A catch-and-release fishery for wild steelhead will get underway April 14 in sections of the Skagit and Sauk rivers, which have been closed to wild steelhead fishing for several years.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) made the announcement today after receiving approval from NOAA Fisheries on a proposed five-year steelhead fishery plan, developed by state and tribal co-managers to meet shared conservation objectives.
Fishery managers have scheduled openings beginning April 14-15, and continuing April 18-22, and 25-29. The fishery includes the following areas:
Skagit River, from the Dalles Bridge in the town of Concrete to the Cascade River Road Bridge in Marblemount. Fishing from a boat that is under power is prohibited.
Sauk River, from the mouth to the Sauk Prairie Road Bridge in Darrington. Fishing from a boat equipped with an internal combustion motor is prohibited.
WDFW is taking a conservative approach to the trial fishery by limiting time on the water and requiring anglers to use single-point barbless hooks to reduce injury to steelhead as the fish are released. Anglers should be aware that night closures are in effect and the use of bait is prohibited. More details on the fishery rules are available online at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=2110.
The season is based largely on the number of wild steelhead forecast to return to the basin as well as the level of monitoring and enforcement required for the fishery, said Edward Eleazer, regional fish program manager for WDFW. The fishery could close early or have additional restrictions, so anglers should check the website listed above before heading out.
“Anglers have an incredible opportunity to fish for wild steelhead on one of the renowned rivers of the west coast,” Eleazer said. “To ensure there will be steelhead fishing in the basin for years to come, we’re asking anglers to comply with all fishery rules and to help keep the river free of litter.”
Eleazer noted the cooperation of the Skagit River tribes was essential in the development of a fishery plan and securing federal approval for this year’s recreational fishery. The approved plan includes tribal fisheries, but the tribes have not scheduled steelhead fisheries this year in order to limit fishery impacts.
Puget Sound wild steelhead have been listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 2007. Lacking an approved fishery management plan, WDFW closed the Skagit Basin to wild steelhead fishing in 2010.
Ongoing efforts by WDFW and the tribes to protect habitat, remove fish passage barriers and improve steelhead survival in Puget Sound have resulted in increasing numbers of wild steelhead returning to the basin in recent years.
“It’s critical that this work continues in order to fully restore wild steelhead our state fish to the Skagit Basin,” Eleazer said.