OLYMPIA - State fishery managers are again reminding anglers they must release any wild steelhead they catch on all but 11 Washington rivers - most of them on the Olympic Peninsula. The annual limit is one wild steelhead per year.
While those rules have been in place since 2004, the wording on this year's catch record cards apparently has caused some confusion, said Bob Leland, statewide steelhead manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
The new statement on the cards, used by anglers to report their annual catch, reads: "One Wild Steelhead Allowed On This Card."
"Some anglers are apparently under the impression the card allows them to catch and keep a wild steelhead anywhere in the state," Leland said. "It doesn't. The statement only applies where retention of wild steelhead is allowed."
As noted in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet, the only rivers in Washington open to retention of wild winter steelhead - and then, only during specific seasons -- are the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers on the Olympic Peninsula. The Green/Duwamish River, which flows into Elliott Bay near Seattle, is open to the harvest of wild summer steelhead in summer and fall.
All other rivers in the state are closed to retention of wild steelhead to protect weak runs of naturally spawning fish. Many rivers are, however, open to retention of hatchery steelhead, which can be identified by a clipped adipose fin.
Leland said the statement on the 2008 catch cards was added after the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission dropped the 30-fish annual limit for hatchery steelhead, giving anglers the option of purchasing additional catch record cards for hatchery steelhead. The new statement was added to indicate that anglers should report the catch of a wild steelhead on the first card, not subsequent cards.
"We'll work on the wording for next year's catch card to avoid any confusion," Leland said. "The message now is that the rules haven't changed in terms of where anglers can catch and retain wild steelhead."