Last week we updated you about meetings several board members had with WDFW in regards to the Chehalis System closure. Late on Tuesday this week, we had another phone conference with the Director of the Fish Program, Kelly Cunningham, as well as James Losee, Mike Scharpf, Larry Phillips, Raquel Crosier and I am sure some other department folks, regarding the input the Guide advisory Committee provided.
Other participants in this meeting also included members of WSGA as well as members of the Grays Harbor Guide Association and the Olympic Peninsula Guide Association.
The department took the recommendation we provided and completed further analysis of steelhead distribution in the Chehalis River Basin. With an expectation that wild steelhead abundance in 2020 will be at least 2,000 fish under the escapement goal, it is unlikely that any additional rule change will support conservation objectives in the Chehalis Basin.
“Data suggests that re-opening the Chehalis, even with limitations on areas, days and gear, will most certainly result in additional mortality on wild steelhead. Given the broad spawner distribution, forecasted run size relative to the escapement goal and uncertainty around effort, the agency is confident that the best thing we can do for the short and long term sustainability of wild steelhead is keep the Chehalis closed.”
Additionally, The Willapa and Queets/Clearwater do not look as though they will meet escapement either. This is not the news we were hoping for, but it is possible we may see additional closures in order to meet wild steelhead escapement.
The guide advisory committee will continue to work on these issues as we move forward in an effort to mitigate these types of issues in the future. All of the guides on the phone call, to include those who are not part of the guide advisory committee and WSGA are committed to our industry and the fish we all depend on. I am sure through collaboration of ideas; we can be part of a solution so we have a positive future in these fisheries and others.