Nooksack System Closing To Steelheading Friday; Low Forecast
THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
With only 74 hatchery steelhead forecasted to return this winter, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and co-managers at the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Indian Tribe are announcing a closure to Nooksack River to fishing.
The mainstem, North and Middle forks Nooksack River will close to all fishing beginning Friday, Dec. 17. For the full fishing rule change please visit: fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/erules/erule.jsp?id=2787
The South Fork Nooksack River will close to fishing for steelhead and retention of hatchery steelhead Dec. 17, and will be closed to all fishing until further notice beginning on Jan. 1, 2022. For the full fishing rule change please visit: fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/erules/erule.jsp?id=2786
“While we empathize with anglers who’d hoped to enjoy time on the Nooksack River this winter, given the extremely low return of steelhead that we’re expecting, the importance of conservation and rebuilding hatchery stocks for future fishing opportunity can’t be overstated,” said Edward Eleazer, WDFW’s regional fish manager.
“We would like to provide opportunities for our people to exercise Treaty rights, but we also need to make sure we work with our co-managers to rebuild the stocks, fix the habitat and manage the runs for our future generations,” said Merle Jefferson, Sr., Executive Director of the Lummi Natural Resources Department.
“This coordinated fishing closure is a result of close collaboration between the state and tribal co-managers, as well as discussions with leaders from the recreational fishing and conservation community,” added Eleazer. “We’re grateful for this collaboration and look forward to working together to rebuild this fishery for the future.”
In early 2021, hatchery steelhead returned to the Nooksack River less abundant than forecast, and the goal for intake of hatchery fish necessary to spawn future generations (known as broodstock) was not reached. The 2021-2022 hatchery steelhead forecast is for only 74 fish, while 160 fish are needed to make the broodstock goal.
All Nooksack co-managers are in agreement that to ensure future sport and treaty fishing opportunity on this stock, these fishing closure measures are necessary. In response, the co-managers have all agreed to cease fishing in the Nooksack. The South Fork will remain open for salmon and other gamefish through the end of the year, and then be closed to all fishing as part of the measures taken to bolster broodstock collection.