The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced early closures on four river systems, the Nooksack, Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish and Puyallup, due to predicted low returns of native steelhead. The rivers will close Feb 1, except for the Puyallup, which will close on Jan 16.
These emergency closures come as little surprise to Washington anglers, who have seen early closures in the Puget Sound area several years in a row as Washington steelhead populations continue to return at levels lower than the State’s baseline.
Though anglers must release any wild steelhead caught, one in ten released steelhead is estimated to die from the experience, and with returns as low as they are, that number is simply too much mortality to risk.
Dwindling Washington steelhead populations in the area are blamed on poor rearing conditions, industrial pollution, competition from hatchery fish, over-harvest, and poor ocean conditions. The real question is, what will state regulators do now to reverse the population decline?