Outdoors Blog

Hatchery steelhead arrivals near state goal for Nooksack program

State hatchery officials report as of Friday, Dec. 26 that 133 adult hatchery steelhead have arrived at its Kendall Creek facility on the North Fork of the Nooksack. They also say first 45,000 eggs have been taken.

An additional four adult hatchery steelhead have entered Whatcom Creek Hatchery.

To ensure needed numbers of adult spawners got to these facilities, state officials issued and emergency order closing until further notice both the Nooksack system and Whatcom Creek to all recreational fishing Tuesday, Dec. 16.

A total of 143 adult spawner recruits are being sought for current and future egg-take and yearling release targets. Offspring from 90 of this winter's parents are scheduled to be raised to smolt size and released in May 2016.

Next spring's and any future steelhead releases are contingent on the issuance of a federal permit authorizing the state to produce and release hatchery steelhead in a wild chinook, bull trout and steelhead recovery zones.

The remaining 53 adults from this December will be held and raised in captivity for spawning next winter in an experimental effort to make up for an expected deficit in the return of mature adults resulting from the cancellation of the 2014 smolt release.

Settlement in April 2014 of a federal court suit forced the state to withhold release one year's production of hatchery steelhead juveniles into the Nooksack and other Puget Sound rivers.

The first of the adult fish of those ill-fated releases would have returned starting on November and December of 2015.

The good news for winter river anglers is that with spawning targets near being met, fishery managers are expected to rescind the emergency closure so sport angling can resume, perhaps as early as New Years Day