The steelhead fishery will open Feb. 3 on the Skagit and Sauk Rivers
MILL CREEK – Fisheries managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Skagit Tribes involved in management expect 5,215 wild steelhead to return to the Skagit River and its tributaries this year.
Under a management plan approved last spring, these projections are sufficient to sustain state-run recreational catch and release fisheries and modest fisheries managed by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, and the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe.
Recreational steelhead fishing will be open from February 3 to April 17, five days a week from Saturday to Wednesday only, and closed on Thursdays and Fridays, on portions of the Skagit River and its major tributary, the Sauk River, under catch-and-release regulations, except up to Two hatchery steelhead. Detained. Wild steelhead must be released immediately and may not be removed from the water. All other species fishing – including targeting trout – remains closed during this fishing period.
Steelhead are a rainbow trout that can exceed 30 pounds, Washington’s state fish, and an icon of the Pacific Northwest that has been a source of important cultural and economic benefits throughout the region’s history.
“Steelhead fishing is part of the tribal and non-tribal culture in Washington state,” said Edward Eleazer, WDFW’s Northern Puget Sound fish program manager. “This fishery is a model of co-management, and as a component of WDFW’s Quicksilver portfolio for Puget Sound steelhead restoration and fisheries, for steelhead management guided by science and careful monitoring.”
“We ask that recreational hunters give tribal hunters space and respect if they encounter each other in the Skagit or Sauk during this hunt,” Eliezer said.
On the Skagit River, steelhead fishing will be permitted from The Dalles Bridge at Concrete upstream to the Cascade River Trail (Marblemount Bridge). On the Sooke River, steelhead fishing will be open from the mouth of the river to Darrington Bridge (Sooke Prairie Road). See Emergency Fishing Rule Changes for additional details, including prohibitions on fishing from boats while with a motor on Skagit, and fishing from a boat with a motor attached on Sauk.
In 2007, steelhead in the distinct population segment of Puget Sound (DPS)—including wild fish returning to the Skagit—were listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The 10-year Skagit River Steelhead Fishery Resource Management Plan (RMP) approved in March 2023 allows state and tribal co-managers to operate a directed steelhead fishery with strict guidelines, monitoring, catch sampling, and enforcement. The plan was approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) and reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during ESA consultations. The RMP is available on the NOAA Fisheries web page.
During the 2024 season, fishery biologists with WDFW and participating managing tribes will also conduct in-season monitoring including krill sampling and fishery testing – as well as extracting sample size and genetic data – to improve our understanding of the Skagit Steelhead population and inform the future. Fisheries management.
While steelhead are sometimes known as the “fish of a thousand casts,” catching them does not require a boat or expensive equipment, making them a relatively accessible fishery. The Skagit Basin has a cult status among steelhead owners as the birthplace of many fishing techniques used by both anglers and anglers.
Steelhead are also an important indicator of ecosystem health. Unlike salmon, steelhead can survive spawning and return to spawn more than once. They spend a significant portion of their juvenile and adult life stages in freshwater, making them particularly vulnerable to habitat degradation and other stresses.
We would like to remind hunters that the new hunting license year begins on April 1, 2024.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to conserve, protect and sustain fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable recreational and commercial opportunities for fish and wildlife.