With recent and long term declines in coastal steelhead and last season’s early closure to the 2020-2021 coastal steelhead sport fishery, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fishery managers are hosting a suite of virtual public town hall meetings this summer and fall to gather feedback from the public as they prepare for next season.
Anglers and other interested members of the public are invited to attend a 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 28, virtual town hall and workshop to hear initial indications for 2020-2021 fishery returns, get more information about upcoming opportunities to stay engaged in pre-season planning, and provide their feedback for the 2021-2022 season.
“It’s important to us that we continue to hear from the broad community of people deeply invested in the future of these coastal steelhead runs,” said Kelly Cunningham, WDFW fish program director. “We’re committed to maintaining an open, transparent dialogue with anglers as we look to the future for these struggling populations.”
This year’s early closure followed an initial modified approach to the 2020-2021 coastal steelhead season, restricting the use of bait and fishing from a boat, in an effort to increase the number of wild steelhead that return to the spawning grounds. Tribal governments took similar steps to help support coastal steelhead conservation and are expediting post-season analysis alongside WDFW to support more advance public engagement ahead of next season.
In December, WDFW said several coastal wild steelhead runs were expected to return below escapement goals and fail to meet conservation objectives, as they have the past four seasons. For example, in the Chehalis River, returns were expected to come in 2,000 fish below the escapement goal of 8,600 spawners.
WDFW continues to operate under its Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, which requires the department to prioritize the sustainability of wild coastal steelhead runs, including issues of abundance, productivity, diversity, and distribution.
Later this year, WDFW will be soliciting applicants for an ad-hoc coastal steelhead advisory group. The work of the advisory group will closely mimic the Puget Sound Steelhead Advisory Group, which helped develop the Quicksilver monitoring and evaluation package for Puget Sound steelhead. More information will be announced as it’s available.
For more information about the July 28 workshop and upcoming coastal steelhead virtual town hall meetings this summer and fall, please visit wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/management/steelhead/coastal. The meetings will be recorded and posted online so people can also watch the meetings afterwards at their convenience.