Saturday, April 4, anglers nipped the hooks from their lines and stood casting from the banks of the Skagit River to mark another year since a spring season was last open to steelhead fishing.
When the season was first closed in 2010 it was done so for good reason. Numbers had declined and the population was listed as threatened. As conservation-minded anglers, we supported that decision.
Since, however, the trend has reversed. Numbers have rebounded far beyond the goals set by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Currently, wildlife’s escapement goal is 6,000 steelhead. In 2014, 9,500 fish came back to the Skagit to spawn, part of a continued upward trend.
It’s time we reassess and embark on the process to re-open the spring fishery through a well-regulated catch-and-release season for wild steelhead. This process will not be without bumps in the road. Nor should it be done without thoughtful review of the best science. The last thing we want is to become part of the problem rather than advocates for wild steelhead recovery.
The time to move toward a conservation-based strategy for increased access is upon us. As anglers, conservationists, business owners, members of this community and believers in having a united front for wild steelhead to restore them to their former glory, we urge Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to initiate the process of re-opening the iconic Skagit.