HomeHEADLINESMajor Fishery Closure On Washington Coastal Rivers

Major Fishery Closure On Washington Coastal Rivers

Following on Olympic National Park’s announcement of river and creek fishing closures yesterday, today WDFW announced sweeping angling shutdowns up and down the Washington Coast due to extreme low flows.

Some 50 streams from the West End to Grays Harbor to Willapa Bay are affected, according to the agency, impacting fall Chinook and coho fisheries.

“Historic low flows this summer are creating conditions that limit fish movements and result in higher-than-expected harvest rates,” said James Losee, WDFW Region 6 fish program manager, in a press release. “These areas are closing to fishing until river conditions improve and salmon are able to reach the spawning grounds in adequate numbers.”

Summer is drier in Western Washington than many would believe, but this year saw one of the driest and warmest on record, and fall’s rains have not begun whatsoever. The forecast for Forks doesn’t give a good chance of moisture until October 20, and who knows if that will actually resolve.

RED DOTS ON A U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY MAP SHOW RIVERS THAT ARE FLOWING AT ALL-TIME LOW FLOWS FOR THIS DAY, WHILE BROWN DOTS REPRESENT THOSE AT MUCH BELOW NORMAL LEVELS. BLUE AND GREEN DOTS SIGNIFY AVERAGE TO ABOVE AVERAGE FLOWS, TYPICALLY BELOW STORAGE RESERVOIRS. (USGS)

As a longtime watcher of Washington fishing and hunting, I don’t recall seeing angling restrictions this sweeping since July 2015 during The Blob due to low, warm flows following a winter without much snow, and high air temperatures.

WDFW says it plans to reopen waters “when flows increase, or stock assessment information suggests that salmon are successfully migrating upstream.”

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The agency reports that tribal fisheries are also being changed.

Alarm bells about low flows began to go off last month among some. In mid-September a longtime source texted me, asking “Why is no one talking about the daily low-flow records?” They were concerned about how returning coho and Chinook would navigate the bony waters.

On Piscatorial Pursuits, one angler today reported seeing more dead bright Chinook and coho on a Grays Harbor tributary yesterday than they’d ever seen, noting there was quite a bit of algae in the wtaer too.

In British Columbia, a disturbing video from recent days shows an estimated “65,000” salmon found dead in a creek near Bella Bella on the central coast, due to low, warm waters and probably a lack of dissolved oxygen – “the worst mass mortality of salmon, prespawn salmon that I’ve ever seen,” according to Allison Dennert, a coastal ecologist at Simon Fraser University.

WDFW fish researcher Dr. Marisa Litz learned about the event at the recently concluded International Year of the Salmon Synthesis Symposium in Vancouver, BC., and said salmon dieoffs could occur south of the Canadian border too.

“There is no rain in the forecast for the next week, and we are expecting fall Chinook and coho to be migrating into freshwater the next month. Spring Chinook are already stressed from the low flows. Without rain, or with just a small rain event followed by more sunny weather, we could see fish die-offs as salmon migrate back to their spawning grounds,” she said.

WATER TEMPS ON THE BOGACHIEL ARE RUNNING 12 DEGREES WARMER THIS WEEK THAN AT THE SAME TIME LAST YEAR. THE BOGEY SEES RUNS OF FALL CHINOOK AND COHO. (USGS)

As I wrote last month, over decades of record, mid-September marks the point when flows for a number of rivers inexorably begin to pick back up as the rains return. But not this year. Rivers are flatlining without the arrival of the usual storms.

“This is a dire situation across the state,” WDFW communications staff said in Facebook comments this afternoon. “The prolonged drought has a big impact on fish survival, and we really need some extended rainfall to get things back on track.”

In coastal Washington, these fisheries remain open: Grays Harbor’s East Bay (Marine Area 2-2), Willapa Bay (Marine Area 2-1), and the Chehalis below Fuller Bridge. Lower sections of the Willapa, Naselle and North Rivers are also staying open for hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho only.

But the rest of the state closures begin this Saturday, October 8, according to WDFW.

Here are the rivers that are affected, per WDFW rule change notices posted here:

North coast stream closures

October 6, 2022

Action:  Closes all fishing.

Effective date:  Beginning October 8, 2022, until further notice.

Species affected:  All Species.

Locations (includes all tributaries to listed areas):  

  1. Bear Creek (Clallam Co.) (Bogachiel Tributary)
  2. Bear Creek (Clallam Co.) (Sol Duc Tributary)
  3. Beaver Creek (Clallam Co.)
  4. Big River (Clallam Co.), outside of Olympic National Park.
  5. Bogachiel River (Clallam Co.), from the mouth to Olympic National Park boundary.
  6. Calawah River, (Clallam Co.), including North and South Forks, from the mouth upstream to the Olympic National Park boundary. 
  7. Cedar Creek (Jefferson Co.), outside of Olympic National Park.
  8. Clearwater River (Jefferson Co.), from the mouth to Snahapish River.
  9. Dickey River (Clallam Co.), from the Olympic National Park boundary upstream including the East and West forks. 
  10. Goodman Creek (Jefferson Co.), outside of Olympic National Park boundary.
  11. Hoh River (Jefferson Co.), from Olympic National Park boundary upstream to Olympic National Park boundary below mouth of South Fork Hoh.
  12. Hoh River, South Fork (Jefferson Co.), outside of Olympic National Park boundary. 
  13. Kalaloch Creek (Jefferson Co.) outside Olympic National Park boundary.
  14. Mosquito Creek (Jefferson Co.) from Olympic National Park boundary upstream
  15. Ozette Lake Tributaries (Clallam Co.), outside of Olympic National Park.
  16. Queets River (Grays Harbor/Jefferson Co.):  Contact Olympic National Park for regulations.  (360) 565-3000. www.nps.gov/olym/fishing.htm.
  17. Quillayute River  (Clallam Co.), from Olympic National Park boundary upstream to confluence of the Sol Duc and Bogachiel rivers.
  18. Quinault River, Upper (Grays Harbor/Jefferson Co.), from the mouth at upper end of Quinault Lake upstream to Olympic National Park boundary.
  19. Salmon River (Jefferson Co.), from outside Quinault Indian Reservation and Olympic National Park.
  20. Sitkum River (Clallam Co.)
  21. Sol Duc River (Clallam Co.), from mouth upstream to the National Park Boundary.
  22. Sooes River (Tsoo-Yess River) (Clallam Co.), outside of the Makah Indian Reservation.
  23. Thunder Creek (Clallam Co.)

Reason for action:  These closures are necessary to protect salmon returning to coastal rivers. Fishing will reopen when flows increase, or stock assessment information suggests that salmon have resumed their upstream migration.

Additional information:  This conservation measure follows regulation changes by comanagers for their respective fisheries.  The National Park Service has closed their corresponding fisheries in associated waterbodies, as well.

Grays Harbor watershed stream closures

October 6, 2022

Grays Harbor watershed stream closures

Action:  Closes all fishing.

Effective date:  Beginning October 8, 2022, until further notice.

Species affected:  All Species.

Locations (includes all tributaries to listed areas):  

  1. Black River (Grays Harbor/Thurston Co.)
  2. Chehalis River (Grays Harbor Co.), mainstem from Fuller Bridge upstream, and all forks and tributaries from the mouth upstream.
  3. Cloquallum Creek (Grays Harbor/Mason Co.)
  4. Copalis River (Grays Harbor Co.)
  5. Elk River (Grays Harbor Co.)
  6. Hoquiam River including West and East forks (Grays Harbor Co.)
  7. Humptulips River including all forks (Grays Harbor Co.)
  8. Joe Creek (Grays Harbor Co.)
  9. Johns River (Grays Harbor Co.)
  10. Moclips River (Grays Harbor Co)
  11. Newaukum River, including all forks (Lewis Co.)
  12. Satsop River (Grays Harbor Co.), including all forks.
  13. Skookumchuck River (Lewis/Thurston Co.)
  14. Van Winkle Creek (Grays Harbor Co.)
  15. Wishkah River (Grays Harbor Co.), from the mouth to 200’ below the weir at the Wishkah Rearing Ponds and from 150’ upstream to 150’ downstream of the Wishkah adult attraction channel/outfall structure (within the posted fishing boundary).
  16. Wynoochee River (Grays Harbor Co.)

Reason for action:  These closures are necessary to protect salmon returning to coastal rivers. Fishing will reopen when flows increase, or stock assessment information suggests that salmon have resumed their upstream migration.

Willapa Bay watershed fishery changes

October 6, 2022

Action:  Closes listed Willapa Bay tributary stream areas and requires release of wild coho in areas remaining open.

Effective date:  October 8, 2022, until further notice.

Species affected:  All species.

Locations and rules:  

The following areas (including all tributaries to listed areas) are CLOSED to all fishing from Oct. 8, until further notice:

  1. Bear River (Pacific Co.)
  2. Fork Creek (Pacific Co.)
  3. Naselle River (Pacific Co.), mainstem from Hwy. 4 upstream, and all tributaries from the mouth upstream.
  4. Naselle River South Fork (Pacific Co.)
  5. Nemah River, Middle and South forks (Pacific Co.)
  6. Niawiakum River (Pacific Co.)
  7. North River (Pacific Co.), from Lower Salmon Creek upstream, and all tributaries from the mouth upstream.
  8. Palix River (Pacific Co.)
  9. Salmon Creek (Pacific Co.)
  10. Smith Creek (Pacific Co.)
  11. Willapa River (Pacific Co.), mainstem from the second Camp One Rd. bridge upstream, and all tributaries from the mouth upstream.
  12. Willapa River South Fork (Pacific Co.)

Wild coho must be released in the following areas:

  1. Naselle River (Pacific Co.), mainstem from the mouth (Hwy. 101 Bridge) to Hwy. 4 Bridge:

         Oct. 8-Dec. 31:  Salmon:  Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained. Release wild Chinook and wild coho.

  1. North River (Pacific Co.), mainstem from the mouth (Hwy. 105 Bridge) to Lower Salmon Creek:

         Oct. 8-Dec. 31:  Salmon:  Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained. Release wild Chinook and wild coho.

  1. Willapa River (Pacific Co.), mainstem from mouth (City of South Bend boat launch) to the second bridge on Camp One Road:

         Oct. 8-Dec. 31:  Salmon:  Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained. Release wild Chinook and wild coho.

Reason for action:  These closures are necessary to protect salmon returning to coastal rivers. Fishing will reopen when flows increase, or stock assessment information suggests that salmon have resumed their upstream migration.

Mark selective fisheries are necessary in areas where salmon seasons remain open within the Willapa Bay system to ensure that wild coho escapement objectives will be met.