Washington Coast steelhead managers announced that their fourth and last virtual town hall on the 2021-22 winter season will be held November 29, with discussions centered around the agreed-to fishery plans set with tribal comanagers and final public input on the options.
Those range from a full closure – preferred by a majority in an online WDFW poll and at this Tuesday evening’s town hall – to hybrid regs that could allow some level of opportunity, possibly out of boats in select spots, on certain North and South Coast rivers.
This afternoon it was also announced that WDFW staffers will now hold a second meeting with the Fish and Wildlife Commission next week.
Following Wednesday’s special morning briefing of Fish Committee members, they will ask the full citizen panel “for guidance” on the regulation options during Friday’s regular meeting.
According to the commission office, no public comment will be taken at that time.
Last December, commissioners were caught off guard by the restrictive regulations WDFW was considering for the 2020-21 coastal winter steelhead season. The return turned out to be the “lowest on record,” some 25,723 wild fish, with escapement goals missed on five of seven systems.
This year’s forecast calls for 26,200 natives (along with 23,400 hatchery fish). Managers worry tough years are ahead for steelhead due to poor ocean conditions outmigrating smolt have faced the last half decade or so.
Ahead of this winter season, WDFW began involving the public much earlier, holding virtual town halls in July, late October and this week.
“The amount of thoughtful and constructive feedback we’ve heard throughout this pre-season planning process is truly impressive,” said Kelly Cunningham, agency Fish Program director. “Public feedback is at the core of how we move forward toward a plan for next season and this final town hall is a critical part of this process.”
All in all, next Friday’s commission meeting will be a must-view meeting for not only their take on coastal steelhead issues but for their final decision on the 2022 spring black bear permit hunt proposal.