Washington state steelheaders swallowed a bitter pill last week when the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that it would make the unprecedented move of closing the entire coast to recreational steelhead fishing. WDFW says this decision to enact a full emergency closure is necessary to protect dwindling steelhead populations. The closure goes into effect March 1 and extends to all rivers along the coast and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
This is the culmination of a tough winter for steelhead anglers on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Fisheries managers there saw the lowest returns on record last year, and the forecasted run size for 2021-22 was expected to be even lower. With these low returns in mind, WDFW and tribal co-managers announced some major restrictions to sport and tribal fishing on area rivers. These restrictions—which implemented new regulations for fishing from a boat on certain rivers, and closed sportfishing entirely on others—went into effect Dec. 1.