fish in the river was not looking good at all and the Ministry of Environment was forced to shut the river down. As depressing as this was there has been a resurgence of volunteers into the Steelhead Society of British Columbia and they are already working hard on projects to bring back as many of these great fish as possible. While the Thompson was in dire straights, those who made the trip up to the Skeena were generally rewarded with one of the best seasons in the last 10 years.
There was excellent fly fishing for steelhead, especially early, as we had the right water conditions and the sockeye nets were out of the river. Another high light this Fall was the Stamp. It was loaded with summer steelhead! Anglers fishing the upper river by jet boat or drift boat in the Fall when the summer runs start to feed on the abundant chinook eggs, had some fantastic days, often hooking more than a dozen fish and sometimes as many as 20 in a single day. In fact there are so many summer runs and so few anglers the hatchery is switching some of their summer run production to winter runs, as this is when most of the anglers descend upon the Stamp. If you want to hook your first steelhead or know somebody who does, give us a call to book a trip on the Stamp for next fall or this winter. This river rarely disappoints.
I said bitter sweet remember? Back to the bitters. The Skeena was good, the Stamp was on fire, but the Dean was lean. The count on the Dean this year was 1,200 fish and we would like to see it around 7,000 fish like it was in the 80ís. In short fishing was brutal this year except for one or two weeks when it seemed most of the fish came in. Chinook returns were also way down.
There wasnít much for nets in the river this year and the habitat is relatively stable so it seems to be low ocean survival. What does all this mean? It means that each river truly has its own personality and some are doing well and some are not and if you want to know where to go or where not to go just give me a call. I will end on a positive note. We are entering a new ocean cooling trend for our region and this has a positive impact on steelhead and salmon stocks and the biologists are looking for stronger returns overall to start showing in 2010.
Winter Steelhead Forecast: So far so good! Early indications are we are going to have some good winter run fishing this year. Some of the earlier systems like the Stamp have had some good to great fishing despite the low water and deep freeze we experienced in December.
The Chilliwack/Vedder has also been consistent for December and there should be good numbers of winter steelhead again this year with the peak of the run occurring through February and March.
The Chehalis has had a few early fish and we are expected to have an average return on the river again this year. Finding some water to fish can be a challenge. Over the last several seasons it seems fish will get hooked down low in the ďjungleĒ when it is low or up top in the canyon after a high water event. Like most of our coastal streams expect the bulk of the fish to come in from February to March.
The Squamish and Cheakamus can expect tough times this year as this is one of the return years that were affected by the spill. There has been some hatchery steelhead work done to mitigate the effects of the spill but we are going to have to sit back and see what happens this year and the next couple of years until we get a clear picture as to how these fragile steelhead stocks are going to fare.
The Seymour and Capilano were worth the trip last year for winter steelhead and we are hoping the same holds true for this years return. We havenít heard too many reports but most of the fish donít show up for another month or so.
Back to the Island. The East Coast of Vancouver Island continues to be hit very hard by poor ocean survival. There arenít expected to be many fish in the Nanaimo, Englishman, Little Qualicum, Big Qualicum, and Campbell/Quinsam. Steelhead fishing on these once famous steelhead streams has been extremely tough for many years now. There have been a few fish caught already in the Cowichan which is promising, but fishing is usually better in February and early March.
The Stamp as mentioned earlier has started off strong and it should be a solid year. The Gold has made a bit of a comeback the last few years so we are hoping for a good return here as well. Most of the pressure on the Island is going to be concentrated on the Cowichan, Stamp and Gold as these are some of the rivers that still have some decent returns on steelhead.
At the recent Steelhead Society of B.C. AGM provincial steelhead biologist Greg Wilson noted that ocean survival for steelhead smolts on the East side of Vancouver Island has been very low and the survival rates on the rivers pouring into the West side of Vancouver Island have been a little better. You might want to take this into consideration when planning a trip. Take a close look at our course schedule for upcoming steelhead drift fishing and fly fishing courses, steelhead fly tying courses, and steelhead jig tying courses.
We also just did a bunch of orders for steelhead drift fishing and fly tying materials so we will be fully stocked for your steelhead needs. If you have any questions about steelhead trips, stocks, where to go or what to use, please feel free to give me a call or come by the shop for a coffee and a chat.