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: Is this the way things will be?


Brian Simonseth
04-29-2004, 03:28 AM
Fight to save the Puyallup steelhead

06:17 PM PDT on Wednesday, April 28, 2004
By GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News


KING
Puyallup River

BUCKLEY, Wash. - Ten years ago, they returned to the Puyallup River system by the thousands, but today, the famous steelhead run is just a trickle.
Some biologists are taking drastic action to keep what's left of the once mighty steelhead run alive.
Today's surviving colorful, wild steelhead carries the genes of ancient steelhead that once thrived in the Puyallup River system, but is now struggling against extinction.
"I think they are the most threatened species of salmon in South Sound," said Blake Smith, Puyallup tribal biologist.
Puyallup tribal biologists have made saving the steelhead their top priority.
They once gathered hundreds of steelhead from a fish trap, then transported them around impassable hydro and flood control dams to upstream spawning grounds.
Today they can't believe how few there are.
"This is April, the end of April, which is typically the peak month of returning steelhead here. We're at about 50 returning fish for the month, so we're in trouble," said Russ Ladley, Puyallup tribal biologist.
The one bit of good news is that each of the steelhead they pull up look pretty healthy, shiny and robust.

But that's where the good news ends.
Just five years ago, biologists counted 1,700 steelhead in the Puyallup system. Last year just 300.
"We don't want to just stand by and watch them go extinct. We're thinking about a wild brood-stock program," said Smith.
The Puyallups may capture wild Puyallup steelhead to breed in captivity. It's a desperate and controversial measure, but they've tried everything else.
Restricting fishing has helped other salmon species return to healthy returns, but for some reason, not the steelhead.
"I wish I knew, nobody seems to have the answer to the problem," said Ladley.
And they fear, as they watch each truckload of the precious few wild steelhead released upstream, that answer may come too late to save the Puyallup steelhead.
The Puyallups have been counting returning Steelhead for the 60 years. They say last year was the lowest return ever and this year's looks even worse.

Steelheader69
05-01-2004, 02:43 AM
That river has been downsliding for years now. It was my homeriver, and where I caught my first steelhead. Hell, and MANY others. I admit, I bonked quite a few wild steelhead. But back then, there wasn't much of a concern. I literally stopped fishing it when the returns really started to drop. I'd say it was almost 14 years ago it really started dropping. Or the returning steelhead came later the last couple years I fished it religiously (especially since I grew up blocks from it). Would love to see something happen. But it's TO accessible. Plus alot of articles telling about it in the early 80's didn't help either. Saw ALOT of damage done having hundreds, almost into the thousands, of plunkers alone in the tidewater taking out limits. Remember when it was a skeleton crew fishing it. Then a couple articles (especially the F&H news detailed mapped article) and it was overnight growth.

I wouldn't mind them just closing it all together to tell you the truth. That river is no where near what it once was. Not even close. Plus, the last of the fish I had caught were getting smaller too. Not as many of the big brutes of yesteryear (my first steelhead was a 19#, and second a 23# on same day). River needs alot of help.

Skilly
05-01-2004, 10:58 AM
I also caught my first steelhead in th Puyallup. I also caught the largest steelhead I have ever caught caught there. A beatifull 26 pund buck. In the 60s The puyallup was 2nd only to the Cowlitz in fish returning. A good portion of these were very large fish. 15 pound + I think this run of fish is already extinct. It and the Green were alive with fish.

If you can get a fish count from the early 60s (prior to Bolt) and the one for this year you will be really dismayed.