OLYMPIA - With wild, winter-run steelhead now returning to Northwest rivers and streams, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is reminding anglers about fishing rules now in effect on the Olympic Peninsula.
Under a measure approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in September, anglers may retain one wild steelhead per season if it is caught in designated waters of 12 state rivers - 11 of which are on the Peninsula.
The Commission's action applies to winter-run steelhead caught in designated sections of the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Goodman, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. It also applies to wild, summer-run steelhead on the Green River in King County, although that fishery closed for the season Nov. 30.
Wild steelhead caught in all other rivers in Washington must be released.
Hatchery-reared steelhead - identified by a clipped adipose or ventral fin and a healed scar - may be retained under conditions described in WDFW's 2004-05 Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet. However, because the Commission's action on wild steelhead came after the pamphlet was printed, the new retention rule on the 12 designated rivers was not included in the pamphlet.
"The department publicized the new wild-steelhead retention rule at the time it was approved, but we're still getting questions from anglers," said Bob Gibbons, WDFW Inland/Anadromous Fish Manager. "It's important that people know the rules were modified by the Commission before going fishing for steelhead."
The 11 Olympic Peninsula rivers affected by the Commission's action in September are listed below, along with the areas and dates open to wild-steelhead retention:
- Bogachiel River - Mouth to Highway 101, Dec. 1-April 30
- Calawah River - Mouth to Highway 101, Dec. 1-April 30
- Clearwater River - Mouth to Snahapish River, Dec. 1-April 15
- Dickey River - Including all forks, Dec. 1-April 30
- Goodman Creek - All areas outside Olympic National Park, Dec. 1-Feb. 28
- Hoh River - Mouth to DNR Oxbow Campground Boat Launch, Dec. 1-April 15
- Hoko River - Mouth to upper Hoko Bridge, Dec. 1-March 15
- Pysht River - Entire river, Dec. 1-Feb. 28
- Quillayute River - Mouth to the confluence of the Sol Duc and Bogachiel rivers, outside of Olympic National Park, Dec. 1-April 30
- Quinault River - Upper river, from mouth at the upper end of Quinault Lake to the Olympic National Park boundary, Dec. 1-April 15
- Sol Duc River - Mouth to the concrete pump station at the Sol Duc Hatchery, Dec. 1-April 30
"Remember, the rule is one wild steelhead per season, not one wild steelhead per river," Gibbons said. "That includes any wild, summer-run steelhead caught on the Green River. Once you keep one wild steelhead, that's it for the rest of the season."
The current season runs from April 1, 2004 through March 31, 2005, consistent with state fishing and hunting licenses. Any wild steelhead caught after March 31 count toward next season's annual limit, Gibbons said.
In approving the new rule, the commission repealed a measure approved earlier last year imposing a two-year, statewide moratorium on retaining wild steelhead. Commission members decided that more study was needed before following through on the moratorium, and directed WDFW to update its comprehensive plan for managing steelhead throughout the state.
That plan, now being developed in conjunction with treaty tribes and other interested parties, is scheduled for completion in late 2006.
"The new one-fish annual limit on those designated rivers is more conservative than the annual five-fish limit in effect before the moratorium was enacted last spring," Gibbons said. "But it does give anglers a chance to catch - and keep - one wild steelhead per year while we develop a management plan for future fisheries."