OLYMPIA – What do you do when a prime steelhead fishery is about to open and chinook salmon are spawning at the foot of the only boat launch for miles?
At Morgan's Crossing on the upper Hoh River, the answer was to move the boat launch 150 feet downstream where it wouldn't interfere with spawning chinook salmon or their egg nests, known as redds.
Just days before trout and steelhead fishing reopened Dec. 1 on the upper Hoh, an ad hoc partnership formed to get the job done. Participants included the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the Hoh Indian Tribe and the Pacific Coast Salmon Coalition, a salmon enhancement group based in Forks.
"The Salmon Coalition really stepped up to the plate," said Bill Freymond, a WDFW fish biologist, noting that organization is covering the cost of construction and signs to direct anglers away from the spawning salmon. "Everybody came together to find a solution to this dilemma."
Work on the new boat launch was completed in time for the Dec. 1 opener and anglers have been using it ever since, said Roger Mosley, who heads WDFW's spawner survey crew on the north coast.
"We've received a lot of positive feedback, but WDFW was just one partner in this effort," Mosley said. "The Salmon Coalition and the Hoh Tribe played a big role in making this happen."
Freymond asks that anybody planning to use the new boat launch heed the signs and take precautions against disturbing the spawning salmon or the redds they have left along the riverbed.
"That applies to other anglers who plan to fish the river, too," Freymond said. "Low water conditions during the last few months had us all concerned about spawning conditions for chinook salmon, but they're doing fine now. It's important that we don't interfere with their success."
Because of low-water conditions, WDFW closed the upper Hoh and south fork Hoh rivers to trout and steelhead fishing on Oct. 29, but reopened those fisheries after streamflows returned to their normal range.
Any salmon caught in the Hoh River after Nov. 30 must be returned to the water unharmed.