OUTDOORS: Hybrid options for the steelhead season

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IF YOU THOUGHT Steelhead regulations were already easy to decipher, low forecast returns have led the State Department of Fish and Wildlife to consider river-specific rules for coastal steelhead fishing in winter.

That was part of the third virtual town hall takeaway on Tuesday’s Coastal Steelhead. The other? Many conservation-conscious anglers and others feel that it is more than time to stop recreational fishing for a season, especially with warning fish and wildlife of ongoing problems in the Pacific Ocean.

The financial impact of a complete steelhead shutdown on the West End economy, especially one that could last for an extended period of time, is enough to make you sick.

The Hoh and Quillayute river systems had the highest inhibition and spawning targets for the return of 25,723 wild steelheads to the coastal rivers in 2020-21. That number has been described as the lowest return ever, as the Chehalis, Willapa, Humptulips, Upper Quinault, and Queets-Clearwater were all well below their inhibition goals.

Fish and wildlife biologist James Losee guided the virtual participants through an analysis of potential hybrid options.

The return to the status quo of the 2019-20 winter steelhead fishery will not occur on any river, especially the Hoh or Quillayute river systems, as these more productive rivers are likely to attract more anglers.

The passage of last year’s regulations restricting boat fishing, bait and equipment would include seasons on the Hoh, Quillayute and Willapa Rivers.

There are also potential opportunities to fish from a boat on a reduced number of days, in selected waters, and at reduced times (e.g., 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. boat availability).

The Bogachiel Hatchery is forecasting a return of 4,169 steelhead hatcheries in the early season, so targeting this run with some special boat fishing rules for a period of time while protecting the later run of wild winter steelheads seems like a worthwhile plan.

The hard outcome of a list of the Endangered Species Act is also something that no one really wants to see about these coastal rivers – especially considering that the 2007 list of Puget Sound’s numerous steelhead rivers still turned the tide in a positive direction for that Kind of turn this side of the water.

Ahead of us is a series of meetings with tribal co-managers and a November 17th briefing before the State Fish and Wildlife Commission. A fourth town hall is slated for later in November to reveal details of the tribal meeting, and a formal announcement for the steelhead seasons will be made in early December.

Razor clam digs

A new round of approved razor clam digs spans nine days in a row, digging through Thanksgiving evening.

• Tuesday: 4:58 pm; 0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Ports, Copalis.

• Wednesday: 5:28 pm; 0.1 feet; Long Beach, dual ports, mockocks.

• Thursday, 6:03 pm; -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Ports, Copalis.

• Friday, November 19: 6:37 pm; -0.3 feet; Long Beach, dual ports, mockocks.

• Saturday, November 20th: 7:10 pm; -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Ports, Copalis.

• Sunday, November 21: 7:44 pm; -0.2 feet; Long Beach, dual ports, mockocks.

• Monday, November 22nd: 8:21 pm; 0.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Ports, Copalis.

• Tuesday, November 23: 9pm +0.2 feet; Long Beach, dual ports, mockocks.

• Wednesday, November 24th, 9:43 pm; +0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Ports, Copalis.

All open beaches have increased limits until the end of 2021, with excavators being allowed to hold 20 mussels instead of the usual 15.


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