Too few wild steelhead are forecast to return to the Skagit River watershed this year for the state to allow for a steelhead fishing season.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife forecast, developed in partnership with tribes that co-manage the region’s fisheries, indicates 3,833 steelhead may return to the watershed.
That’s below the 4,000-fish forecast needed for a season. That number is part of the federal Skagit River Steelhead Fishery Resource Management Plan aimed at protecting and restoring the population, which was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2007.
As a result, “there will not be recreational or tribal commercial steelhead fisheries this winter and spring,” Fish and Wildlife announced Wednesday.
“We know this is a major disappointment for anglers in the North Puget Sound region and beyond who look forward to this iconic steelhead fishery,” Fish and Wildlife’s regional fish manager Edward Eleazer said in a news release.
Following an eight-year closure of the catch-and-release fishery, a short season resumed in 2018.
The fishery was held on portions of the Skagit and Sauk rivers in 2019 and 2021, but not in 2020 when too few of the fish were forecast to return.
Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Chase Gunnell said agency biologists suspect wild steelhead returns have been low in recent years due to ocean conditions including warmer waters and limited food availability.
Efforts to restore the species include fisheries management, as well as habitat restoration.