OLYMPIA - Anticipated poor returns of wild steelhead to the Skagit, Snohomish, Stillaguamish and Puyallup river systems have prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to close all or parts of the streams to fishing, effective March 1.
"The continued low numbers of returning wild steelhead to these Puget Sound streams is of serious concern to WDFW and tribal co-managers, and closing the rivers to fishing will provide maximum protection for weak wild stocks," said Bob Leland, WDFW's steelhead program manager.
The Skagit River from the mouth upstream to the Memorial Highway Bridge (Hwy. 536 at Mt. Vernon) will close to all fishing between March 1 and March 31. The area will open April 1 for fishing for trout, Dolly Varden and other game fish under selective gear rules, and fishing from a motorized vessel will be allowed.
The stretch of river from the Memorial Highway Bridge at Mt. Vernon upstream to the Dalles bridge at Concrete, including Fisher Slough from its mouth upstream to the Hwy. 530 bridge, will also close March 1.
Leland said the preseason forecast for returning Skagit River wild winter steelhead is 6,100 fish, which is slightly more than the wild spawning requirement of 6,000 fish. Since escapement is predicted to be slightly above the goal, the catch-and-release fishing season on the Skagit and Sauk rivers will occur as outlined in the "Fishing in Washington" 2002/03 rules pamphlet.
The Snohomish, Stillaguamish and Puyallup systems will close to all fishing March 1, except for the sport sturgeon fishery in the Snohomish River downstream of the Highway 2 bridge, and the Stillaguamish River mainstem downstream of the Warm Beach-Stanwood Highway.
Leland said preseason forecasts for wild steelhead for the Snohomish, Stillaguamish and Puyallup river systems are well below each system's spawning objective of 6,500, 950 and 2,000 fish, respectively.