OLYMPIA Amid low returns, fishery managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today announced a closure to sportfishing in the Queets, Quinault, Humptulips and Chehalis river systems as well as tributaries of Willapa Bay to further protect wild steelhead populations. The closure takes effect Monday, March 8.
This follows measures fishery managers implemented earlier this winter to modify the coastal steelhead season, restricting fishing from a boat and using bait, to help more wild steelhead return to the spawning grounds. In coordination with tribal co-managers, the Quillayute and Hoh rivers will remain open for coastal steelhead through March 31 under the previously adopted conservation regulations.
The numbers that were seeing return are a real blow to our angling and conservation communities who have already made sacrifices and invested so much in recovery infrastructure, said James Losee, fish program manager for WDFWs coastal region. We were fortunate to get some days in, but the dire situation of these runs is apparent now and we have to take aggressive steps to protect these wild steelhead.
This years closure is about a month sooner than previous years seasons have ended. WDFW is operating under its Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, which requires the department to prioritize the sustainability of coastal steelhead runs, including issues of abundance, productivity, diversity, and distribution. As those objectives are first met, WDFW is then able to consider angler preferences.
Tribal governments have taken similar steps to reduce fishing times and harvest of coastal wild steelhead.
Early summer 2021 public meeting
Fishery managers will review additional in-season metrics, spawning surveys, and catch monitoring data this spring in preparation for an early summer virtual public meeting to debrief this years season alongside the states angling community, partners, and others.
Public feedback has been important from the beginning of this years season, said Losee. We want to keep that conversation open, share the latest data were collecting and analyzing, and provide an opportunity to hear from those invested in coastal steelhead recovery well ahead of next season.
Prior to this years limited winter coastal steelhead season, WDFW held a virtual town hall discussion, attended by more than 160 members of the states angling community and conservation organizations and considered more than 300 public comments weighing four management approaches to support long-term coastal steelhead conservation.