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December 23, 1997
Contact: Tim Waters, (425) 775-1311, ext. 119

Winter-run hatchery steelhead low; fishery review underway

OLYMPIA -- The low number of winter-run hatchery steelhead returning to the state's waterways has prompted Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists to undertake a review of the fishery to determine if emergency harvest restrictions should be adopted.

Data collected by agency biologists indicate very poor returns to many Washington rivers and streams. This, in turn, has created concern over whether enough fish will return for spawning purposes, according to WDFW fisheries manager Rich Lincoln.

"The department will be reviewing the data on a statewide basis early next week to determine if emergency actions, including possible closures, are needed to ensure hatchery steelhead broodstock needs are met," Lincoln said.

Winter-run hatchery steelhead fishing typically begins in November in Washington. However, early January is generally considered the peak time to fish for the species.

Biologists said they are uncertain why so few winter-run hatchery steelhead have returned this year.

Moreover, the phenomenon does not appear to be confined to Washington, they said. Both Oregon and British Columbia have experienced similar declines.

While winter-run hatchery steelhead start returning to the state's waterways in November, winter-run, wild steelhead generally start returning around January. A statewide, in-season status review of wild steelhead also will be undertaken once data becomes available, according to Lincoln.