A Skagit River steelhead. (Mike Benbow photo)

A Skagit River steelhead. (Mike Benbow photo)

Government shutdown likely to delay Skagit steelhead fishery

The catch-and-release fishery for steelhead on the Skagit and Sauk rivers was set to open Feb. 1.

By Mike Benbow / Special to The Herald

The partial shutdown of the federal government likely will delay the state’s plan to open a special catch-and-release fishery for native steelhead on the Skagit and Sauk rivers.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife and tribal leaders are seeking federal permission to open portions of the rivers for steelhead catch and release during daylight hours starting Feb. 1 and continuing until April 15.

The approval is necessary because the Skagit’s native steelhead run is threatened, meaning it’s protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

But the request for continuing a special sport fishing season is sitting under a pile of paperwork on the desks of furloughed workers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It’s unclear when NOAA employees will get back to work and when they will consider the 2019 special season.

“I’m ready for it, but the government shutdown is throwing kind of a wrinkle in it right now,” said Edward Eleazer of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Eleazer said he’s been waiting for some sign of when NOAA employees will be getting back to work, but that hasn’t been forthcoming. It will take time for federal officials to consider the request, so the special season could be delayed unless the government shutdown ends quickly.

Fishing for native steelhead, a rainbow trout that goes to sea to find more food, has been closed in the Skagit and Sauk since 2009 because of the threatened designation.

Since then, the run has been rebuilding in numbers and anglers started an Occupy Skagit movement in which they stood in the river without fishing to support the idea of a catch-and-release fishery.

Their efforts were successful.

Eleazer said the protest was effective in getting officials to propose the special season in 2018. And he said last year’s season and its special rules were effective with only a minimal impact on the steelhead. Anglers caught and released some 560 fish. About 6,500 native steelhead are forecast in the Skagit this year, and the catch-and-release period for them has been expanded under this year’s plan.

The Skagit River has a storied run of wild steelhead. The wild fish are larger and more powerful than those of many of the state’s other rivers. Unlike salmon, which spawn in the river and die, steelhead can return to the sea and continue to grow after spawning.

The catch-and-release fishery, intended to greatly reduce harm to the steelhead, requires special rules. Anglers can use only a single, barbless hook on lures or flies and they can’t fish from a moving boat, meaning the boat must be anchored while people fish or anglers must wade the river to fish.

Mondays and Tuesdays would be closed to fishing under the plan to give the steelhead a little breathing room, Eleazer said.

Catch and release

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration offered these tips to improve the survival rate of the fish you release:

— Use a single, barbless hook so it can be removed quickly and easily.

— Don’t play the fish to exhaustion. Use strong enough rods and lines to bring fish in relatively quickly.

— Leave the fish in the water and remove the barbless hook with a pair of forceps or pliers. If the hook is swallowed and can’t be easily removed, cut the line as close to the hook as possible and release the fish.

— Handle the fish as little as possible and only use wet hands.

— If a fish is sluggish, resuscitate it by facing it into the current and moving it back and forth until it regains strength and swims off.

— If you do have to remove the fish from the water, do so for less than 60 seconds and try to support its weight along the body. A rubber net helps to protect the fish. Knotted nylon nets can cut into the fish’s protective outer layer.

— Don’t just remove the hook and toss the fish back into the river. Ease it into the water and revive it if necessary.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Sports

Lake Stevens’ Nisa Ellis looks for an open teammate to pass to during the 4A girls state basketball game against Gonzaga Prep on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Tacoma, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lake Stevens girls come up short against Gonzaga Prep

The Vikings’ playoff run ends with a 49-46 loss in the Class 4A Hardwood Classic’s round of 12.

Snohomish’s Sienna Capelli looks for an open shot during the 3A girls state basketball game against Kennewick on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Tacoma, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish girls dominate Kennewick early, reach 3A state quarterfinals

The Panthers hold off a second-half push and win 48-40, setting up a highly anticipated rubber match with league rival Arlington.

Mountlake Terrace’s Jaxon Dubiel looks for a teammate to pass too while being guarded during the 3A boys state basketball game against Todd Beamer on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Tacoma, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Terrace boys hold off Todd Beamer, advance to 3A state quarterfinals

The Hawks let a big lead slip away in the second half, but pull out a 69-59 victory.

Arlington’s Leyton Martin takes the ball down the court during the 3A boys state basketball game against Garfield on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Tacoma, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Arlington boys’ upset bid falls short in OT against Garfield

The Eagles give the defending Class 3A state champions a scare in a 60-58 loss.

X
State basketball roundup for Wednesday, Feb. 28

State basketball prep roundup for Wednesday, Feb. 28: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To… Continue reading

Glacier Peak players cheer during a boys Class 4A bi-district title game between Glacier Peak and Mount Si at North Creek High School on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. The Wildcats won, 59-53.(Annie Barker / The Herald)
Resurgent Glacier Peak boys have exceeded expectations

After a rare losing season last year, a mix of breakout players and key additions have the Grizzlies back in the Hardwood Classic this winter.

(From left to right) Ellie Matisin, Helaina Soterakopoulos and Max Soterakopoulos pose with their championships trophies after winning their divisions of the Washington State Elks Association Hoop Shoot free throw competition.  (Photo courtesy of Jayne Soterakopoulos)
Community roundup: Everett youngsters win free-throw championships

Plus, two locals earn college honors, Everett’s AFL team is holding its final tryouts, and more.

Sultan’s Derek Feltner takes a handoff from quarterback Westin Galle against Granite Falls on Friday, Sep. 30, 2022, at Sultan High School in Sultan, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Sultan denied KingCo membership, still searching for new league

The high school is moving up to Class 2A in the fall, but hasn’t found a conference to play in.

Everett Community College’s Derek Smith tries to spin out of trouble in the lane against Edmonds College on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, at Seaview Gym in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett men enter season finale on NWAC tournament bubble

Meanwhile, the Edmonds men and women are locked in to their seedings.

Arlington’s Samara Morrow tries to maneuver around  Snohomish’s Sienna Capelli during the 3A girls district championship game on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State basketball: Capsules for all local girls teams at Hardwood Classics

A glance at the six area teams competing at this week’s state tournaments.

Jackson players celebrate during a boys game between Jackson and Puyallup at Shorewood High School on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Shoreline, WA. Jackson won, 55-48. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
State basketball: Capsules for all local boys teams at Hardwood Classics

A glance at the six area teams competing at this week’s state tournaments.

Snohomish players celebrate a strong run against Meadowdale as they head for the bench during the 3A District One Semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, at Marysville Pilchuk High School in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish’s early adjustments lead to postseason success

The Panthers ‘reinvented’ their strategies and are now one of the top-seeded teams in the 3A Hardwood Classic.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.