OLYMPIA -The effective date for a recently adopted statewide moratorium on wild steelhead retention will be May 1, consistent with the start of the next fishing season, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
The two-year moratorium, adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission during a Feb. 6 meeting, originally was to take effect April 1. The moratorium - which is scheduled to run for two years - requires anglers to release any steelhead that is not marked as a hatchery fish by a missing adipose or ventral fin and a healed scar.
"On review, the timeline for implementing permanent fishing rules of this complexity made it impossible to have the moratorium in place by April 1," said Larry Peck, WDFW deputy director. "This was an administrative decision by the director's office, which will make the rule change consistent with the beginning of the annual steelhead management cycle."
Shifting the date to May 1 also allows additional time to get word of the moratorium out to steelhead anglers and other stakeholders, Peck said.
Biologists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stressed that no significant impact to wild steelhead would result from continuing with current regulations on those rivers currently open to retention of wild steelhead.
Wild steelhead retention already had been permanently banned in much of the state, but has been allowed on several Olympic Peninsula river systems where stocks are relatively strong.
"We are confident that the decision to move the effective date of the moratorium will have no significant impact on the resource, but will provide for better notice to anglers who fish for steelhead in the affected rivers," Peck said.