OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has reversed a measure it approved in February that imposed a two-year moratorium on retaining any wild steelhead caught in state waters.
By a unanimous vote, the nine-member commission instead will allow anglers to retain one wild steelhead per year on a dozen rivers - all but one of which is on the Olympic Peninsula - affected by the moratorium.
The new annual limit for those rivers, which takes effect Oct. 3, is more conservative than the annual five-fish limit in effect before the moratorium was enacted last spring, said Will Roehl, commission chairman.
"For all the discussion about what the annual limit should be on those rivers, any long-term decisions about steelhead management need to be based on the best available science," Roehl said.
Toward that end, the commission has directed the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to update its comprehensive plan for managing steelhead throughout the state. That plan, now being developed in conjunction with treaty tribes and other interested parties, is scheduled for completion in late 2006.
Rivers and streams affected by the action by the commission include the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Goodman, Green, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and the Soleduck.
Anglers must still release any wild steelhead caught on all other rivers and streams throughout the state. Hatchery-bred steelhead, which represent the majority of the annual catch statewide, are not subject to that rule, but are managed according to daily catch limits established on a river-by- river basis.
Citing scientific recommendations by WDFW for the 12 affected rivers, Roehl was one of several commissioners who questioned the biological need for a an outright ban on wild-steelhead retention. Others expressed concerns about the lack of consultation with treaty tribes and the public before the moratorium was adopted last February.
"This time, we got the word out and had plenty of public input," said Roehl, noting that the commission received more than 800 letters, e-mails and petitions on the moratorium.