The Wild Steelhead Coalition (WSC) supports the Occupy Skagit movement. The closures of the North Puget Sound Rivers, including the Skagit/Sauk beginning in 2001, was the catalyst in forming the WSC by a group of concerned conservation-minded anglers. We have always believed it is important to have angling opportunities in systems that have viable populations of wild steelhead which are meeting or exceeding their escapement levels while at the same time protecting wild steelhead for future generations to enjoy.
Having diverse angling opportunities available statewide supports conservation efforts by relieving angling pressure on wild winter steelhead runs in other parts of our state, particularly streams on the west end of the Olympic Peninsula (OP). Because of angling closures on all Puget Sound watersheds during the late-winter and spring steelhead seasons, OP and Grays Harbor rivers have seen an explosion in angling pressure during recent years. Like many other watersheds, steelhead runs in these iconic rivers are destined for the collapse unless proactive management strategies are put into place to protect the fish and any future angling opportunities, including through reduced recreational and tribal fishing pressure.
Survey data has shown a viable return of wild steelhead to the Skagit basin in recent years, evidence this watershed is on the road to recovery. If this positive trend continues, we believe opening the Skagit and Sauk Rivers to late-winter and spring steelhead angling, under selective gear and wild fish catch and release regulations with management policies and goals to rebuild run diversity and productivity, would be within the conservation mandate for this watershed and would support the desires of recreational anglers, benefit local economies, and reduce pressure on other wild steelhead returns in our region.
However, it is important that credible scientific data be incorporated into any decision making regarding when to reopen this catch and release fishery in order to ensure that angling during the continued recovery of this wild steelhead run does not significantly hinder recovery itself.
We encourage WSC members, supporters and advocates for wild steelhead and sustainable fishing to attend the Occupy Skagit event this year on Saturday April 4th, 2015 at 9:00 a.m. at Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport, Washington.
Please remember that while this event is a “fish-in” protest, with attendees encouraged to bring waders, vests, rods and other fishing gear, flies, lures and other gear with hooks are not allowed per the current river regulations.
Please go to facebook.com/occupyskagit for more information on the event and the grassroots group of anglers who started the Occupy Skagit movement.