OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is reminding anglers that they will not be allowed to catch and keep wild steelhead on eight Olympic Peninsula rivers until mid-February.
Earlier this year, the annual opening date for wild steelhead retention was changed from Dec. 1 to Feb. 16 on eight rivers with fisheries for wild steelhead.
That change, adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission last February, applies to fisheries for wild steelhead on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Those eight rivers are the only waters in Washington where wild steelhead retention is allowed.
The change does not affect fisheries currently under way for hatchery-reared steelhead – identifiable by their missing adipose or ventral fin.
The commission, which sets policy for WDFW, changed the opening date for wild steelhead retention to protect the early portion of the run, said Bob Leland, WDFW's steelhead program manager. He noted, however, that anglers will still have an opportunity to catch and keep a wild fish during the peak of the return in late spring.
“Making this change will help to maintain the diversity of the run – including a range of late and early returning fish – that is important in preserving the wild steelhead population,” Leland said.
As before, anglers will be allowed to retain one wild steelhead per license year on one of the eight rivers. For more information on season dates and fishing rules, check the Fishing in Washington regulation pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.
Leland said the change is consistent with WDFW’s Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, which was approved by the commission in 2008. The statewide plan, available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/steelhead/, sets out a variety of conservation policies to guide fisheries management, hatchery operations and habitat-restoration programs.
Leland said anglers should be aware that the sportfishing rules adopted by the commission earlier this year also include regulations that prohibit the retention of wild steelhead on the Green (Duwamish), Pysht and Hoko rivers. The change is designed to protect wild steelhead on the three rivers, where wild runs have recently been in decline.