STEELHEAD – End of the line!

In my Forks Forum article of May, 2022 I stated “I am confident that WDFW views their legislative mandate as an opportunity to significantly increase their funding, grow the bureaucracy and expand existing, ineffective programs.” Unfortunately, I was spot on. The Coastal Steelhead Proviso Implementation Plan (CSPIP) presented to the legislature on December 1, 2022 contains well over 100 pages of spin and recasting of existing, ineffective programs, proposal for advanced new scientific monitoring equipment, and vast new scientific studies – all for the mere budget increase+ of an additional $5.9 million. Not so surprisingly, the CSPIP contains no projection of anticipated success – nor any methodology for measurement of same. Theoretically, this plan cannot fail. If you shoot at nothing you can hit it every time. Unfortunately, the Ad Hoc Coastal Steelhead Advisory Group comprised of 12 civilian members hand-picked by WDFW, signed off on this proposal without any insistence of even discussing the primary reason for wild steelhead decline.

Let’s review the measures WDFW has introduced over the years in their efforts to revive the abundant returns of wild steelhead that existed prior to 1974

1: Recreational fishing 30 steelhead seasonal retention limit to include 1 wild steelhead.

RESULT: Continued seasonal return decline

2. Recreational fishing 30 steelhead seasonal retention limit to include 1 wild steelhead harvested after

February 15.

RESULT: Continued seasonal return decline

3. Utilization of single point, barbless hooks only, and prohibition of use of bait or scent.

RESULT: Continued seasonal return decline

4. Recreational fishing 30 steelhead seasonal retention limit to include 0 wild steelhead.

RESULT: Continued seasonal return decline

5. Closure of 18 of 24 steelhead hatcheries. The theory is that hatchery steelhead are genetically

inferior, and that unintended spawning with wild steelhead dramatically lowered survival rate.

Eliminating hatchery smolt would reverse the genetic decline and increase wild steelhead survival /


RESULT: Continued seasonal return decline

6. No fishing from a floating device. WDFW theory is that there is a 10 and 15 percent mortality

rate of hooked steelhead. Prohibiting fishing from a floating device will reduce encounters (hooking)

of wild steelhead and increase number of spawners.

RESULT: Continued seasonal return decline

Look, WDFW is not stupid. They know very well what they need to do, but absolutely refuse to address the issue. Their actions/rules have been eyewash only and, in some cases detrimental. How unfortunate it is that the fate of wild steelhead rests on the cutting edge of a potentially racially charged and highly political issue.

In 1974 Judge Boldt confirmed Treaty rights for Tribes to fish in their usual and accustomed places, in common with, all other residents of the State. His ruling, however, went far beyond Treaty rights by allocating over 50 per cent of projected annual steelhead returns to the Tribes. Regardless of restrictive measures imposed by WDFW on all other residents of our State, annual Tribal harvest has not changed one bit since Judge Boldt’s ruling. Over-zealous projections of annual returns by Tribal biologists often result in even far greater percentage of harvest based on actual returns. After nearly 50 years of such abuse, it is truly amazing that any of this treasured resource remains…..! The killing must stop!

Tribal harvest percentage of projected annual steelhead returns is not a Treaty right. The allocation of over 50 percent of returns to the Tribes represents a purely arbitrary decision of Judge Boldt.

Tribal membership in the State of Washington is approximately 1.25% of our total population. Coastal Tribes most likely represent less than half of that number. Further, the threshold for Tribal membership is a mere 15% Native American blood. It is inconceivable that less than 1% of the residents of Washington State, by virtue of Federal Law, can be entitled to over 50% of annual steelhead returns – and thus hold the fate of this precious resource solely in their hands.

Steelhead mortality rate in Tribal nets is 100%. In the name of equity, and survival of the species, the efficacy of Judge Boldt’s arbitrary decision on resource allocation must be challenged immediately by the State of Washington. For steelhead, failure to do so truly means – End of the Line!

I urge each of you to take the time, today, to call or email your representatives with this simple message


Paid for by

Jerry Effenberger

Concerned Citizen