So, I had a surfcasting event I went to here in New England. I decided to hit two birds with one stone and try for catching my first salter. Did a bit of research and found a some target water…
Fort those who are not familiar…
In much of the literature they’re known as “anadromous brook trout,” but that’s a misnomer. Better to call them “salters.” They spawn in fresh water but don’t spend years at sea or undertake long migrations. Rarely do they venture far from the mouths of their natal streams, and they frequently trade between salt, brackish and fresh water, sometimes in the span of 24 hours. In winter, when most landlocked brook trout put their metabolisms on hold, salters fatten on such marine and estuarine bounty as smelt, sand lances, mummichogs, spearing and grass shrimp.
It has been raining a lot. This brook was beautiful.
Not a mountain headwater but a tidal creek. Its origins wetlands and swamps draining into the Atlantic
Mosses covered everything…I felt like an intruder for sure…no signs of anglers or man, yet a perfectly composed setting. Kudos to nature and her landscaping.
Mr. Magooed my way into catching two specimens within an hour. For some, I have read, this is a challenge. I suspect the cover of rain and the advantages of tenkara gave me an edge…and I did a lot of crawling around.
When I hooked these fish…they did not read as Trout in profile. I guess as noted above…their seafood diet accelerates their growth. Evidently they also take flies.
Just a beautiful morning…no one around. I am not sure how I feel about this outing. Nice to have the experience but a lot of what I read notes that salters are in trouble…most of these estuaries are not protected. One of the studies I read noted that they seem to have found different strains of salters in adjacent creeks. Like the salters in those specific creeks had very specific attributes local to the creek but not between other creeks. Even more reason to let them be…beautiful wild identities out there just doing their thing.
Beautiful, thanks for sharing. From what I understand from previous reading, it’s not too dissimilar to cutthroat trout, just in a much more concentrated geographical area. Obviously, the salters are under a different type of pressure than the cutthroat is, but it’s pressure and threatening nonetheless.
Is this in Connecticut? As if I didn’t have enough streams in the immediate vicinity of my house now I guess I will need to take a drive to the shore. If this is in fact in CT, do you need a marine licence since it is salt/brackish water?
To saltwater around a mile. To open ocean…4 miles.
No. You are safe. As far as I know there are a lot of places to target sea run trout in CT. Most that are heavily noted hold large searun browns and are very wide rivers. Could one fish them with fixed line? Yes…but most folk target them with spinning gear and larger offerings. You would need to check the regs but most delineation marine/fresh is the first bridge up a river. The marine license is nothing…perhaps $5. Worth picking up. I fish fixed line carp rods for striped bass, fluke, scup, searobin, and whatever else will take my presentation. It is fun.
Ounce for ounce, no different than any other cold water wild trout. These guys went airborne a few times…their fat bellies hyper extended to belly flop each majestic leap…hahahhaaha. Now we know how they get their bellies deep orange in the fall. Belly floppin…
True, but at the same time, like any of these wilds…they have it hard enough as it is. I only landed two fish in two separate significant pools. There either were very few fish in this water or catching the first spooked the rest. Compare it to a recent outing in another wild brookie stream. My buddy landed 12 in a pool…granted that water was a much more stable environment, where this water probably converts from brook to puddles as it dries up into separate bodies.
It is a good point though. I should donate to some organizations to protect these environments. Not just be an end user but a steward.
Some additional thoughts. Its pretty amazing to think about both native and wild fish. For me these brooktrout always get me jazzed. These specifically have me thinking about nature and Man’s affect on it.
To think the whole northeast was loaded with these beautiful fish. They are mostly snuffed out and rivers destroyed, rebuilt, and repopulated with trout that are made for trophy fishing or meat fishing. Non native species and strains.
My first trout experience was with my older cousin. He had returned from service and was about 15 years older than I. He took me to his great grandfathers farm. We marched out into the deep woods…no trail…just bushwacking. We came upon a brook and located some of the biggest pools in the brook. We must have caught a dozen brook trout of various sizes. I distinctly remember the clouds and clouds of misquitos. I remember making an effort of not complaining or getting aggravated by them.
We took the trout all back to the farm. My cousin culled the smallest ones out of the group and tossed them to the farm cats. They all looked like they were living on the fringe of existence and all raced up and grabbed a fish to drag off as their prize.
I have read recently that brooktrout reproduce quickly but they really need good clean habitat to survive. I really wish the Department of Environmental managements would put effort into stocking natives only and clean up the rivers. I suppose its not that simple and politics gets in the way.
A year ago, I asked my cousin if there were still trout in that brook. Sadly he noted how that brook was long gone and the trout with it. All traded for residential development.
Returned to the scene of the crime today. Water was much lower. Scouted around and saw a fish wake. Used the power of google and found the main stem…where i found the above critter. Super red water. Oak tea.
Over on the West coast we have the Dolly Varden/Bull Trout a char like the Brook trout, I’ve released a handful over the years while fishing for winter Steelhead. Five pounds or so is the largest I have landed, picked em while swinging spoons on a north Puget Sound stream in December, at first thought they were Steelies but after a few head shakes they became kinda docile and had to pretty much just reel em in against the current. A few streams have Brookies and the and fisheries has rightfully put liberal catch limits on em, they compete with our native trout. The stream I have caught many in had lots of Brookies and just a few Rainbow and Cutthroat and all of em were pretty small. They are a very good eating fish though, best trout I’ve eaten, they do provide some sport on the tenkara rod but would just as soon not see any in the streams I fish.
@P_Nielsen That is pretty cool. For us out here it is the rainbows and browns that are the introduced invasives and I feel about them the same way. Rather not see them and try to focus on water that they may be less likely to populate. Kind of wonder why this sort of environmental management continues. A friend who was an active member of a trout unlimited chapter said that it was really hard to get traction on reducing and not stocking browns and rainbows out here on the east coast. Seems like the mob wants trophy fish.
I fished a week in Colorado where there were a ton of brookies, rainbows, and browns. I am sure there are probably good reasons. Like they may be easier to raise in hatcheries…or perhaps cheaper. Either way I wish that the environmental management would focus on preserving local native species.
I like to fish for Sea Run Cutthroat Trout (SRC) here in the South Puget Sound (SPS) of Washington State (Hi @P_Nielsen!) during the winter months. It’s an awesome nearshore salt fishery that has been designated C&R in since 1997, and I am fortunate to have figured out where, when, and how to find these fish that can travel several miles in the salt from their natal streams in search of food more often than not.
A Canadian study in 2015 found that anadromous Steelhead and freshwater Rainbow Trout can come from the same redds from the same parents. It identified a genetic and environmental factors that influence the different life strategies of anadromous vs resident freshwater fish. More recently, a study of SRC made a similar conclusion about native Coastal Cutthroat and SRC. SRC tend to be larger due to the abundance of food sources in the salt. Radio tagging and redd counts have shown that SRC return to freshwater in the SPS from February to May; possibly more than once.
Here’s how they look in the salt (aka Bluebacks) in nearby estuaries. Oddly they tend not to display the characteristic slash below the jaw.
There is also a stream open year round for trout in the SPS that provides direct access to the salt for SRC and Coho Salmon via a fish ladder around a waterfall. Rain during the winter months frequently turns the river into a torrent. But I keep an eye out for the rare cold, clear weather pattern over several days where the CFS drops to a safe level for wading.
A Cutthroat researcher suggested my second Tenkara caught fish in May 2018 may have been a late spawning SRC in this SPS stream many miles upriver from its mouth.
I was born and pretty much raised in Oly, my dad fly fished that stream for sea runs back in the 60s and 70s, he caught some nice fish. Have family up the Skook valley, been there for over a hundred years, that’s where I caught my first Steelhead. Tenkara fished up by the dam with my cousin a couple times biggest cutt was 11" is all. The old house my mom was born in is still barely standing across from my cousins driveway, when my wife and I make the trip from Spokane lots of memories come flooding back as I turn up the valley. Spent much of this summer over there, was taking care of my dying mom in Tumwater full time so didn’t really feel like fishing much, I did walk the trail down to the falls a few times, still miss the smell of the old brewery doing it’s thing. On the days when my brother and sister could spell me I would stay with cousins up the valley, sometimes drive up to the dam and look around or take the Lab puppy on walks around their 80 acres. Makes me homesick just thinking about my early years hunting with family up on the “farm” as we called it, a dozen or so family members, three generations worth, would gather at my great uncle’s place on weekends during rifle season. As soon as it started getting light we would all load up in trucks and head for the clear cuts looking for deer, the “old guys” telling stories about the way it used to be and lamenting their lost youth, at 51 now not much has changed. There’s still nothing so pretty as a Blacktail buck or coastal Cutthroat. I do miss hunting the west side rain forest in October but most of all I miss my mom and dad and all the rest I knew when I was young. I might just have to make a trip over in spring see if there might be a few Steelhead around, walk the field along the river and mostly just remember, not really caring whether a fish comes my way or not.
I gave up fishing for Steelhead since they were listed as “threatened” even before the ESA listings because it just didn’t feel right (plus I wasn’t any good at it). I took up fishing for SRC in 2011 to get me through the winter-spring. I’m retired and have ticklers in my calendar for every midweek mid-day high tide to help avoid crowds through June.
PM me if you want a Tenkara comrade the next time you’re going make it to the wetside.
I started Steelhead fishing back in the late 80s, back then you could keep native/wild fish most places but I never would, as you said it didn’t feel right to do so. I kept good hatchery fish though mostly releasing only the ones that had been in the river awhile. In the early mid 2000s I started getting disgusted by the mess the crowds were leaving behind and finally just gave up, have only been Steelheading 12-15 times in the last 15 years or so. Early on I was kinda Steelhead crazy, would get up real early head down to the Cowlitz and fish the morning bite, then drive back to Olympia and go to work. Met a good fishing buddy while working at FedEx in the late 90s, first time we fished together he picked me up coming straight from the bar and we headed up to Forks, we were almost too tired to fish ended up driving home that afternoon with nothing to show but had a great time anyway, that would just about kill the both of us now. November 2012 my wife moved us with her career to N Bonneville on the Columbia just east of Portland/Vancouver and in 2014 is when I found tenkara. The Gifford Pinchot NF became my new playground and I fished all over the 1.3 million acres the next 4 seasons finding some pretty good water for tenkara. In 2016 I did fish Mt Hood NF a little too but the crowds coming out of Portland weren’t what I was looking for so I got my maps out and found some new water on the other side of mountains. 2018 was the last time I fished the Naches and it’s tribs, forest fires closed 410 so I only fished a couple times that season. I camped and fished on the other side again in the Gifford Pinchot and made a couple day trips back over the pass, but this next season I will be fishing the Naches again. Its big kinda challenging water and I knew I needed to learn how to cast better the first time I fished it, the passed couple years I’ve practiced my casting religiously and feel like I’m ready to really cover the water and find some bigger more challenging fish. My cousin Rick has been the only person I’ve found that really gets the tenkara thing, he works construction so is busy all summer but he still has managed to get out on my camping and fishing adventure’s a handful or maybe a few more times. In November 2017 my wife again moved us with her career, to Spokane this time, but I still will travel to fish my old haunts, its now 250-350 miles instead of 50-100 but its still worth it. There is absolutely nothing like the GP NF to me, its awe inspiring fishing under the canopy of towering fir, cedar and maple in the deep canyon of one of my favorite streams, even a little spooky at times. I get kinda chubby in the off season and am starting to slow down a little with age but tenkara has given me a new lease on life so to speak, even writing about it is getting my blood going and am excited to get back out there come spring. I’ll give you a shout when I’m getting ready to make a trip, all the streams I fish open again the Sat. before memorial day and depending on snow pack and weather will be fishable by June, hopefully.
I too like streams in the GPNF and MRNP. I’ve used the historical USGS Water Data table data over multiple years, and refined the results with my personal observations and trip logs to come up with a list for the maximum CFS levels of the streams I like to fish. I actually use their email alerts feature to get notifications when the streams drop into fishable and safely wadable levels in late spring through early summer. In a “normal” snowpack year, most streams drop into shape during the second or third week of June.
The headwaters of the stream we spoke about above are at a lower elevation and closer to the salt so it tends to drop into shape about a month earlier than those in the Cascades. Due to a WDFW bureaucratic bungle in 2018 to institute “rules simplification” it was closed until the “Saturday before Memorial Day” but by that time the CFS was at a such a low level due lower a reduced late winter snowpack that the (larger) fish were not in their normal holding water and it did not fish well until late October after the fall rains started. Using some “creative application of state law” the local bio was able to get the year-round designation restored for the 2019-2020 season before the requirement 3 years had elapsed.
So keep that in mind when planning a trip to the wetside to fish the streams. And I look forward to hearing from you!
Not being a big tech guy I have a few streams I watch on the USGS water flow sites, usually gives me a good idea how the rest of em are doing. I have never taken notes or anything just kinda file things upstairs and have a pretty good idea, one east side stream is safe to wade for the most part at 100cfs or less, one of my west side streams 150-160cfs its good to go. When those two are safe and fishable most of the rest of em are good. I was pretty excited to get out last spring, I knew the streams were gonna be good early with the low snow pack but then my mom went into the hospital with septic shock and almost died May 3rd, her heart stopped but they got it going again. She was so very week that two and half weeks in the hospital and 2 more in rehab wasn’t doing her any good. We brought her home June 6th, I was her primary hospice care giver until August 3rd when she passed. The rest of August into early September was spent taking care of arrangements the funeral and burial. I finally got out in early October, I fished a small stream I found last year about 100 miles north of Spokane. The Selkirk mountains apparently get more rain than most of the east side, the forest remind me very much of western Washington, giant fir and cedar with dense undergrowth. The one thing that makes the NE corner of the state different besides west slope Cutthroat and Brown trout is the possibility of running into a Grizzly bear, I’m still kinda paranoid when fishing up there by myself even with bear spray and my three five seven, I guess that’s a big reason I don’t mind traveling to fish the west side, Black bear and even Cougar don’t scare me like the thought of a Grizzly, the only one I’ve seen was in Yellowstone and it was a good 150yds away and we were near the car.
I saw that in the regs, that really bums me out, when we lived in the Gorge it was a 50 mile drive to the 25 road bridge, released some nice fish in that stretch. It closes mid July now, maybe someday things will change back, I hope so I did pretty good there into October, Rainbow up to 15" and Cutthroat to 13" once in awhile a white fish. I tried fishing the upper section but couldn’t find a thing, might have something to do with half mile wide trough scoured out when the mountain blew, no stream side vegetation in sight, then again I might have been up there too late in the year don’t really know.