Challenging Currents (2019-Hopes, Dreams, Opportunities & Fresh Arrivals)

Hey Honey-Its Feb, height of Steelhead Season, I’m calling in sick tomorrow and don’t hold dinner!

After closing the 2018 books Pat and I took a month off for some quality family time and long needed R&R. To put it mildly, last year the cookie didn’t crumble our way. The Carr fire was too close for comfort. Locking our house, TFS and evacuating, Pat and I thought the Carr might be the “one.” Just when you thought, some close friends passed away; a rough year for many. Our friends left us with great memories and luckily we survived the deadliest and most destructive fire season in California. We are fortunate and count our blessings.

Photo #1: Tim Regan-Bukanza
Photo #2: Mark Noble-Greased Line
Photo #3: Norm Christensen-North Coast

Hard to believe it is early Feb. and in the heat of the 2018-2019 steelhead runs. How time flies while having fun chasing steel. Each and every steelhead season is a new chapter in a new edition; never know what Ma Nature is going to deliver. The 2018-2019 TR runs have spawned mixed reviews; some good, some great, and the raw, whiners should to keep to themselves. Our take, other than the lower Klamath stealing the fall limelight, 2018-2019 have not really been bang-up years on any west coast steelhead river. Seems to be pretty much straight across the board—Hook a slab, consider yourself lucky.

Lewiston Lake supports steelhead-sized bows that are much more than an option to a blown steelhead river.

Why is anyone’s guess? Keep in mind, current steelhead numbers are largely related to ocean and instream conditions years ago as well as harvest and predation impacts. The greater majority of TR adults returning this year represent (2-3 yr.) stocks after the five year drought (2011-2017) that severely impacted west coast watersheds and all anadromous fish stocks. What may be a positive glimmer, a surprisingly high number of half-pounders, as well as jack salmon, returned this year in a number of rivers. The high percentage of smaller fish may very well represent quality conditions and rebounding stocks for 2019-2020.

Sure, years past, the TR has produced larger returns. Most any long term TR steelheader remembers the mid-90’s mega hatchery saturation that put the TR on the cover of every angling periodical and website and most anyone that could hold a rod or say fish caught fish. Unfortunately excessive returning hatchery stocks, including hymerfidates that baffled hatchery technicians, negatively impacted “native” stocks. The past clearly demonstrated, in the case for successfully managing native stocks, more was not better and also large returns attract large numbers of anglers, creating increased pressure on both river and fish; many would agree, diminishing steelheading experiences. On the other hand, we’ve also experienced extremely low returns. Referencing 1983 personal log books, oddly we never caught or recorded what I would consider a “true” (3’bs.-larger) TR adult steelhead the entire fall-winter; a vicious cycle that produced few native or hatchery adults.  And some of you think this season is challenging?

Low numbers, high numbers, who really gives a shit? It only takes one at the right place at the right time. Steelheading is about opportunity and fun!  And since mid-August, past five months, the TR continues to serve up intermittent pulses of fall-winter runs and provide fun quality steelheading; beauty, challenging fishing, minimal pressure and enough opportunities to keep many guessing or grinning forever. Want Fun – Get Out There!!!

Kurt Reichermeier has every reason to smile after landing this TR winter native.