Coastal Cutthroat Coalition


Dedicated to the science and management of wild coastal cutthroat trout.

WDFW Wants Your Input

From The SSFF President:


My name is Don Freeman. As an adviser for the last 5 years to WDFW Puget Sound recreational fishing board, I am gathering data to quantify the impact of sea run cutthroat fishing on license sales and economic importance to the region. The information that I get from shops, guides, fishing clubs, manufacturers and private anglers will be used to support the study, enhancement and protection of this fishery. Friends of the SRC, both volunteer and agency scientists are proposing a study that for the first time will provide information on the abundance, distribution and genetic attributes of this species.

Citing low participation numbers and negligible economic importance, a very low priority has been given to SRC historically, but there is a potential for a fresh and promising change in that status. With figures and testimony from this group that illustrate the actual popularity and range of this sport we can influence the board to support this important work. Prior to the next advisory board meeting this spring, I hope to provide input from our group to show how your businesses benefit from the fishery and rough numbers of anglers that participate.

For those who reply to this message, I will provide a short survey to establish whether this fishery affects your business and to what extent, number of customers and clients participating and estimates of how many fishing trips this might generate. There will be no prying into your finances, where you fish nor any other sensitive information. As a side note, there is also a group working to provide financial support for the studies, but that issue is separate from this request.

The results will not be presented as definitive results, but used to illustrate that this is indeed a viable recreational and commercial activity. Frankly, there are skeptics on the board that dismiss this fishery as too small and unimportant to merit support from the PSREF OC (Puget Sound Recreational Enhancement Fund Oversight Committee). They prefer that all attention and financial support be allocated to hatchery salmon production. This will remain the highest priority, but others interests must be represented as well. I was appointed to this committee to promote our interests and need your help to do so.

If you support this effort, please respond to this message and I’ll add you to the supporters group. If you know of others who share our interests, please forward this to them, including clients, products reps, etc.

Don Freeman

[email protected]




SSFF June 2015 Garden Hackle



SSFF May 2015 Garden Hackle PDF

Coastal Cutthroat Project

The South Sound Fly Fishers are launching a campaign in November to raise money for coastal cutthroat conservation projects here in the south sound.

Expanding knowledge of South Sound Cutthroat

Here in the South Puget Sound, we are fortunate to live among a fishery than many of us hold dear to our hearts, Sea-Run Cutthroat. Although we fisherman may have a long history with these wild fish, from a scientific standpoint, there is still a lot that we don’t know. The number of research papers about Sea-Run Cutthroat pales in comparison to other salmonids.

This is a potential threat to the conservation of these fish and others in the south Puget Sound, because as we have learned all too well, what we don’t know CAN hurt them.

surveyA few members of SSFF have taken the initiative to help build the knowledge base. Jason Small and Ryan Haseman are working with WDFW to count cutthroat redds on various creeks in the south sound. After being trained on the survey protocol and redd identification, they have had some success in identifying new spawning areas.

They are also helping to develop the WDFW new record/survey methods using Smartphones and ODK survey. So far it has been a very useful tool.

Jason has also been busy working with the Nisqually Reach Nature Center, WDFW, DNR and Puget Sound Corps.  Recently he attended a training in beach sampling and forage fish egg identification. They are getting ready to start looking for beaches within the Nisqually reach aquatic zone that have spawning sand lance and surf smelt.





Mark your calendars!

September 14th - SSFF will be arranging a Deschutes river clean-up.

October 12th – SSFF will be arranging a Nisqually river clean-up.

Possible Quilcene River Rule Change

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is considering a rule change for 2013-2014 period that would change the current “catch and release” regulations for sea-run cutthroat trout in the Quilcene River. The rule change would allow the harvest of up to two 14” or greater cutthroat trout per day from June through August 15th.  The WDFW believes there are enough cutthroat trout in the Quilcene River to allow harvest opportunities, based on their snorkel surveys.










I personally think the rule change is a bad idea. Sea-run cutthroat trout are much too valuable to the recreational fishery to open it up to a “catch and kill” fishery.  It has taken many years to rebuild the abundance of sea-run cutthroat trout in Hood Canal and Puget Sound. Opening up a harvest fishery on sea run cutthroat trout is likely to drive the population back to its depressed levels because they are highly susceptible to being over fished. They are aggressive, and they school up.

A “catch and kill” fishery will remove the larger fish, the most important segment for maintaining the population.  Larger fish are able to spawn in areas with larger substrate that are less prone to being washed out during floods. The large spawner should be protected, not harvested. If additional harvest opportunities are needed in the Quilcene area, a better option would be to plant more hatchery rainbow trout in nearby lakes, eg., Leland, Lords or Crocker Lakes.

It is unclear whether the abundance of sea run cutthroat trout in the Quilcene River solely reflects the abundance of Quilcene fish, or also represents cutthroat from other watersheds that have entered the Quilicene River to feed on the summer-run chum eggs. I think it is likely that the sea run cutthroat observed in the Quilcene represent multiple populations, not just Quilcene fish.

WDFW is putting the proposal out for public comment.  I hope you will join me in letting them know what you think. The following takes you to WDFW’s webpage for providing comments on the Quilcene River cutthroat trout rule change.


The Elwha River Restoration

The demolition of the two Elwha River dams has finally begun, after so many years of work by a great many individuals and groups. I first heard of the Elwha River when I attended the UW College of Fisheries in the early 1970’s and read about its role in the development of the Port Angeles area through the production of cheap electrical power, but at the great cost of its magnificent fishery resource. Since the dams lacked fish ladders, all but the lower 5 miles of the Elwha River were blocked off to five species of salmon, steelhead, bull trout and sturgeon. The spawning habitat in the still accessible lower river degraded overtime as floods removed the smaller sized spawning gravels, while the dams prevented their replenishment from upstream sources. Fluctuations in river flow in response to power generation needs, resulted in dewatered redds, and stranded fry and juveniles,
and on occasion adult fish when project shut down completely. I was a new to Washington State, having driven out from Michigan to further my education in the early 1970’s. I knew little about salmon, steelhead and or any of the other fish that migrate from the ocean to rivers to spawn. How could this happen, and why hasn’t anyone done someone to fix the problem caused by the dams, I naively asked? A “public policy decision” was the response. Electricity was needed to fuel the development of Port Angeles. Salmon and steelhead were plentiful in the region and could be obtain elsewhere. Fish ladders were expensive and had never been constructed at dams as high as the 105’ tall Elwha Dam. Fifteen years later, my path once again crossed the Elwha River, this time as a biologist with a resource agency. Various conditions had changed, leading to a window of opportunity for restoring anadromous fish runs to the Elwha River. Salmon and steelhead populations were in serious declines, while the upgrade of a Bonneville Power Administration transmission line eliminated Port Angeles dependency on the power produced by the two Elwha Dams. Equally important was the change in public policy that reduced the bias that heavily favored energy producers that made it nearly impossible to get meaningful  mitigation to restore the fishery and wildlife resources affected. I am waiting excitedly to see the salmon, steelhead and other anadromous fish return to the Elwha River when dams are completely removed. I’ve had
the pleasure to hike and fish in this beautiful watershed, and it will be even more spectacular with return of leaping salmon and steelhead. Check out the Olympic National Park webcams showing the ongoing demolition of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams at