Its been a sobering steelhead season. Weve been having such stratospheric runs in the last decade that 2012 has been a return-to-earth year.
The run just broke 100,000 steelhead since June 1 over Lower Granite Dam, and it is pretty much over for the year.
Taking a look back, we totaled about 110,000 fish for 2012, which includes fish from the tail end of the 2011 run. Each run starts in late summer and ends with a few stragglers in the spring.
But its easier to compare calendar years because the vast majority of each run crosses the dam between June and December.
According to the DART fish passage center, 2012s steelhead count at Lower Granite is the lowest since 1999, when 99,000 crossed the dam. To keep that in perspective, 2012 still would have topped every year between 1993 to 1999, when counts at Lower Granite varied between 48,000 and 99,000.
But 2012 is a runt cousin to the runs between 2000-2011 that produced between 113,000 and 323,000 annually.
Here are the take-home points. Steelhead and salmon runs are cyclical, so theres no reason to panic because of one down year.
Another thing: One year does not make a trend.
On the other hand, its a little depressing to see one-third the number of fish we had in 2009.
That doesnt mean you should write off steelhead fishing. The fish are well distributed throughout the rivers, theres plenty of time to catch them, and Im willing to bet there will be good fishing between now and spring.