Second Response Much Better...
March 16, 2001
Dear Mr. Mukai:
Thank you for your second email correspondence to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife concerning wild steelhead catch-and-release fisheries. I have assembled additional information that may be of interest to you.
WDFW and the Commission have had several discussions on the idea of a statewide wild steelhead no harvest rule. In the year 2000, the department gave two presentations to the Commission on this subject. The first presentation addressed putting the Quillayute River system on total wild steelhead release, and the second presentation dealt with moving toward wild steelhead release on all water currently open to wild steelhead harvest, when harvestable numbers exist.
Currently, the department is preparing for a Fish and Wildlife Commission sponsored workshop in September 2001, which will address the total wild steelhead release issue. The workshop will concentrate on discussion concerning steelhead hooking mortality, methodologies for steelhead escapement goal development, and harvest criteria of wild steelhead and why. The public will be invited to the workshop, which will be announced through the agency web page (http://www.wa.gov/wdfw) and News Releases Funding to conduct a Steelhead Angler Survey has been requested by the Fish Program. This would include questions concerning the mandatory release of all wild steelhead.
The no harvest rule for wild steelhead will be an issue seriously considered during the next regulation cycle that begins this summer. I would urge you to participate in the entire regulation process and express your opinion on this issue.
In response to your current winter steelhead season concerns on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, the following information may be of interest.
The recreational fishery is designed to harvest less than 50% of the harvestable wild steelhead, while providing significant catch and release opportunity.
The creel census staff surveying the river system reports the angling effort this year on the Quillayute system has been about 50% of normal. This is primarily due to the extremely low flow conditions, which have made it difficult for many to boat the rivers (70-80% of the steelhead in the Quillayute system are normally caught by boat anglers), has resulted in very poor plunking conditions, and in general, made it tougher for the average angler to catch fish in the low, clear water. By agreement, the tribal fishery is designed to harvest up to 50% of the harvestable wild steelhead. The Quileute Tribes' success through the end of February has been 92% of the predicted wild catch and only 42% of the predicted hatchery catch, based on in-season sampling of the tribal fishery. The tribal wild steelhead catch was quite a bit higher than predicted from the end of November 2000 through December 2000. They fished with 71% of the predicted effort and caught 1,103 wild fish or 170% of the predicted for that time period. Since January, the tribal fishery has fished with 65% of the predicted effort and has caught 2,034 wild steelhead or 73% of the predicted catch.
Since both the sport and tribal fisheries appear to have been below predicted hatchery fish catches, it indicates the hatchery runsize is probably below the predicted 9,500. However, we have no reliable in-season update methodology for wild steelhead, therefore, we cannot determine whether the run is higher or lower than predicted and we will only know after escapement estimates are complete.
The pre-season total harvest rate calculated for Hoh wild steelhead was 48.8%. In the last two years, the tribal fishery is targeted to harvest 24.4% and the sport fishery has averaged 12.3%. The balance of the sport opportunity is provided in the wild release sections of the upper river and South Fork.
It appears the sport fishery has had most of its success in the lower river and that fish appear to be moving slowly due to the low water conditions. It also appears that a lot of effort has shifted from the Quillayute to the Hoh due to the low flow conditions. However, no in-season catch estimates are available.
The Hoh Tribes' success through the middle of February has been higher than predicted for both hatchery and wild steelhead at 167% of predicted, not 300% as has been erroneously reported. They have been fishing with normal effort and probably have been more effective with gillnets in the slightly colored glacial water of the Hoh. It may be that the tribal harvest rate for the season will be at a higher rate than predicted or it could be that the wild run is larger than predicted. Again, since we have no reliable in-season updates, we will not know the actual runsize and harvest rates until after the season when the final catches and escapement estimate are available.
Low snowpack may actually improve the survival success of spring spawning steelhead. Lower flows during spring and early summer hatches should improve egg to fry survival. The critical time will be summer low flow. Hopefully, in the Hoh, the glacial runoff will keep flows higher than other coastal rivers, providing more low flow habitat. Certainly, survival during low flow periods in the Quillayute system will be a tougher challenge, but escapements in the Quillayute system rivers are expected to be sufficient to seed the available habitat.
Due to the early closures, there is no indication of a large movement of anglers from Puget Sound to the coast. The sport effort in the Quillayute system, thus far, has been well below normal. As mentioned previously, it appears that a lot of effort has shifted from the Quillayute to the Hoh due to the low flow conditions, but it does not represent an increase in anglers from Puget Sound. If effort does increase in the next month and a half, it will likely be comprised of primarily catch and release anglers since they are ones that are being displaced by the early closures. There are many miles of catch and release opportunity available for these anglers on coastal systems.
In summary, we feel that we can finish this steelhead season with the regulations in place. We realize that we are in an extremely low flow condition that has affected both the tribal and sport fisheries. We will continue to monitor these fisheries and the resulting escapements. At this time, we see no indication that wild steelhead escapement goals will not be met.
Thank you for your continued interest in our steelhead fishery's resources.
Steelhead Program Manager
>>> "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com> 03/08 7:13 PM >>>
Thank you for your response.
I wish I could agree with the assumptions that the majority of the
fishing on the peninsula is C&R or wild release. <SNIP>
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