Beginning December 1, Olympic National Park has closed several of its rivers to sport fishing in an effort to preserve the area’s wild steelhead population.
The alarmingly low levels of steelhead levels are the result of three major factors. Recently, Olympic National Park has forecasted a low return of wild steelheads in three of its rivers “below the escapement goal of 4,200 fish.” Escapement goals represent the number of fish from a particular stock that wildlife experts allow to escape the nearby fishery in order to reproduce and support balance within the population. According to the release, officials have observed low steelhead escapement levels for the past six years. On top of this, commercial fishing has harvested 19 percent of the wild run. Put together, these circumstances have national park officials concerned about the population.
In fact, “In August 2022, coastal steelhead in Washington were petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act,” the park shared. Though, it doesn’t appear that this species has quite made it on the list yet.
In response to the recent findings, Olympic National Park has temporarily closed the following rivers to sport fishing in order to allow the population to rebound:
- Queets River
- Salmon River
- Quinault River from the upper bridge downstream to the park boundary
Olympic National Park Also Closed Rivers For Salmon Population in Fall 2022
Unfortunately, these closures aren’t the only ones that sport anglers have experienced in Olympic National Park recently. Earlier this year, wildlife experts once again closed prime fishing areas in order to protect the Fall Chinook salmon.
“This is a challenging time for recreational anglers in Olympic National Park, following prolonged closures earlier this fall due to historic low river flows and additional closures on the Queets and Salmon Rivers due to higher than expected harvest levels of Fall Chinook salmon,” park officials stated.
“Fisheries within Olympic National Park are managed to provide diverse fishing opportunities, allow for the harvest of hatchery steelhead, and preserve wild salmonid populations,” the release continued. “The National Park Service appreciates the cooperation and understanding of recreational anglers and guides during this time.”
Right now, Olympic National Park wildlife experts don’t expect to reopen these rivers to steelhead fishing until June 1, 2023. In the meantime, Olympic wildlife experts will keep a close eye on escapement goals and current populations and update this deadline as necessary.
Luckily, it seems visitors and park enthusiasts are supportive of the decision to limit sport fishing.
“Protecting these lands and their flora/fauna should always be top priority,” a follower wrote in the comments of the park’s Instagram post. “Sometimes the activities we enjoy will have to wait and that’s understandable to any reasonable, unselfish person.”