Tell the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) to adopt sportfishing regulations that protect wild steelhead of the Olympic Peninsula
There exists a strong parallel between wild steelhead and those who pursue them – a suite of shared characteristics too robust to ignore. Steelhead embody perseverance. They exhibit unrelenting resolve and persistence in the face of seemingly impassable barriers. They are strong, forceful, and committed.
While our quixotic quest to catch steelhead is far less harrowing and critical than the upstream journey these magnificent fish undertake, anglers share the steelhead’s dogged determination. We press on in harsh conditions even with the slimmest of odds. We cast time and time again, doing everything in our power to elicit that one take: that moment when the rest of the world ceases to exist and you become one with a wild steelhead.
For the last 15 years, the Wild Steelhead Coalition (WSC) and its members have utilized this unwavering perseverance to push for the conservation and restoration of wild steelhead. As anglers first and foremost, we have looked inward and championed changes that worked to minimize the impact of sportfishing on diminishing wild steelhead populations through reducing harvest and implementing commonsense fishing regulations. With conservation-minded policies in place, we believe it is possible to “fish through recovery.”
Since 2001, harvest of wild steelhead has been reduced from 30 wild steelhead a year per recreational angler to one fish a year only on rivers “deemed healthy enough” by WDFW. Moreover, WSC also championed a successful proposal to eliminate the intentional sport harvest of early run wild steelhead. These efforts have made important progress, but it has not been enough to slow the decline of our steelhead returns.
Now WSC and its grassroots community of advocates once again have the chance to take a significant step forward and protect steelhead on Washington’s famed Olympic Peninsula (OP). This opportunity comes at a critical time as steelhead runs on the OP – one of the last wild steelhead strongholds in the Lower 48 – continue to slip toward collapse.
In March, 2015 the WSC proposed a suite of conservation-minded sportfishing rule proposals during the public comment period that were recommended for adoption by the WDFW.
It is time to step up and implement a series of important changes that will minimize anglers’ impact on these diminishing steelhead populations and help ensure the majestic wild fish of the OP do not suffer the same fate of Washington’s five other wild steelhead runs listed on the Endangered Species Act. Modeled after successful wild steelhead conservation regulations from Oregon, British Columbia and other areas, three WSC volunteers played an integral role as members of the North Coast Steelhead Advisory Group and drafting the proposals the NCSAG put forward, which are now up for public comment.
These changes are simple, commonsense, and critically important for conserving wild steelhead and preserving our angling heritage for future generations.
- Rule #48: Prohibit the harvest of all wild steelhead and rainbow trout on select OP rivers such as the Hoh, Bogachiel, and Sol Duc. WSC has championed a zero sportfishing harvest policy for more than a decade with great success, and now we have the chance to finalize it. Comment on Rule #48.
- Rule #47: Implement selective gear rules such as barbless hooks and no bait during winter months on select OP rivers in order to protect juvenile steelhead, salmon, and trout. WSC proposed this regulation change back in 2012, but it unfortunately it was rejected. Since then, WSC has built a large coalition of support, and we are now poised to make it a reality in 2015. Comment on Rule #47.
- Rule #46: Implement “no fishing from a floating device” rules on select OP rivers to protect holding and spawning adult steelhead and salmon. WSC also championed this regulatory change in 2012 and has worked for the last three years to build support for implementation. Similar rules have proven to be successful at reducing catch and release angler induced mortality while also preserving quality fishing opportunity on popular rivers such as Oregon’s Deschutes. Comment on Rule #46.
After years of persistence and hard work by countless volunteers, these important proposals are back up for consideration. Please take a minute to help make them a reality by expressing your support for these sensible, conservation-minded regulations that will protect some of the greatest wild steelhead left on the planet.
Change is hard, especially when it comes with increased regulation of our favorite pastime. However, these commonsense changes are vital to protect the wild steelhead of the Olympic Peninsula and ensure a future that includes angling opportunities in this legendary corner of our region.
Additionally, plan on attending the November 14, 8 am WDFW Commission meeting in Olympia, WA to give public testimony.
Together we can ensure our collective persistence and resolve pays off! Take Action today!