Last Wednesday, the Wild Steelhead Coalition participated in an exciting public meeting in Forks, Washington about ways to better manage the recreational guiding industry on the Olympic Peninsula, so we can protect wild steelhead and improve the angling experience for these imperiled fish. Public meetings involving wild steelhead in Washington have a tendency to be pretty tense affairs, so it was refreshing to hear this diverse group of guides, anglers, and state officials talk constructively about how we can address this growing problem.
The impetus for this meeting was a proviso passed during the 2017 legislative session that directed the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) to explore alternative structures for guide licensing. The objectives of these alternative structures are threefold:
- Improve the fishing experience and ensure equitable opportunity for both guided and non-guided river anglers.
- Manage fishing pressure to protect wild steelhead and other species.
- Ensure that recreational fish guiding remains a sustainable economic contributor to rural economies.
The legislative proviso instructed WDFW to hold public meetings on both the Olympic Peninsula and in the Klickitat River area. However, the department has scheduled four additional meetings based on the feedback from the public.
- Lyle: Nov. 8, Lyle Activities Center, Highway 14 and Third Street, Lyle.
- Ridgefield: Nov. 9, WDFW Region 5 office, 5525 S. 11th St., Ridgefield.
- Mill Creek: Nov. 13, WDFW Region 4 office,16018 Mill Creek Blvd., Mill Creek.
- East Wenatchee: Nov. 20, Douglas County PUD Offices, Main Auditorium, 1151 Valley Mall Pkwy, East Wenatchee.
- Clarkston: Nov. 21, Walla Walla Community College in the multi-purpose room, 1470 Bridge St., Clarkston.
With wild steelhead populations struggling across the state and fishing pressure increasing in the remaining steelhead strongholds, WSC feels that it is imperative to institute commonsense rules that protect wild steelhead and enhance the angling experience. We will continue to play a role in these ongoing conversations and hope to see you at an upcoming meeting.