Washington State Closes Steelhead Fishing Due To Population Concerns

by Amy Myers

Steelhead fishing has come to an abrupt end in Washington state due to concerns about depleted numbers. On Tuesday, the state announced a full closure on sport fishing for this species along the Washington Coast and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. According to recent reports, steelhead numbers for this year will end up being significantly lower than previously expected.

Preliminary data from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife demonstrated that this year’s returns could be about 30% less. This could potentially lead to some of the lowest steelhead numbers that the state has ever seen in some areas.

“Throughout our conversations with anglers and the broader coastal community, we’ve been upfront about our commitment to designing fisheries that meet our conservation objectives,” said Kelly Cunningham, WDFW fish program director. “With this preliminary data in hand that now suggests coastal steelhead returns are significantly lower than we expected, we need to take bold, swift actions for the future of these runs.”

Steelheads are also known as rainbow trout. While the two fish are, in fact, the same species, there is one significant difference between the two. While rainbow trout are solely freshwater fish, steelheads are anadromous, meaning they migrate from the sea to rivers for spawning.

Steelheads are the official fish of Washington state and are one of the most popular aquatic game species. Washington has identified the fish as a priority species. This means that they “require protective measures for their survival.”

The state has also implemented a long-term planning process that will help protect both native and hatchery-produced steelhead fish populations.

Other States Launch Programs and Culls to Control Native and Migrating Animal Populations

Meanwhile, across the country, New York is facing the opposite issue as Washington. Instead of having too few numbers of an important species, Long Island is struggling to keep its deer population from further exploding. As a result, the state has decided to hold a cull that will euthanize a total of 180 deer.

The main reason for this decision comes from the toll that the growing deer population has taken on local parks. According to officials, they have begun to see an increase in damage to the areas’ vegetation. This will ultimately deplete food sources for other deer and herbivorous animals.

Further west in Montana, the Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to place the wolf hunt on hold in certain areas of the state. Late last month, the Commission decided that once southwest Montana hunted a total of 82 wolves, all wolf hunting and trapping would temporarily cease. This region of the state reached the agreed-upon number in mid-February.

Both the cull in New York and the hunting hiatus in Montana have been points of controversy for the states’ residents.