A good number of summer steelhead bound for Willamette tributaries have passed Willamette Falls. As of April 5, 625 fish have been counted at the falls and given the water temperature that is a big number. Normally, the fish don’t really start to show until the water reaches 50 degrees. This year, the temp hasn’t been over 48 but the fish are coming anyway. The current number is the largest by this date since 2004 but in 04′ the water was already 53 degrees.
It is a little early to project whether the run will be huge (or just good) especially since there has been no commercial steelhead by-catch of Willamette bound fish in the lower Columbia as the nets are above I-5. The increased numbers of fish could be the result of the relocation of the commercial fishery and may just represent fish that in previous years would have been snared in gillnets . . . or the run might be monstrous. We’ll have to wait and see.
One thing is clear, there are some steelhead in the rivers and a few of them are being caught. Granted, there are only a few hundred fish spread out over nearly as many river miles but more are coming everyday and early season steelhead fishing can be surprisingly good. The water hasn’t become low and clear and the rivers remain very cold. The Skamania strain found in the Willamette and its tributaries are a cold loving fish and are very active early in the season. If you find yourself near a prime steelhead lie while trout fishing don’t be shy about swinging for some steel while you are at it–you just might be rewarded.