WDFW on new path forward for Puget Sound summer steelhead

Date
Contact

Director’s Office Contact: Jim Scott, 360-902-2736
Public Affairs Contact: Carrie McCausland, 360-890-0996

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) have reached an agreement that will help meet objectives of the proposed steelhead recovery plan and resolve potential litigation regarding the use of a lower Columbia River (Skamania) steelhead hatchery stock in Puget Sound.

The agreement requires a phased three-year elimination of the current Skamania hatchery program in the Skykomish River beginning in 2020. WDFW had already been working with the tribal co-managers to transition to this 119,000 annual release to local South Fork Skykomish broodstock to address a recovery plan objective to improve the conservation benefits of hatchery programs.

“We know that transitioning to a local stock is better for fish, and that the Skykomish is a tremendously popular steelhead river,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “People will be able to continue enjoying the experience here much as they have in the past.”

The agreement requires that 2019 be the last year that Skamania hatchery steelhead are released in the Stillaguamish River.

The catch of hatchery-origin summer steelhead in the Stillaguamish River has averaged less than 20 fish over the last four years and collecting sufficient adults to meet program egg-take goals has been difficult.

“We share anglers’ disappointment over the lack of fishing opportunities in the Stillaguamish River,” said Susewind. “We want to work with the tribal co-managers and stakeholders to improve the Stillaguamish River situation, better meet conservation objectives, and explore alternative fishing opportunities.”

As an additional part of the agreement, the Department will begin a five-year initiative to gather data on North Fork Skykomish and South Fork Tolt summer steelhead in coordination with the WFC. The recovery plan has identified the current lack of information on summer steelhead as a significant impediment to measuring restoration and management efforts.

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