Amid low returns, fishery managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) this week announced a closure to sportfishing in the Queets, Quinault, Humptulips and Chehalis river systems as well as tributaries of Willapa Bay to further protect wild steelhead populations. The closure takes effect Monday, March 8.
This follows measures fishery managers implemented earlier this winter to modify the coastal steelhead season, restricting fishing from a boat and using bait, to help more wild steelhead return to the spawning grounds. In coordination with tribal co-managers, the Quillayute and Hoh rivers will remain open for coastal steelhead through March 31 under the previously adopted conservation regulations.
This year's closure is about a month sooner than previous years' seasons have ended. WDFW is operating under its Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, which requires the department to prioritize the sustainability of coastal steelhead runs, including issues of abundance, productivity, diversity and distribution.
As those objectives are first met, WDFW is then able to consider angler preferences.
Tribal governments have taken similar steps to reduce fishing times and harvest of coastal wild steelhead, according to WDFW.
Fishery managers will review additional in-season metrics, spawning surveys, and catch monitoring data this spring in preparation for an early summer virtual public meeting to debrief this year's season alongside the statess angling community, partners, and others.