While fishing from a boat has been banned on all Washington Coast steelhead streams under WDFW jurisdiction this season, anglers can continue to do so on a nontribal southwest Olympic Peninsula river – at least for the next month and a half or so.
Fishing from a floating device is currently allowed on the Queets inside Olympic National Park, confirmed a spokeswoman when asked about new park regulations posted in conjunction with state changes to the winter fishery but which not include the prohibition on fishing out of a drift boat or pontoon.
WDFW imposed that element as part of a suite of conservation measures that are expected to reduce the overall catch by “more than 50 percent” and, along with tribal changes, will help this year’s run “in meeting management objectives” in terms of spawner abundance.
The rule changes are meant to protect chronic below-escapement returns of wild steelhead to numerous South and Central Coast rivers.
According to WDFW’s forecast for the Queets, which came out before agreement with local tribes, it and its tribs were initially expected to come in 637 fish below the escapement goal of 4,000 or so.
“Olympic National Park has conservation concerns for wild steelhead in the Queets system and is implementing in-season fishing regulation changes within the park,” stated ONP’s Penny Wagner. “As of December 14, the park eliminated the use of bait in the Queets and lower Salmon rivers. Anglers are required to use an artificial lure with single point barbless hook.”
A WDFW fisheries director did not respond to a request this afternoon for comment, but park service as well as tribal managers are in charge of fisheries on their lands.
Wagner said the park didn’t anticipate instating any more regulation changes or closures “until February at the earliest,” but did offer something of an explanation for why ONP didn’t ban boat fishing.
“The park continues to balance the primary goals to: 1) provide fishing opportunities, 2) allow harvest of the early timed hatchery steelhead, and 3) protect wild steelhead populations,” she stated.
The Trump administration, as well as Obama administration before, worked to increase fishing and hunting on federal lands.
Hatchery steelhead return up the Queets to the Salmon, on which is a Quinault Nation facility.
According to WDFW catch reports for 2015, ’16 and ’17, a total of 2,231 hatchery steelhead were kept in December, January, February and March on the Queets (1,203) and Salmon (1,028), primarily in January.