Major Changes for Major PNW River [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Major Changes for Major PNW River

06-30-2003, 03:41 AM
I am posting this discussion from Bob's Board because I know that there are some members of Flytalk who have a special little interest in this river (you know who you are ;) )

Major Changes on the Cowlitz (;f=1;t=013919)

06-30-2003, 06:10 AM
I've been fishing the Cowlitz for 20 years this November. That may not be as long as some have been on her banks, but it's longer than others have even been fishin'. Yet what I envision to be "the good ol' days" on this river is a time I've never seen, although I dream of it every time I fish it.

I'm sure without looking up any stats to drop that the Cowlitz was once one of the greatest native steelhead runs on our planet, not to mention her salmon and cutts. Along it's hundreds of miles of premier habitat, millions of natural, wild steelhead emerged from the gravel destined to become one of the alpha races of summer and winter run Columbia trib fish, the likes of which people today pay through the nose to fish in yet unadulterated regions of British Columbia. The Toutle, and it's legendary summer runs are actually Cowlitz tributary fish. Resilient enough to bounce back from St.Helens, but one dam would eliminate them.

I can only imagine a fall day floating the upper reaches in what I consider to be the glory days of the Cowlitz - the days when she flourished as one of the mighty wild steelhead rivers of the world.

Then came the dams, and hatcheries, sleds and super-efficient means of harvesting mass-produced fish in the name of sport, and somehow this became "the good old days". These upper reaches are now under impoundment lakes behind mammoth dams and pumped with everything from sockeye to tiger muskie in the name of sport.

I guess glory is in the eye of the beholder.


The Flyfishing Forum

07-01-2003, 01:09 AM
I enjoyed your post!!!

btw-I fished the 1307 Custom for the first time this evening...the 7/8 Long Delta was wonderful on the rod...that rod truly is a gem! :)

07-01-2003, 10:36 AM
It sounds OK to me. I was not aware they had any fish stock they felt was still native enough to try and bring back on the cow. More power to em and it really does not look like they are cutailing numbers of fish, there will just be more "wild" ones. This is really only going to upset the meat fisherman on the river of which there are a few:hehe:.

As far as having to C'n'R more fish that does not bother me. It sounds like they are trying to do the right thing and like Juro says if they can get the river even close to what it must have been that would seriously rock.


07-01-2003, 06:44 PM

Me thinks you are right on this, especially since I read the postings on this issue on the other board and saw those who are upset with the changes keep referring to not being able to bonk the fish they catch.

07-01-2003, 07:20 PM
I go back and forth on this one. I have a hard time believing that there are any native stock left on that river. I have seen some of the stats about the late winter fish they show that for years they didn't collect eggs at the end of the season for a number of years for the hatchery. It was my understanding that all the hatchery fish in the Cow are of hatchery origin. So can they bring them back from nothing? Maybe mother nature can do some amazing things. And if the experiment works it could mean some great things.

But on the other hand I being self see that if they close the cow to the possiblity of taking fish home the pressure there will go else where. Also we have to understand that we need all steelheaders to help protect the resource and this will do some serious damage on that.

The cow is a harvest fishery. Has been as long as I have known about it. I do think there is a place for hatcheries and harvest and I have to say that the cow might be a good place for it.

But like Flytyer I have read the other board and I see how pissed off some of the whackem and stackem crowd are getting and it makes me a little happy that this may go through.


07-02-2003, 06:25 PM

Sounds about like "Aunty J".....:whoa:

Actually I have difficulty believing that much native stock (if any) remains as well. However, this grants an opportunity to experement. I believe that the solution might be increase the number of "wild" fish prior to decreasing the take out put. If something comes back great if not accept this failure and move to waters where there is a greater reality.

One thing the Cow brings to the plate is an area for the meat balls and knuckle draggers to collect. While this river has some spectacular water in concentrated areas it is about as bad as it gets.


07-02-2003, 09:08 PM
Anyone who has fished the river extensively knows how much natural redd activity exists on that river. It's quite extensive and there is a possibility that it is part of the bloodline that the hatchery fish could not kill off. Or it could be hatchery fish spawning naturally, or a hybridization but in any case there are redds galore in the mainstem river and to ignore that these wild river fish, easily thousands if I were to guess, have a right to be protected is no better than saying that wild Skykomish fish are just free spawning hatchery fish so bonk them too. There is no way to tell that Sky fish have not interbred, so therefore it would why don't we say there is no such thing as a Sky native, or any other river with both - the Hoh, Sol Duc, Skagit, shall I continue?

I am being rhoterical, but if a race of fish is not pure, should it not be given a chance to flourish naturally in the river? What really matters IMHO is that fish who are successfully reproducing in the wild despite how badly we messed them up be given a chance to succeed. Give them more river to spawn in and let them take back some of their hard earned existence where it makes sense.

Why don't we take a first step and go to a fin-clip program... at least then we'll see what kind of wild returns exist.

Then if wild fish are returning, then consider some protection for them like we do on other rivers.

However, I propose that the river be closed to the taking of all unclipped steelhead downstream of the I-5 bridge to protect the native Toutle River steelhead in the Cowlitz.

07-03-2003, 01:34 AM
Gotta recheck my regs, but think ONLY finclipped steelhead may retained on the Cow. In fact, I only think the Olympic Peninsula has regs allowing retention of Native fish (unclipped).

I've fished the Cow. I hate it actually. Fished it years ago, and gave up on it around 85'. We used our sled on it, but sucked even back then. WORSE now. Had what we call "floatilla's" on it, and ran it again last year with my sled for the first time in almost 20 years. Guess what? Even MORE crowded with sleds then it was. This was DOWNRIVER too. Not simply up near Blue Creek and Mission and Cracker Bars.

This is a common problem. Not sure about the "glory days" on the Cow. Always had great success getting fish. And remember easily retaining our limits of Native fish off the Cow back then. Would love to see some of the great Steelhead rivers have some sort of resemblence of their past. Started fishing the Puyallup in the early 70's. Still in what was left of it's "glory days". Caught quite a bit of my over 20# steelhead in that river up until about 84'. But, a mixture of things brought the downfall of that river. I do know I watched sporatic fishing to FULL BLOWN fishing after a few reports in the newspapers and F&H news totally telling all about the river, and how to plunk it, back in around 80' or so. Know the pressure grew immensely after that article (most guys had no idea you could catch fish like that out of that murky water). Hell, I even remember the trophy sized silvers that ran that river. Wasn't uncommon to catch a 14# silver. But, now it's all cookie cutter sized 5# silvers. All are the same. Rarely a big one. Would love to see that river come back to it's once huge run of steelhead (used to rank #2 behind the Cow for years). But, I doubt anyone will do much about it, since it never even came close to the pressure or noteriety of the Cowlitz.

Oh well, still have pictures of the past, and memories in my mind of that river. Family has fished it since turn of the century. My grandpa could tell (and showed pictures) of some awesome fishing in the 20's and 30's when he first visited the area (lived in Nebraska, but had a brother who was stationed at Camp Murray after WWI and came to visit, then ended up moving here).

07-03-2003, 08:10 AM

My mistake, In fact I recall the reg change after I moved from WA. Thanks for the correction. On fishing trips I've noticed all summer runs I've landed have been clipped as well. I guess the issue is not clippage but management of fish for wild verses hatchery so I may have been a bit off target with my last post.

They never clipped anything in the past and who could tell. I used to fish the mouth of the Toutle in the Cowlitz early summer season and caught a fish once that I knew was a Toutle fish, all 17 # of him. Adipose the size of my thumb. People around me thought I was nuts for letting it go but you could just tell looking at it that it was born in the Green or upper Toutle and there was no way in hell I was gonna bonk him. I saw other fish like that as well caught on the Cow down there. No one can tell me there are no natives on the Cow. My point was, this fish and it's breathren are there and need protection.

I wonder how many unclipped fish are caught on the Cow each year? What's the trend, higher or lower? Since nothing is currently being done to support wild fish, what evidence is there now? It would be interesting to know.

07-03-2003, 12:10 PM
J, while I have hooked unclipped smolt in the river I have never landed an unclipped adult. Maybe Bill W or Steve C who have spent a lot on time fishing it can provide some insight?

I know they truck a lot of Silvers above the dam are these "wild"?


07-07-2003, 11:43 PM
I thoroughly enjoyed your last post in that thread!!

I figured I would repost it here for those that do not follow Bob's Board...

"You betcha I fish to get a stiffy!

Why else?

But I really don't get a stiffy over the adipose fin, it's what's attached to it - and not in terms of weight, length, or condition of meat but the mind-blowing fact that in this day and age something as pure as a native steelhead could be held by the wrist of the tail in the water for a minute before it's allowed to swim free. Wow. Beyond the fight, the fun and the filet - is the idea, the notion, the concept... of steelhead. Given a choice between bonking a hatchery fish or release a native, I get far more satisfaction from #2 and thats what I fish for - satisfaction, stiffies! Few things in my sporting life do it for me like native steel.

BOING! Whoops, dere it is!

Peace "