OLYMPIA – The smallest predicted returning wild steelhead runs in more than two decades are prompting an early closure of fishing in several Puget Sound river systems, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
All fishing will close March 1 on the Skagit River system (which includes the Sauk River and Fisher Slough); the North Fork Stillaguamish River; the Snohomish River system (which includes the Skykomish, Snohomish and Snoqualmie rivers), and the Puyallup River system (including the Carbon River)
Exceptions to these closures – designed to provide fishing opportunity on other species such as sea-run cutthroat, Dolly Varden and sturgeon – are as follows:
- Skagit River, from the Memorial Highway Bridge (Hwy 536) at Mount Vernon downstream to the river mouth, will be closed to all fishing during March, but will reopen to fishing April 1 - May 31;
- Stillaguamish River, from the Warm Beach - Stanwood Highway Bridge downstream to the mouth, is open March 1 - May 31;
- Snohomish River, from the Highway 2 Bridge in Everett downstream to the river mouth (Burlington Northern Railroad bridges), will be open March 1 - 31.
Any steelhead incidentally caught in the above areas must be released immediately.
Last season, winter steelhead returns to the Skagit system were the lowest since 1979. At the same time, the wild steelhead run in the Snohomish River system was the lowest since monitoring began in 1980, according to Bob Leland, WDFW steelhead manager.
Leland attributed the current low numbers of fish returning to poor freshwater and marine survival.
This season's wild steelhead returns, he said, are estimated to be only 40 percent of the escapement goal (the number needed to maintain healthy populations) in the Skagit River system. The returning runs are only about 70 percent of escapement goals for the Stillaguamish, Snohomish and Puyallup river systems, he added.
The poor wild returns prompted WDFW fish managers to impose wild-release steelhead fishing rules last December on these river systems. Additional information on these rule changes can be obtained from a steelhead fact sheet on the agency web page.