Friday, January 23, 2009

Sculpins and Bull Trout Fly Fishing in Squamish



Winter in Squamish means its time to go catch bulls...bull trout that is. Bull trout are often referred to as Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma) in these parts. Bulls and Dollys are almost impossible to distinguish visually from one another, however, some would argue that a bull trout has a flattened head compared to a Dolly. Maybe that is the case, but it is also kown that fisheries biologists rely on Genetics to distinguish the two populations. Genetic analysis has confirmed that the species of char that lives in the Squamish River watershed is in fact bull trout, Salvelinus confluentus.

Bull trout eat just about anything and they are very aggressive. They are Sharks!

Foods for Bull Trout in the Squamish
  • sculpins (Cottids)
  • salmon eggs
  • salmon fry and smolts
  • salmon flesh
  • small fishes
  • leeches
  • insects - mayfly, caddis, stoneflies
Winter is a time between the spawn and fry emergence leaving no eggs and no fry available to bull trout. What remains of big food items are sculpins and the Squamish system is full of them.

Sculpins are a small fish in the family Cottidae often referred to as Cottids. When CN spilled 40,000 liters of caustic soda into the Cheakamus River in August of 2005 it wiped out over 90% of the total fish population. More than half of the fish killed were cottids! Here is the full report: MoE Impact Assessment Report for 2005 CN Spill.

So how big were the sculpins killed in the spill? On average the sculpins killed were 3 inches long (76.9mm)! Makes you think about your fly selection when targeting these brutes!



The fly fishing for bull trout has been fairly descent the past few weeks. The trout are actively feeding on sculpin patters swung in slow to moderate speed water close to the bottom. Tailouts and runs between 1-4 ft in depth seem to be holding more fish. The water temperature of the river continues to hover around 2 to 3 degrees Celcius so midday fishing is best. Good luck out there!

Tight lines,

Clint Goyette