Washington adopts new steelhead angling rules on the Olympic Peninsula

Rules will help boost declining wild steelhead and sustain fishing opportunity
Rob Masonis / Vice President of Western Conservation, Trout Unlimited
rmasonis@tu.org / (206) 782-7085
John McMillan/ Science director for Trout Unlimited’s Wild Steelhead Initiative
jmcmillan@tu.org / (360) 797-3215
(Dec.11, 2015) Port Angeles, Wash. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously today to adopt new fishing rules that will bolster wild steelhead populations on north Olympic Peninsula rivers.
North Coast Olympic rules are a subject near and dear to my heart,” said Commissioner Miranda Wecker at the meeting this morning. “The North Olympic rivers represent our last remaining stable stocks of wild steelhead. I, for one, do not want to be part of running these stocks into the ground.
Among other things, the rules will eliminate the harvest of wild steelhead and rainbow trout, implement gear restrictions during winter steelhead season and run a trial on the upper Hoh that would experiment with restricting fishing from a boat.
The Commissioners have done both wild steelhead and steelhead anglers a great service today, said Rob Masonis, vice president for western conservation at Trout Unlimited. They have considered the scientific evidence and the overwhelming support expressed by anglers and made common-sense changes to sportfishing rules. The new rules will help rebuild wild steelhead populations while providing — and protecting — a world-class fishery. There is more to be done, but this is a great start. We look forward to continuing to work with the Commission and WDFW to see the job through.
The rules adopted by the Commission have garnered tremendous support from anglers. During the comment period, thousands of letters poured into the commission. Of those, more than 90 percent supported releasing wild fish and rainbow trout, nearly 90 percent supported the gear restrictions, and almost 70 percent were in favor of a trial on the upper Hoh.
The OP has brought together anglers of all types, said Chris Taylor, president of the Trout Unlimited Kitsap-Olympic Peninsulas chapter. It has demonstrated what we already know both anecdotally, and from the data. — anglers want to conserve wild steelhead and understand that healthy wild steelhead populations mean good fishing. We see this as an opportunity both for anglers and for the economies that support anglers. By reducing our impact, we are ensuring a more sustainable future of fishing opportunity, which directly translates into local dollars.
The rules were drafted by the North Coast Steelhead Advisory Group; 13 people from Seattle to Forks with knowledge of the fishery that included both gear and fly anglers as well as guides. Trout Unlimited participated on the advisory group.
The bottom line is releasing wild steelhead and rainbow trout will get more fish onto the spawning grounds to help stem the long-term decline in the populations, said John McMillan, science director for Trout Unlimiteds Wild Steelhead Initiative. The selective gear rules — including prohibiting barbed hooks and bait — ensure that we are using the least harmful catch and release methods. Change is hard, but in this case, its a positive step and brings us in line with other iconic wild steelhead fisheries that have already taken the step of protecting and fortifying these wild fish populations.
For more information about Trout Unlimited’s Wild Steelhead Initiative, go to wildsteelheaders.org.