Catch-and-release steelhead fishery to open on Skagit, Sauk rivers

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Edward Eleazer, 425-775-1311, ext. 109

OLYMPIA - For the second year in a row, anglers will get the chance to chase wild steelhead during a catch-and-release fishery beginning Feb. 1 on the Skagit and Sauk rivers.

State and tribal co-managers recently agreed to move forward with this year's fishery, which is based largely on the number of wild steelhead projected to return to the Skagit basin, said Edward Eleazer, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

"We are excited to again be able to provide anglers with an opportunity to fish for wild steelhead on one of the premier river systems on the West Coast," Eleazer said.

The Skagit Basin was closed to steelhead fishing for several years. Last spring, however, the state and tribes received federal approval on a five-year steelhead fishery plan. Each year, the co-managers use the shared conservation objectives in the plan to set fisheries.

The recreational fishery will be open daily beginning Feb. 1 and includes the following areas:

  • Skagit River, from the Dalles Bridge in the town of Concrete to the Cascade River Road Bridge in Marblemount. Fishing from a boat that is under power is prohibited.
  • Sauk River, from the mouth to the Sauk Prairie Road Bridge in Darrington. Fishing from a boat equipped with an internal combustion motor is prohibited.

WDFW is taking a conservative approach to the fishery by requiring anglers to use single-point barbless hooks to reduce injury to wild steelhead as the fish are released. Anglers should be aware that night closures are in effect and the use of bait is prohibited.

Each day, anglers can keep up to two hatchery steelhead, which are marked by a clipped adipose fin, but must release all wild steelhead. More details on the fishery rules are available online https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/.

The fishery will be closely monitored and could close early if anglers reach the number of encounters - fish caught and released - agreed to in the fishery management plan.

"To ensure there will be steelhead fishing in the basin for years to come, we're asking anglers to comply with all fishery rules and to help keep the river free of litter," Eleazer said.

Eleazer noted the cooperation of the Skagit River tribes was essential in the development of a fishery plan and securing federal approval.

Puget Sound wild steelhead have been listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 2007. Lacking an approved fishery management plan, WDFW closed the Skagit Basin to wild steelhead fishing in 2010.

Ongoing efforts by WDFW and the tribes to protect habitat, remove fish passage barriers, and improve steelhead survival in Puget Sound have resulted in an increased number of wild steelhead returning to the basin in recent years.

"It's critical that this work continues in order to fully restore wild steelhead - our state fish - to the Skagit Basin," Eleazer said.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the primary state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish and wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable recreational and commercial opportunities.