[env-trinity] Eureka Times Standard 2 11 10

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Feb 11 15:16:31 PST 2010

Hatchery steelhead returns back on the rise, and local rivers could fish
next week

Eureka Times-Standard-2/11/10

By Kenny Priest


After a couple of sub-par seasons, steelhead are once again finding their
way back to our North Coast rivers and hatcheries in good numbers. 


The 2009-10 season is not going to break any records by any means. Most of
the rivers are getting just an average return, but after scratching and
scraping for bites the last two years, average sounds pretty darn good. 


If you've been reading any reports over the last couple months, you're aware
the anglers and guides are having a much higher catch rate this year on the
Chetco, Smith, Trinity and Mad rivers than in the past two seasons. Reports
from the Eel -- which has been at unfishable levels for the majority of the
season -- said the steelhead were there during the few days when the river
had dropped into shape. 


In talking with a few of the local fish hatchery managers, they all pointed
to favorable ocean conditions as the main reason for this year's solid


Here's a look into how are local hatcheries are doing this year: 


Mad River Hatchery 


This year's return looks good so far and we're on pace to meet our 300,000
egg take goal, according to Jerry Ayers, manager of the Mad River Hatchery. 


"Last year only 150 adult and 183 half-pounders returned. This year 1,059
adults and 307 half-pounders have come back," Ayers said. 


He also points out that this year fish are bigger, averaging between 9-12
pounds compared to 6-10 pounds in previous years. Good river water
conditions -- getting rain at the right time and favorable ocean conditions
played a big part in this year's run, according to Ayers. Also, a lot of the
steelhead didn't come back to spawn last year, mostly due to low flows and
higher-than-normal water temperatures. 


"A good amount of steelhead stayed in the estuary and eventually went back
out to the ocean last year due to the conditions. This year those fish are
definitely coming back," Ayers said. 


To get 300,000 eggs, it takes approximately 50 females who carry anywhere
from 6,000 to 8,000 eggs each. In March, 150,000 yearlings will be released.


Rowdy Creek Hatchery, Smith River 


The steelhead return to the hatchery is running just a little above average
this year, according to hatchery manager Andrew Van Scoyk. As of Tuesday,
820 adult steelhead have been trapped at the hatchery, 85 percent have been
hatchery and 15 percent are wild fish. 


"Last year was a real down year, only 271 steelhead made it back to the
hatchery. Over the last 10 years, we've averaged about 800 fish per season,"
said Van Scoyk. 


Each year the hatchery takes 200,000 eggs from 55-60 females, with the
yearlings being released the following March. According to Van Scoyk, no one
knows for sure why more fish are coming back this year, but he points out
that favorable ocean conditions is probably a big reason. Though more fish
have returned this year, the average size is smaller than years past. The
average adult steelhead we're seeing is about seven pounds, normally they
average 9-to-10 pounds, according to Van Scoyk. 


Trinity River Hatchery, Lewiston 


So far, we're having a pretty decent year, according to Wade Sinnen,
Associate Biologist for the Trinity River Project. To date, we've trapped
3,458 adult fall-run steelhead compared to 1,918 last year during the same
time period. Of these trapped fish, more than 95 percent were hatchery-born
steelhead. The run-size estimate for 2009-10 is between 22,000 and 28,000,
while the average run-size over the last 10 years has been right around
23,000, but last year's estimate was just above 15,000. 


"Improved ocean conditions, timely rain, and simply more water are all
factors in this year's larger return," said Sinnen. 


The egg-take goal for the hatchery is two million eggs, which takes roughly
571 female steelhead to achieve. Each female will produce right around 3,500
eggs. Eight-hundred-thousand yearlings are then released back into the river
the following March. 


The Rivers -- 


Chetco River 


After two to three days of really hot steelhead action, the Chetco could use
a nice shot of rain. And if the predictions hold true, they'll get it
Thursday night. On Wednesday it was flowing around 2,300 cfs but is
predicted to peak at around 5,000 cfs on Friday night and start dropping
just in time for the weekend. Guide Alan Borges of Alan's Guide Service has
been on the Chetco the last few days and reports the bite was hot on Sunday,
but has gotten tougher each day. Sunday his customers landed seven steelhead
of the eight they hooked, Monday he was four for four and Tuesday he went
one for two. 


"The bite was real spotty on Tuesday, but there were fish around. It was
real cold and the sun was out all day, which may have had something to do
with the lack of bites. The good news is we're still seeing quite a few
hatchery fish in the mix and very few downers, which indicates the run is
still going strong. Once we start to see only wild fish, the peak of the run
will be over," Borges said. 


Smith River 


Steelhead action continues to be steady on the Smith. Guides are reporting
three to six hookups a day while side-drifting roe and a Fish Pill. Much
needed rain is in the forecast for Thursday and the river is expected to
crest at just under 11 ft. Friday night on the Jed Park gauge. If the
forecast is right, conditions for the weekend should be just about perfect. 


Upper Trinity River 


Guide Steve Huber of Huber's Guide Service had a great day last Saturday
when he landed six steelhead, but the bite has slowed since. Sunday he
landed two, Monday he landed one, which tipped the scales at 9 pounds, and
Tuesday all he could muster was a German Brown. 


"It looks like the run is tapering off, there just isn't a lot of fish
around right now -- even the downers are gone. The few fish that are here
are all wild. The river is starting to clear, we'll need rain to bring in
some new fish," Huber said. 


Mad River 


If we don't get much rain on Thursday, we could be fishing the Mad by Sunday
with bait, according to Justin Kelly of Eureka's Redwood Marine. 


"The river had about a foot of visibility on Wednesday and I heard of a few
fish hooked. With the higher water, a size 10 Spin-N-Glow and a bigger piece
of roe will be more effective," Kelly said. 


Eel River 


The main stem was just starting to get a green tint, but the river is still
really big according to Paul Grundman of Grundman's Sporting Goods in Rio


"We're forecasted to get up to a quarter inch of rain Thursday night, but I
don't think it will hurt the river that much. We're still a week to 10 days
away from fishing this section of the river. 


On the south fork, the river has a couple feet of visibility in the Leggett
area according to Darren Brown of Brown's Sporting Goods in Garberville. 


"I talked to a couple people who landed nine on Tuesday in the Richardson
Grove area. Down below, the river is just beginning to turn green all the
way down to Sylvandale. It's currently at 9.2 ft with about a foot of
visibility at the bridge, and it will be fishable at eight ft. You'll want
to keep an eye on how much rain hits the area," said Brown.


Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax (call first to fax)

415 519 4810 mobile

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