Hoh River Test

Hoh River Test – FAKE NEWS!

Every single action / rule change imposed on recreational steelhead fishermen in the last decade and a half by Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has had the same result – steelhead returns continue to decline. Common sense alone would conclude that the mere elimination of recreational steelhead retention, no bait or scent, required use of single point barbless hooks, prohibition of fishing from a floating device, and restrictive recreational river closures has any chance to overcome, or even mitigate, 50 years of net harvest of the majority of migrating steelhead…….! Every Rule change and recreational steelhead fishing restriction imposed by WDFW has, unfortunately, lacked three critical elements: (1) scientific basis, (2) projected impact, and (3) methodology to confirm results – good or bad. It is all for show! If you are shooting at nothing, I guess you can claim a bullseye every time.

This “so called” Hoh River Test, or more specifically the “Hoh Fishing from a Boat Study” as described by Mr. Losee, WDFW Coastal Regional Fish Program Manager, seems to confirm my conclusion. On January 5, 2024 I requested Mr. Losee provide certain information relative to the “Test”. An important question was “What are the specific base criteria against which data will be evaluated?” As of this date this information has not only not been provided – the request has been completely ignored. One can only assume the information does not exist.

Absent any scientific baseline data, the question now is “What was the basis for the original decision to prohibit fishing from a floating device”?

So…. This is what I think is going on. There has been a significant public push-back against the no fishing from a floating device rule. The Rule was implemented by WDFW based on an unsupported theory that catch and release results in a 10 to 15% mortality rate, and by restricting fishing from a floating device, encounters (hooking a steelhead), would be drastically reduced thereby increasing resource survival rate. There is, of course, no proven science supporting this Rule, no projection of anticipated resource impact provided by WDFW, and certainly no disclosure of methodology by WDFW to determine success or failure of their action. It certainly appears that the Hoh River Test is the tool now intended to produce data that will ultimately be manipulated to provide WDFW after-the-fact justification.

Look, collection of data may be useful, but information and science will not restore this once vibrant, prolific, and valuable resource. The future of steelhead lies in the hands of the politicians and bureaucrats. The point is that unless the netting stops, there are no Rules, Regulations, or Restrictions WDFW can impose on recreational steelhead fishing that will prevent the inevitable.

Make your voices heard! James.Losee@dfw.wa.gov, commission@dfw.wa.gov

Jerry Effenberger, Concerned Citizen