In an effort to meet management objectives and provide necessary protection for dwindling wild steelhead populations, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Wednesday announced a full closure to all sport fishing throughout the Washington Coast and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The full closure will take effect Tuesday, March 1.
The closure follows the review of preliminary data that suggests the forecasted returns are likely coming back as low as 30 percent of what fishery managers expected, foreshadowing perhaps the lowest return ever recorded in some rivers.
For a complete list of all locations “closed to all fishing” for “all species” until further notice go here.
Results from WDFW, tribal co-managers and the National Park Service stock assessments from the last 50 years suggests that coastal steelhead populations are in decline. The most recent returns in 2021 failed to meet escapement goals, which reflects the number of steelhead surviving to the spawning grounds. The 2021 total returns to the Washington Coast were the lowest on record.
Based on historic return timing, most hatchery steelhead runs have ended and the wild steelhead returns are more than one-third of the way complete.
“Throughout our conversations with anglers and the broader coastal community, we’ve been upfront about our commitment to designing fisheries that meet our conservation objectives,” said Kelly Cunningham, WDFW fish program director. “With this preliminary data in hand that now suggests coastal steelhead returns are significantly lower than we expected, we need to take bold, swift actions for the future of these runs.”
Last week, WDFW fishery managers also kicked off a long-term planning process for coastal steelhead management with the first meeting of the Ad-hoc Coastal Steelhead Advisory Group. The group will be helping to inform the development of a long-term management plan to protect native and hatchery-produced steelhead for each river system of Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, and coastal Olympic Peninsula, as required by the Washington Legislature in the 2021-23 budget.
WDFW will submit the ensuing plan to the Legislature by the end of 2022.
WDFW continues to operate under its Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, which requires the Department to prioritize the sustainability of wild coastal steelhead runs by focusing on healthy levels of abundance, productivity, diversity, and distribution.
Tribal governments along the coast are closely monitoring their coastal steelhead fisheries and considering in-season management steps to continue to support conservation.
To help support future, more robust in-season freshwater monitoring for coastal steelhead and other fisheries, WDFW is requesting $2.6 million in new state funding this legislative session.
— CBB, Nov. 4, 2021, LIKE COLUMBIA RIVER, WASHINGTON COAST SEES WORST STEELHEAD RETURNS EVER, LIKELY TO GET WORSE; WDFW MULLS ANGLING RESTRICTIONS https://cbbulletin.com/like-columbia-river-washington-coast-sees-worst-steelhead-returns-ever-likely-to-get-worse-wdfw-mulls-angling-restrictions/