The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Andrew Christiansen

Steelhead numbers climbing, a prelude to expected record run of Chinook salmon


Andrew Christiansen

JUMPED IN: Phillip Kachlamut pulled a net from Lyle Falls to remove a fish that had jumped into the net as it attempted to make it up stream through the most difficult part of the journey to spawning grounds. Katchlamut tended to two large nets set in front of the falls and worked a smaller dip net from a different stand a few feet further downstream.

Steelhead numbers climbed rapidly at the dams along the Columbia River Gorge this past week, fulfilling the promise of great fishing for 2014. The early run of steelhead is greater that the 10 year average and even better than last year's count. Early salmon runs were much above normal and the prediction is for huge numbers this fall.

Forecasts for the fall Chinook run of 2013 proved to be twice the prediction that was made early in 2013. This year the prediction is for a total return in the Columbia River of 1,602,900 fall Chinook, which would be the largest return since 1938, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Total steelhead run is expected to be about 20 percent higher for 2014 versus 2013.

The variety of harvest on the Columbia River and up the Klickitat River has been on display lately. Gill-netting on the Columbia has produced large numbers of fish at the Lyle Point processing station and dip-netters are seeing steelhead numbers increase at Lyle Falls on the Klickitat River.

One of the buyers of fish from Lyle Falls is Doug Rigdon. Rigdon is the owner of Wild Columbia Salmon. Rigdon sells fish from a stand on the east end of Hood River, just north of the Tum-A-Lum lumber building. He also sells to a number of restaurants in the region. Rigdon says he only buys from the native fishermen who catch fish at Lyle Falls. "It honors the fish," says Rigdon, who says he doesn't buy gill-netted fish. He also says he prefers to reward the fishermen for their hard work.

The work can be hard along the treacherous stretch of the Klickitat River. Rigdon buys fish that are caught from Monday through Saturday, almost around the clock by men who work shifts on the dip-net stands. Night shift can run from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Rigdon buys from Leonard David Jr., whose family owns ground at the falls and use dip-nets and nets situated at the falls to capture fish.

Andrew Christiansen

A pair of fly fishermen (at left) stepped out from Dan Little's drift boat to work a much calmer and shallow spot in the river.

Rigdon says he buys 500 pounds of fish per day. He is expecting a huge salmon run, later this summer. He just marked down his steelhead for sale at the fish stand to $8 per pound for fillets because of the large number of steelhead that are moving up the river at this time.

Further up the river are hook and line fishers who are landing steelhead. One of the local guides, Dan Little has been focusing on steelhead lately. According to his wife, Cecilia, the water was a bit muddy last week, due to the warm weather on Mt. Adams, but things are clearing up and they are busy. Little guides for either fly fishing or gear fishing. Last year was a great year to be in the guide business with a huge success rate for clients looking to land big fish. When they switch to salmon, at the end of summer, Cecilia is expecting an even better year.


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