After evaluating a hatchery steelhead program at Snider Creek, fish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have decided to end the program in 2013 to establish a wild steelhead management zone in the Sol Duc River.
After the spring of 2013, no hatchery steelhead will be released into the Sol Duc River, which will be the first wild steelhead management zone formally established in the state under the department’s Statewide Steelhead Management Plan. Snider Creek is a tributary to the Sol Duc River in Clallam County.
In 2011, WDFW also discontinued its summer steelhead program on the Sol Duc River.
Wild management zones, also known as wild stock gene banks, are designed to preserve key populations of wild fish by minimizing interactions with hatchery-produced fish. Research has shown that hatchery fish are often less genetically diverse and can impact wild stocks through interbreeding or competition for food or habitat.
WDFW is also looking to identify other streams that could be candidates for wild management zones. That effort includes working with an advisory group to identify specific streams in the Puget Sound region.
Establishing wild management zones is part of a broad effort aimed at modifying WDFW hatchery programs to be compatible with conservation and recovery of naturally spawning salmon and steelhead populations. Shifting hatchery steelhead production away from the Sol Duc River, which has one of the largest wild steelhead populations in the state, is an important step in that effort.
Changes designed to support naturally spawning salmon and steelhead populations are driven by plans and policies adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, such as the Statewide Steelhead Management Plan and the Hatchery and Fishery Reform policy.
Before making the decision to end the Snider Creek program, WDFW conducted three public meetings in 2011 and reviewed about 400 public comments on the future of the Snider Creek program.
As part of the public review, WDFW distributed information outlining steelhead catch numbers for state and tribal fisheries and annual returns of steelhead to the Quillayute River system. In addition, WDFW developed a review of the program that included possible management options. Both those documents are available on this webpage.
While the hatchery program will no longer take place at Snider Creek, WDFW is working with stakeholders to re-establish a similar effort in the Bogachiel or Calawah rivers, where the department already releases hatchery steelhead.
Update, October 17, 2014: Subsequent discussions and field work have narrowed the options for re-locating the wild steelhead broodstock program to three locations along the Bogachiel River. The options are described in the document Bogachiel Wild Broodstock Program – Options Document. This document is being reviewed by the “Hatchery Scientific Review Group”, (HSRG). Recommendations from this group will be considered in the design and location of the program, and public meetings to discuss the options will be scheduled in the fall of 2014.”
While fewer and fewer hatchery steelhead will be returning to the Sol Duc River in the coming years, anglers will continue to have opportunities to fish for salmon and other game fish, as well as retain one wild steelhead per license year on the river.
The Snider Creek program was created in 1986 as a joint project with the Olympic Peninsula Guides’ Association to increase fishing opportunities for steelhead on the Sol Duc River. The program is unlike most other hatchery efforts in that it produces offspring from wild steelhead rather than hatchery fish.