First off, I want to thank everyone who participated in last month's Legacy Print drive. With your help, we were able to raise over $8K for our programs and campaigns! The money will directly support our efforts to fight for fish and recreational anglers alike.
As we maneuver through the changes that 2021 presents, I am proud of the obstacles we’ve overcome, the work we accomplished, and just how far we’ve made it as a community. We’re energized and ready to take on the opportunities that lie ahead.
Once the PNW starts to open back up, you can count on us to hit the ground running with in-person fishing events and volunteer opportunities. For now, check out our upcoming virtual events below, including a lower Snake River panel discussion happening tonight at 6pm.
Lastly, I’d like to ask you to please forward this newsletter to one of your fishing buddies that may not know about Northwest Steelheaders. The more people we can reach, the more good we can do for fish and recreational anglers.
Forward we go, together.
Chris Hager, Executive Director
TONIGHT: Learn How We Can Save Endangered Fish in the lower Snake & Columbia Rivers
Have you been personally impacted by the salmon and steelhead declines in the Columbia River Basin? Join us for a virtual panel TONIGHT, January 28th, from 6 to 8pm to learn about how we got here, and how we can chart a course for a better future. We’ll discuss how the lower Snake River dams disproportionately contribute to these declines with trusted experts in the region and why we must act now to restore a free-flowing Snake River. There will be a Q&A at the end, so prepare to ask questions!
Join us by registering for the Zoom event or tuning in on Facebook live.
- Jack Glass, Co-founder and Guide at Team Hookup Guide Service
- Tucker Jones, Columbia River and Ocean Salmon Program Manager at ODFW
- Liz Hamilton, Executive Director at the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association
- Chris Hager, Executive Director at the Association of Northwest Steelheaders
Moderator: Betsy Emery, Advocacy and Campaign Manager at the Association of Northwest Steelheaders
The path forward is more clear than it has ever been. We’ve been presented with a new opportunity to collaborate with legislators and groups that have an interest in the Columbia River Basin in order to find a solution that saves our endangered and threatened fish populations. We need your help to make it happen, so if you’re not involved in our campaign yet, this is the perfect place to start! And if you are already involved, this is a chance to ask important questions and find out what the next steps are.
By Alix Soliman, Operations Manager
In December, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) adopted an emergency rule change to limit fishing opportunities in the Olympic Peninsula because wild steelhead in the region have failed to reach critical spawning abundance for four consecutive years. Under the new rules, anglers are restricted from fishing from watercraft, using bait and barbed hooks (among other selective gear rules), and from keeping rainbow trout.
The expected impact of WDFW’s rule change is that Washington guides and anglers will be more inclined to fish on Oregon's North Coast. Further, ODFW saw an uptick in the number of fishing licenses sold in 2020 due to Covid-19, and the increased level of interest in fishing is likely to continue this year. With this increased pressure on North Coast recreational fisheries, it’s critically important that anglers reduce their impact as much as possible so that more stringent rules aren’t put in place to limit fishing opportunities in the area.
Steelhead populations on the North Coast are listed as “sensitive,” meaning the threats they face are urgent and they demand immediate conservation attention in order to prevent them from declining to the point where they qualify for threatened or endangered status. Whether you’re keeping or releasing your catches, whether you’re in a drift boat or on the bank, whether you’re using a spinning or fly rod, it’s up to each and every angler to fish responsibly so we can keep access to North Coast fisheries open. Below are some simple steps you can take to ensure you’re fishing responsibly.
Tips for Responsible Fishing
Know before you go
1. Know and follow all state angling rules and regulations, and make sure you’re up-to-date with any changes. Check ODFW or WFDW fishing updates before you go out.
2. Make sure you’re well-informed about how to identify fish species and how to tell if they’re a wild or hatchery fish before you venture out. If you’re not confident in your knowledge, go with someone who is.
Location, location, location
3. Don’t fish or tread on the redds. Avoid actively spawning fish. This unethical behavior has been noticed happening on Nehalem and Salmonberry Rivers specifically.
4. Clean and dry angling equipment (especially wading boots) and boats between trips to prevent the spread of aquatic “hitchhikers.” This helps to prevent the inadvertent transport of invasive exotics that may threaten the integrity of an aquatic ecosystem.
5. When sharing the water, allow fellow anglers ample room so you do not disturb anyone's fishing experience or overfish one hole. When fishing from watercraft, do not crowd other anglers or craft. Do not block entrances to bays or otherwise impede others.
6. When we go through long periods of low water and then suddenly get a high water, make sure you’re not crowding popular holes (yes, even if the fish are biting).
7. Respect private property and always ask permission before entering or fishing private property. Understand and follow the local customs and practices associated with the fishery.
8. The longer it takes you to fight and land a fish, the more lactic acid and stress hormones build up in its body. To minimize stress on the fish, use the proper weight-class tackle and land the fish quickly.
9. Only keep the fish you plan to eat, release all of the rest. After you’ve caught all you’ll keep, use pliers to pinch down barbs in an effort to minimize harm to the fish. Remove the hook quickly and gently while keeping the fish underwater.
10. Use barbless hooks if you plan to release. Barbless hooks cause less damage to the fish and make the de-hooking process easier, quicker, and more humane.
11. Keep fish submerged in water the whole time! Keep your hands wet when handling fish. Do not use a towel or gloves to handle the fish as they might wipe off their protective coating.
12. If you’re taking a photo, cradle the fish at water level and quickly take the picture. In Washington, it’s illegal to remove wild fish from the water.
13. When releasing, gently and slowly move the fish back and forth under the surface to get water running through its gills until it swims away.
Choose gear mindfully
14. Use proper weight-class tackle.
15. Use non-lead fishing weights whenever possible. Lead is toxic.
16. Use a cotton or rubber net — not nylon.
Keep it clean
17. Tread carefully. Use trails that are already established, avoid overhung sections of the bank, and don’t attempt to move log jams or boulders. Do not unnecessarily disturb the water by improperly lowering anchors or slapping the water with paddles or oars. Take precautions to keep your shadow from falling across the water (when walking a high bank)
18. Don’t throw trash in the water or along the shore. Every time you change locations, do a 360 check of the area to make sure you didn’t accidentally leave any trash. Carry a trash bag to pack out your trash.
19. If you see litter (old lures, snagged lines in trees, soda cans, etc.), remove it if possible and safe. If all anglers removed trash each time they went out, we’d have cleaner waterways.
20. Use fish cleaning stations. Keep a fold-out table or tray stored in your car or boat in case the site you’re fishing doesn’t have one. Clean fish as they are caught offshore, and toss fish waste only in open, unrestricted water or at sea if state regulations allow. Never toss fish waste in a marina basin.
Spread the word
21. Hold each other accountable. If you see someone fishing in an irresponsible or harmful manner, assume they’re new or just don’t know the right way, and respectfully offer to help. They will likely appreciate it (and the fish certainly will).
22. Share this information widely! We all grow smarter together.
By Joel Taylor, Guest Writer
t was the beginning of what would be a turbulent year, but the only thing on my mind last January was how I was going to catch a steelhead during an almost month-long high-water event. All the rivers within my reach were blown out (too murky to fish) and many were flooded. As a dedicated winter steelhead fisherman, however, I wasn’t about to let that stop me. I came up with a plan to scout out potential tributaries at a higher elevation in the watershed than the main rivers, knowing they would be the first bodies of water to clear up. I invited my friend Oliver who had only been steelhead fishing one other time, set my alarm for 4:00am, and went to bed.
As I do most nights before a trip, I found myself dreaming of the possibilities ahead. The draining of a float, the hissing of a reel, the rod nearly getting ripped out of my hands, and the opportunity to receive a handshake from one of the most beautiful and elusive fish out there. And, as most nights before a trip, it was no surprise when I hopped out of bed 30 minutes before my alarm went off.
If you want to fish for steelhead during a high water event, there are a few strategies you can try. Using big baits or attractants to draw fish near is a great way to go. Plunking is also a highly effective way to fish in muddy water. Our strategy, however, was to find smaller creeks that would likely be clear. Usually smaller rivers and creeks will return to typical turbidity levels more quickly after heavy rain, offering better visibility.
It was noon when we finally saw a swirl of green water flowing into the muddy main stem of the Nehalem River. As we ventured closer, it became evident that we had stumbled upon a perfect fishing hole. I pulled over and we hurried down to an open spot on the bank while the steady beat of the rain swelled into a torrential downpour. As our first casts ripped out onto the water, we anxiously waited for the bobbers to drain.
I had just finished my third float through the run when I looked upstream in search of Oliver’s float. I couldn’t spot it. “Where are you at?” I hollered. “I think I am snagged on the bottom, something weird is happening,” he said. My eyes darted to where his braided line met the water, and I could see the faint indication of his bobber about 4 feet below. It gave one tug and I knew... Finish the story here!
We're looking for volunteer writers! If you're interested in submitting an article for our blog and newsletter, please contact Operations Manager Alix Soliman at email@example.com for more details.
By Alix Soliman, Operations Manager
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to extend the popular two-rod fishing endorsement for the lower Willamette River from March 1 to August 15 this year. The amended rule, which passed with a five-to-one vote, allows anglers to use two rods or lines while fishing for all game and non-game fish, except sturgeon, downstream of Willamette Falls. This includes the Multnomah Channel and the portion of the Clackamas River downstream of the Highway 99 bridge (just upstream of the confluence with the Willamette).
After the proposal for a permanent two-rod endorsement rule on the Willamette was stymied over a year ago, Northwest Steelheaders lobbied the Commission to reconsider and played an instrumental role in influencing this temporary endorsement. To our surprise, the only “no” vote was from Chairwoman Wahl, who has historically been a strong advocate for fisheries conservation and recreation.
The basis for this rule is clear-cut. According to ODFW, the forecasted return in the Willamette River for 2021 is 52,400 fish (including 38,260 hatchery spring Chinook), which results in a projected harvest surplus of over 15,000 fish. To comply with the Willamette Fishery Management Plan, fishing impacts are not allowed to exceed 15% on the Willamette wild spring Chinook run. During the 2017-2019 seasons, the two-rod validation resulted in total Endangered Species Act impacts of between 1.9% and 2.7% on wild spring Chinook—well below the allowable impact.
In fact, the two-rod validation will increase funding to ODFW’s fisheries conservation efforts, increasing their capacity to study spring Chinook and implement effective protections. In other words, this amended rule will have an extremely low impact on wild fish, can increase conservation capacity, is supported by ODFW staff, and is strongly favored by recreational anglers.
Winter Wildlife Wonderland
Missing snow? It’s not too late to create your own Winter Wonderland with this family-friendly get-a-way craft by the National Wildlife Federation’s own Morgan Parks. Build a log cabin in the woods complete with a bear, fox, raccoon, oh my! Of course, it’s not a true Pacific Northwest vacay without some spawning salmon in the creek. This picturesque gingerbread habitat has all the Garden for Wildlife elements wildlife need to thrive so get baking!
COMING UP: Salmon Anatomy through the Art of Gyotaku - Fish Print Craft
Please join the National Wildlife Federation and Northwest Steelheaders for a family-friendly virtual craft and education night on February 9th from 6pm - 7:30pm! Our Education and Outreach Coordinator, Kristina Peterson, will lead you through some salmon anatomy facts, the history of Gyotaku, and then teach you how to make your own fish print. This event is free to the public and open to all ages so feel free to invite your kids, friends, and neighbors! If you would like to make the craft online please have these materials ready:
- Fish shape print out (please cut this out ahead of time)
- Marker/Sharpie to trace outline of salmon
- Paint (we recommend tempera or a thicker paint. Water colors will work, but don’t show up as well)
- Paint pallet/cups
- Cup of water if using watercolor paint
- Paper towels
- Paint brushes
- Piece of plain white paper
- Table/Desk to work on the craft
We can’t wait to see you there! If you have any questions please reach out to Kristina Peterson at ORHabitat@nwf.org.
Zoom Chapter Meetings
A few chapters have resumed Monthly Chapter Meetings via Zoom, and we hope to get everyone online as soon as possible! To see which chapters are meeting and get the Zoom link to access a meeting, please visit our Events Calendar. If you're having trouble setting up Zoom but would like to join a meeting, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll help you out.
As always, Chapter Meetings are free and open to the public. If you're new to Northwest Steelheaders, attending a meeting is a great first step to getting more involved with your local fishing community.
Welcome to our Spring 2021 Interns
Advocacy & Organizing Intern
Growing up in Portland, the forests and rivers surrounding the city were a defining aspect of Tamsin’s childhood and she has seen how important it is to actively conserve and restore these environments for future generations. She is incredibly excited for the opportunity to help advocate for outdoor spaces and to be a part of the Northwest Steelheaders. In her final year at the University of Oregon, Tamsin is pursuing a B.S. in General Science double minoring in Biology and Chemistry. She hopes to continue working to preserve waterways, recover native fish populations, and create sustainable infrastructure after she graduates this spring. In her free time, Tamsin is most likely to be found hiking, camping with friends or making ceramics.
Digital Content & Communications Intern
Alyson has developed a passion for conservation throughout her life. Growing up in Ohio, her family often hiked, skied, and camped; however, as she grew up, she noticed pervasive gaps in environmental education and policy. This inspired her to pursue a career in environmental advocacy and community engagement. Alyson is currently in her senior year at the University of Washington, Seattle pursuing a B.S. in environmental science and resource management and a B.A. in law, societies, and justice. She is excited to be a part of Northwest Steelheaders and looks forward to learning about nonprofit communications and community engagement. In her free time, Alyson enjoys skiing and rock climbing.
As an affiliate member of the Northwest Steelheaders, Tim Wilson will donate $1000 if any Steelheader works with Tim or refers him to friends and family to purchase or sell real estate and the transaction closes. $500 will go to the procuring member's chapter and $500 will go to the association's general fund. To date, Tim has raised over $11,000 for the Northwest Steelheaders through this program. View Tim's webpage and contact him at email@example.com
When you visit https://smile.amazon.com/ and designate "Association of Northwest Steelheaders Inc" under the search bar before you make a purchase, Amazon will donate 0.5% to our organization. While this seems like just a small drop in the pond, it really adds up and is easy to set up.
| Association of Northwest Steelheaders P.O. Box 55400, Portland, OR 97238 (503) 653-4176 firstname.lastname@example.org |