Coastal Cutthroat Trout
Coastal Cutthroat Trout or “Sea Runs” as they are affectionately known in South Sound Fly Fishers, do not have the commercial value of Salmon and Steelhead, but they are one of the great sport fish on the Pacific Coast.
In the 1800’s they represented the most numerous anadromous fish in Puget Sound and Hood Canal. Unfortunately over fishing, loss of habitat and water pollution reduced their size and numbers. By the 1970’s It became clear that something had to be done or these fish would continue to disappear and eventually be gone. The fishing and fly clubs with their state and national organizations started pushing the State of Washington to change the regulations to protect these fish.
Bruce Ferguson as a member of South Sound and Puget Sound Fly Fishers, became one of the founders of the Sea Run Coalition. This organization was the forerunner of today’s Coastal Cutthroat Coalition. These fly fishing clubs joined with their sister organizations to save the Sea Run Cutthroat. Many local fly fishing club members loved fishing these trout. One of the reasons South Sound Fly Fishers logo adopted the South Sound Finn is because this pattern was particularly effective in catching the elusive Sea Runs. These beautiful fish captured the hearts of the members of South Sound and Puget Sound Fly Fishers and the clubs moved aggressively to save these great fish from extinction.
Ferguson and several of his fellow club members became a fixture before the legislative committees and the Fish and Wildlife Commission. Bruce was appointed to the Saltwater Committee of FFF (now FFI) which added more weight to his testimony. Ferguson became the spokesperson for the fishing clubs and their state and national organizations on this issue.
Eventually the State of Washington began to change the regulations. The first phase was to increase size requirements of legally caught fish in the saltwater. “Keepers” were increased from eight to fourteen inches. This was an important step because it meant that most fish would likely spawn at least once before they could be legally killed. Another step was to decrease the bag limit from eight down to two fish. Finally in 1998 the state changed regulations so that no Cutthroat could be legally kept if caught in the saltwater.
Since “Catch and Release” was implemented, these fish have made a remarkable comeback. The fly fishing clubs and TU chapters can be proud of this turnaround. All of it was the result of their support and pressure being applied at the right time and right place to make the needed changes.
Although the research on these fish is relatively scant compared to Salmon and Steelhead, we know much more about them today. The bottom line is that we know these fish continue to need protection by regulation. Most of the work on behalf of Coastal Cutthroat is now being done by the Coastal Cutthroat Coalition. The CCC needs to continue with this important work and the fly fishing clubs and fishing organizations need to be vigilant in protecting these fish in Puget Sound and Hood Canal.
If you wish to donate funds to help protect and preserve these fish, please send your check made out to “SSFF” with the notation that it be applied to the Coastal Cutthroat Fund. Please mail your check to:
South Sound Fly Fishers, PO Box 2792, Olympia WA 98507.
South Sound Fly Fishers is a Non-profit corporation registered with the State of Washington. South Sound Fly Fishers is a tax exempt organization under Internal Revenue Code 501 (c) (3). Donations to SSFF are tax deductible to the full extent of IRS guidelines. Thank you for your donation!