By Rich Simms
For years the message has been broadcasted as seen in these throwback images. Many papers and articles have been written. A movie was produced ”Wild Reverence” by Shane Anderson telling the plight of wild steelhead in the rivers of the Olympic Peninsula as a weaving thread line. Last spring an article was written by Brett Gaba for The Steelhead Journal regarding alarming concerns after last year’s closures of the Chehalis and Willapa system and increasing pressure on the OP streams with low returns. What I find perplexing is the message has been delivered for years. But seemingly ignored as an inconvenience or a buzz kill. I made a few days of fishing out on the coast before the closure and released a couple of fish. Introspectively I am part of the impact or seen as another guy in the run making a crowded weekday.
Last week WDFW made a tough decision regarding regulation changes. I was also interested in the fact, at the Nov. 24 meeting, the department seemed to be taking the conservation side of their mission more seriously clearly sharing their data along with a strong concern for the future of the fish. I am not here to advocate or argue, agree, or disagree whether these regulation changes are the appropriate answer to the options laid out by WDFW. I am more concerned with long term, deeper solutions needed to occur so there is a realistic future for wild steelhead on the coast and our privilege to responsibly angle for them. The WDFW came up with this option and they owned it in short of closing the whole fishery down.
After reading so many posts, articles and comments the last few days how this caught us all by surprise, not prepared for this decision or weren’t expecting it, etc. The reactions really show just how asleep we are, not paying attention, and just blissfully fishing away lulled by shifting baselines and ignoring the problem. The hard questions now; are we going to be pissed off and continue to blame, when the data and message have been in front of us? Or are we going to pay attention to the gut-punch and look within ourselves to own it and figure out a way to solve the hard problems for the long term?
I hope we find a way.
Rich Simms is a lifelong angler from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for steelhead since his childhood growing up around the great streams and waters of the Olympic Peninsula. Simms is a founding board member of the Wild Steelhead Coalition, where he saw the need for a focused wild steelhead conservation group.