The Fishing Corner: To cast in the rivers, follow the summer smolt stocking

Fishing intensity picks up a notch with the opening of rivers, streams and beaver dams statewide the first Saturday of June, which is the 7th.

For Grays Harbor anglers, this means a concentrated effort to connect with a summer steelhead.

Most of the attention will be focused on the rivers that received a smolt plant in 2012. Within the coastal river systems category, there are primarily three rivers the Department of Fish &Wildlife did an actual summer steelhead smolt stocking. For us locally, the Wynooche River obtained 60,000 smolt and the Humptulips River received a 31,028 fish plant. The Calawah River, further north, received a plant of 49,500 smolt. These returning fish will be marked and thereby identified as hatchery steelhead. If there are any steelhead occupying other streams, they could very well be the offspring of earlier runs, and therefore, they would not be marked and, of course, would not fit the classification of hatchery steelhead. They would be considered wild fish, if they possess an adipose fin. Such fish are protected in Washington state and thereby must be released.

We need to be reminded that the ratio of returning fish is between 1-3 percent. If we were to take the highest number, being 3 percent, and do the math, we could expect to see 1,800 fish over the summer in the Wynooche River. By the same token, we could expect to see 931 returning steelhead in the Humptulips River.

For those choosing to fish the Wynooche run, it is possible to intercept these fish by fishing the Chehalis River from the mouth of the Wynooche downstream. This option may give anglers more river miles to pursue fish.

As these numbers would indicate, the greater volumes of steelhead planted are for the winter season. The summer steelhead fishery has not gotten the major plant numbers for our area. An example of this is the Humptulips River, which received approximately four times the volume of fish in the winter verses the summer season.

The Chehalis System winter plant was spread out to include not only the Wynooche, but the East Fork of the Satsop River, Skookumchuck River and the upper Chehalis River. Again, there were a total of 342,200 smolts planted for the winter fishery. I might add that the Wynooche River, itself, obtained almost three times more fish for the winter season by comparison to its plant for the summer.

There are a few good reasons to get right on this fishery at this time. First, the water conditions are generally more favorable than during the low water existent during the summer. Second, the fish are less spooked and more willing to take a presentation. Third, there is a good chance that the fish numbers will be there due to the earlier spring rains.

On the other hand, anglers will need to realize that opening day will see a burst of fishers as well. If I was to cast a vote on what to do, I would go fishing. This is your best chance to catch a summer steelhead despite the crowds.


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