THE FOLLOWING IS A JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE AND LOWER ELWHA KLALLAM TRIBE
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Olympic National Park, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have agreed that it is necessary to extend the fishing closure in the Elwha River for another two years, from March 1, 2017 to June 1, 2019. The fishing closure applies to all recreational and commercial fishing in the Elwha River and its tributaries. A fishing moratorium in these waters has been in place since 2011 to protect depleted native salmonid populations, including four federally listed fish species which are needed to re-colonize habitats between and upstream of the two former dam sites. Mountain lakes in the Elwha basin within Olympic National Park and Lake Sutherland will remain open to sport fishing from the fourth Saturday in April to October 31.
As part of the Elwha Ecosystem Restoration project, Elwha Dam removal was completed in April, 2012 and Glines Canyon Dam was removed in August, 2014. Additional rock demolition occurred in Glines Canyon in summer, 2016 to improve upstream anadromous fish passage. Fisheries biologists recently confirmed upstream passage of adult Chinook salmon, sockeye salmon, coho salmon, winter and summer steelhead and bull trout past the former Glines Canyon Dam site. Those species, as well as pink salmon, chum salmon, and Pacific lamprey have now been documented upstream of the former Elwha Dam site.
The restoration of salmonid spawning and rearing in habitats upstream of the former Glines Canyon Dam is paramount to successful restoration. These early re-colonizers play an important role in establishing spawning and juvenile rearing in habitats of the upper watershed. To date, low numbers of Chinook salmon, summer steelhead, and bull trout have been observed as high upstream as the Hayes River confluence.
The Elwha project partners are annually evaluating spawner abundance, extent of distribution, and juvenile production throughout the system using a variety of tools including sonar, redd surveys, radio telemetry, snorkel surveys, smolt trapping, and environmental DNA. Recreational and commercial fishing will resume when there is broad distribution of spawning adults in newly accessible habitats above the former dam sites, when spawning occurs at a rate that allows for population growth and diversity, and when there is adequate escapement and a harvestable surplus. The salmon and steelhead populations are expanding into newly opened habitats, but are not yet approaching the recovery objectives.
Monitoring ecosystem recovery in the Elwha is a cooperative effort among Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Olympic National Park, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
For updated fishing regulations on waters within Olympic National Park, please visit https://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/fishing.htm or contact Fisheries Biologists at 360-565-3081 or 360-565-3075.
For waters outside the park, please visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ or contact WDFW’s Fish Program at 360-902-2838