Sunday, April 7, 2013

Occupy Skagit Update

photo by Sozinho Imagery
Yesturday 80 people showed their support for a Catch and Release fishery on the Skagit. OS is not advocating fishing over low returns -  it is about having a CnR season when numbers return to the 6,000 escapement level. Winter Steelhead numbers have declined over the last decade on the Skagit and other Washington Rivers. In 1988 there was 13914 spawners in the Skagit, in 2010 there was 4887. 

Chris Deleone a long time steelheader on the Skagit and OS participent shared this with me. "The Skagit did make escapement in 2012 with a total run size of 6,185.  Since a large percentage of Skagit fish are on a four cycle our hope is that we see over 4,500 fish this year - as you know in 2009 we had a very low return of 2,502 (we had a CnR season in 2009), if numbers are good that will show that even a CnR season on low returns does not hinder the long term recovery of Skagit Steelhead. Because of NOAA's current management plan - they will not open a specific river meeting escapement in Puget Sound, they are advocating a total Puget Sound Recovery - which in great, but if the Skagit has 6,000 to 9,000 fish returning and the Puyallup or Green are not meeting escapement - it make no sense to us that the Skagit should not have a regulated Catch and Release season on it.

So putting in place a basin by basin abundance management plan with WDFW and NOAA - when returns are strong say 2014 and after - it will not be a huge fight with government to open a river meeting escapement. Our goal is to be proactive and have a plan in place when things are good - we are all Steelheader's so being optimistic is in our blood."

There is a fishery management issue that needs to be addressed in Washington state and I commend the people who advocated for a catch and release fishery on the Skagit yesterday. This can only open the door to putting pressure on Washington Department of Fish and Game to address other management issues such as  the wild steelhead take regulation on the Olympic Peninsula, a single,barbless regulation and tribal netting. 

It isn't just sports fisherman suffering from the closer, rural businesses depend on the dollars that we spend, hotel cost, food and gas, it all adds up.

Occupy Skagit is bringing awareness to rivers such as the Skagit and advocating for catch and release of threatened, wild fish. I hope the movement keeps growing and will put pressure on agency's to mange a fishery for all stakeholders. Read more about the event here and if you can make it, Occupy Skagit will be going to Olympia next Saturday to a commissioner's meeting and voice their concerns. You can also participate by emailing your name and hometown with a message and they will carry them to Olympia for you.

OS is not advocating fishing over low numbers of wild steelhead, when runs get over the escapement that a management decision is made to open a CnR fishery.
photo by Marty Howard