For a differant perspective I am going to post my observations - I do not fish the Dean for steelhead, but have been going in to target chinook on the fly for the last 4 years in the third week in June. Most of the Canadian residents I fish with have been doing this for 15 to +30 years so there is a lot of experience with this fishery. The impression I get from talking to these guys is that the chinook numbers have been slowly, but steadily decreasing - the early steelhead that used to show up at this time of the year are now very rare (I have yet to take a chrome steelie on the fly in any of my 4 weeks) The observation is that +40lb chinook have been almost totaly absent in the last 4 to 7 years, coincidentaly these figure match the huge booms in numbers of lodges (floating and otherwise) that have come into operation on the Canadian coast - as each client is only allowed 4 chinook they are known to target the +30lb fish.(think of how many lesser fish are caught and "released" prior to the bigger fish being harvested) This year we observed gangs of 3 to 9 seals harrasing the fish the whole way up to the canyon on each tide - despite anglers using bear bangers and chasing them with boats - the impression it that there are not more seals but that they are being forced up the rivers by competition at sea. Unfortunately sportfishing has become a very lucrative commertial venture for the lodges.
In contrast I must record my observation after talking to one of the commertial fishermen based out of Bella Coola - he and another commertial guy(based out of Langley) took my party and our river boats into the Dean. They were strugling to find enough fish (chinook) in the Dean channel to cover the costs of their fuel and were typicaly getting about 12 fish each time they went out - in past years typical catches would be in the hundreds. The guy from Langley said it was so poor that he would not be bringing his boat up from the lower mainland again. The guy from Bella Coola started suplimenting his income a few years ago by running anglers into the Dean because of declining catches.
So in summary - the chinook fishery is also in decline, the culprit does not appear to be commertial fishing, but rather the commertialization of the sportfishery by the expantion of lodges on our coast (currantly I believe there are no limits on numbers or size/capacity of these lodges)