WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET (2017 TR Steelhead Runs)

Wading Trinity River

Many moods of fall steelheading- Washington angler Don Frogner in the mood with heavy anticipation

Steelhead release

Bruce admiring chrome perfection after a royal ass-kicking

Straight from the lineups, the past several weeks have reflected below average steelhead returns and many new TR anglers or unfamiliar with anadromous fish cycles are questioning — where’s the beef. Previous years, by October, solid steelhead runs were in and crunching. Harsh reality, the past is history so savior the memories. This is 2016 and obviously fish aren’t looking at the calendar. Those in question need to take a deep breath and accept, to date, what you see is what you get.

All anadromous fish are cyclic and survive, migrate and perpetuate when conditions and opportunities permit. Impacting factors and current conditions have been least favorable for all stocks for quite some time. To help better understand current TR salmon and steelhead returns take a few steps out of the lineups and dial in the big picture; what has occurred and and is currently happening with the Klamath and Trinity watersheds.

A – Since early August a major sandbar established itself at the mouth of the Klamath R., restricting salmon-steelhead access. Only during the highest tides, and when additional flows were released from both the KR and TR, fish could enter the system in brief pulses rather than major surges. Currently, the bar is still impacting fish migrations and will more than likely remain until the first significant rains.

B – Despite last winter’s rains/snow pack and dramatic flow releases (TR 10,000cfs. peak flows) and addition Klamath river flows, lethal water temps (Klamath R. topped 79 degrees-Trinity R reached 77 degrees) plagued both salmon-steelhead stocks; remarkably eluding isolated ich disease in the lower K. system.

C – Keep in mind this is the second year returns on the heels of a five year drought. Due to the lack of rainfall, snow pack’s as well as heightened illegal commercial farming, for years other than last winter, flows in all secondary rivers and tributaries have been an all-time low (limiting vital spawning-rearing habitats), many simply dried up, ultimately severely impacting native salmon-steelhead out-migrants as well as returning adults.

D – For the past two years one of the largest rearing ponds in the world, the Pacific Ocean, has supported a persistent El Nino pattern that has also greatly impacted west coast salmon-steelhead stocks.

Steelhead water release

An encouraging number of these guys are showing up in the line-ups-testing your nerves and keeping the stoke alive

Easy for most anyone to understand, unfavorable conditions have been stacked and current returns are a reflection of the repercussions. As predicted TR salmon returns, both springers and fall- runs, were below marginal; unfortunately poor. On the brighter side, there are steelhead in the TR, surprisingly scattered head to tail. The catch is not in any great numbers. Unseasonably high spring-summer flows have had a major effect on summer-fall steelhead movements; dispersing small pods throughout the system with no given surge anywhere. No thyme or reason fish are where you find them; definitely one of those years better to be lucky than good. Currently TR flows are 450cfs. (Slated to drop to 300cfs. Oct. 15). Water temps are ideal and we have experienced a few shifts of smaller adults, 3lbs. up to 7 lbs., accepting skaters (Kit-Chuckie-Joe’s It—Muddlers—Greased Liners) and go-to traditional patterns (Hiltons-Burlaps-Breadcrusts-Chappies) fished in a variety of water compositions. To date, most encouraging and possibly shedding light for next years’ returns has been the increasing number of TR native half-pounders this year which were all but non-existent last year. Possibly more promising steelhead runs will arrive with significant rains. Possibly late fall-winter runs will represent greater stocks, slabs larger than average. Who knows it is too early to speculate.

The colorful fall season is well upon us and steelhead are in the TR. The question remains how bad do you want to catch a steelhead? No Brainer – Now Get Out There!!!

Fish on!

“The knees go first, followed closely by nerve, or so former dancers and football players tell me. It’s the same with anglers, or at least it is with those of us who wade” (Jim Babb) Scott exercising all the moves