On the eve of Thanksgiving, steelheaders received what may well be an early holiday gift when the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) released their proposed plan for managing winter/spring run steelhead in the Skagit River that allows recreational angling. If this plan is approved and agreements are reached with the National Marine Fisheries Service and co-manager tribes, the spring catch-and-release sportfishing season for steelhead on the famed Skagit River could reopen for the first time since 2010.
The potential reopening of the Skagit is a credit to an abundance of quality habitat, including habitat being restored in places like Barnaby Slough, as well as good management practices which have enabled the river’s wild steelhead populations to rebound to an average of 8,600 wild fish returning annually for the last four years. But the reopening is also a testament to the power of anglers to unite behind the Occupy Skagit movement and demand positive changes for our fisheries.
The resurgence of Skagit wild steelhead and the potential reopening of the spring season (which would likely happen in early 2018) are victories that we should celebrate. However, much work still needs to be done on the Skagit, so it is critical that anglers remain united and continue to fight for the Skagit by pushing for much-needed changes like making the Skagit a Wild Steelhead Gene Bank.