Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fishery managers are inviting the public to join them Nov.10 and 28 for two virtual town halls to gather feedback on fishery options prior to setting regulations for the 2022-2023 coastal steelhead season.
As required by the Legislature in the 2021-2023 budget, the eventual plan will help guide the protection of steelhead for each river system of Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, and coastal Olympic Peninsula.
These opportunities mark the second and third meetings in a three-part series of virtual town halls this fall. This follows 2021 restrictions to coastal steelhead fishing with the anticipation of the lowest return ever recorded in some rivers. Escapement goals, or the targeted number of returning fish that were able to spawn naturally, were not met in five out of seven rivers last year.
“With expectations of another year of low wild steelhead abundance we continue to explore how we can implement fisheries in the most responsible way,” said James Losee, WDFW regional fish program manager. “This includes considering new proposals from the public that balance our conservation goals with fishing opportunities. We really encourage the public to bring forward their ideas as we consider the 2022-2023 season.”
These November meetings follow an Oct. 20 virtual town hall, attended by nearly 200 people. Fishery managers anticipate that the Nov. 10 virtual town hall will include discussion of options for fishery approaches that meet management objectives, new proposals from the public, and ways to maximize the use of surplus hatchery fish where necessary. The town halls will be recorded and available online following the meetings.
Additionally, WDFW staff will be providing updates about coastal steelhead management to the Fish and Wildlife Commission at various meetings this year. More information about upcoming Commission coastal steelhead briefings this fall are available on the Commission webpage.
Informed with feedback from WDFW’s Ad-Hoc Coastal Steelhead Advisory Group, WDFW will also be wrapping up its Coastal Steelhead Proviso Implementation Plan this year.
The group has been meeting periodically in 2022 with its final meeting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 15 in room 172 of the Natural Resources Building in Olympia. The meeting will also be available virtually via Zoom.
Looking ahead, WDFW fishery managers have been working to increase coastal steelhead monitoring efforts up and down the Olympic Peninsula.
“It’s likely that the low wild steelhead abundance is a challenge we will be facing beyond the 2022-2023 season,” Losee said. “By focusing our limited monitoring resources, we are striving to provide more certainty around estimates of catch and in turn additional flexibility for fishery options in the future.”
WDFW will continue 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.