Coasters and Spring Steelhead

    A number of people have asked me, "Why do you guys include coasters in your creel project?" In the beginning, and we are talking pre-Creel Project, super data-junkie days, I was collecting everything and anything I could get my hands on; if it was data, I had to have it. By the way, never ask me about my photoperiod matrix unless you want to see paint get confused and then bored right off the walls....

    At any rate, it was "Just 'Cause". I love coasters and brookies in general, and they were how I was introduced to trout fishing in the first place, so I have a bit of a soft spot.

    Funny thing was that after we captured a number of years-worth of spring steelhead data, something jumped out at us. We didn't have enough of a coaster sample size prior to spring 2014 to even really speculate, but I think we're there now and you may find the results interesting.

    What you are looking at are the last 5 years of coaster data we've collected. Note that the week dates fall between the months of March and June.
    Doesn't look like much, but there are those odd spikes in the catch which got us wondering. The coasters aren't spawning at that time of year, so just what is it that they are doing? We also compared the long-term creel rainbow averages (steelhead+kamloops) against coaster creel and what you get is this:
    Our current SWAG - That's Scientific Wild-Ass Guess for you non-technical folks - is that the coasters are opportunistically feeding on free-floating steelhead eggs during the runs. We see the same sort of behavior during the pink runs in the fall, well before the coasters are spawning.

     Couple oddities about the chart:
Two possibilities come to mind regarding that first peak in late March...
1. It's simply a result of a couple very early runs we experienced during the creel project.
2. The coasters are following that first flush of kamloops which tend to enter the streams earlier than the steelhead.

    The other item is that the third peak doesn't quite fit the mid-shore model with respect to mid-shore steelhead peaks. Until 2014, it was a dead-on match however, we had a lot of "late" steelhead coming on the lower shore in 2014 which skewed the numbers to a degree, but only by a couple of days so it's still in the ballpark.

    MS will continue to watch this with interest because it's simply another way to illustrate what is happening (indirectly) with the steelhead during the course of a run. It's also good data in its own right; I mean c'mon, who doesn't love this beautiful native char???



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