As we reflect on what we are thankful for this year, I am reminded of how fortunate anglers are in this region. I’m not referring to the usual suspects—the hook set, the fight of the fish, the rush of landing it, or the personal accomplishments along the way—rather, it’s the bigger picture.
Just look at the thousands of miles of publicly accessible rivers, streams, and lakes the average angler has at their disposal in the Pacific Northwest. With a rod and a reel, anyone can attempt to catch steelhead, salmon, lingcod, bass, sturgeon, trout… the list goes on. That’s special and worth fighting for.
I’m grateful to be part of a strong community fighting to extend fishing accessibility and experiences to our children and grandchildren. Yes, there is still work to be done, but with passionate individuals like you demanding better salmon and steelhead runs, I’m confident that we can restore our watersheds and preserve our fishing heritage.
Forward we go, together.
Chris Hager, Executive Director
By Betsy Emery, Advocacy and Campaign Manager
If recreational fishing were a company, national angler spending in 2011 would have placed fishing as number 51 on the Fortune 500 list. It generated more economic output than Google. A 2018 report from the American Fisheries Society estimated that about 13% of adults in the U.S. go fishing each year, and that number is on the rise. The American Sportfishing Association estimates that in 2019, fishing supported over 12,000 jobs and generated $841 million in retail sales, providing an economic output of over $1.4 billion in Oregon alone.
People visit the Columbia River Basin from all over the state, the U.S., and the globe for recreation. A recent economic study suggested that recreation is one of the most important benefits that the Snake and Columbia rivers provide. Their analysis concluded that recreational fishing generates more than twice the economic value that commercial fishing in these two rivers alone, although recreational anglers are only responsible for taking 20% of the total salmon harvested in the basin between 1970 and 2000.
Breaching the lower Snake River dams will significantly benefit endangered salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia and Snake rivers. A 2017 report produced by Earth Economics estimated that if the dams are breached, an additional one million fish will return to the lower Columbia River each year, increasing what anglers are allowed to harvest by 100,000 to 400,000 fish. This translates to an estimated $47 million in additional value. Longer fishing seasons would also increase the number of fishing licenses sold, providing more funding for salmon and steelhead conservation.
While recreational fishing isn’t a traditional “good” or “service” that is commoditized in the same way that hydropower, river navigation, flood control and irrigation are, it generates unparalleled—and too often ignored—economic value to the region. It's well past time to make river management decisions in accordance with the value of healthy watersheds. Let's remove the four lower Snake River dams.
Urge your Representatives to remove the dams.
By Donny Hyde, Columbia River Chapter President
Since 2012, the Columbia River Chapter’s biggest and most anticipated event of the year has been the Annual Veteran’s Fishing Event, hosted in partnership with The Fallen Outdoors (TFO). TFO is a nonprofit dedicated to connecting veterans to each other and the outdoors. The Columbia River Chapter strives to get veterans on the water to fish and foster new friendships, and in spite of the curveball(s) 2020 threw our way, we were determined to continue that work this year. After everything veterans have done for us, it’s the least we could do for them.
Our 22 captains took 70 veterans fishing from Longview, WA all the way up to Kilckitat, WA, covering over 130 miles of river.
“When outdoor communities want something done, there's only a handful of organizations that lead a patriotic charge and one of them is called the [Northwest] Steelheaders, because they know we will get the job done,” Steelheader Brian Cummins said about volunteering at veteran’s events. “It brings fond memories, new friendships, and most importantly, I’ve seen it bring old and new warriors from out of their funk into an invaluable network of compassion and empathy. They can see nobody has to stand alone in this fight, and it gives you hope to know that there is a tomorrow to look forward to.”
The event went off without a hitch! Veterans kept 17 fall Chinook and coho and released plenty of other fish. We also had several first-time anglers who caught their first salmon. For some veterans, it was their first time ever stepping foot into a boat.
I’m thrilled that we were able to demonstrate our gratitude by sharing the thing that brings us the most joy: fishing. Just one day on the water can turn someone’s life around. It can give them a new perspective, bring them peace, fuel a sense of purpose, or simply bring a smile to their face. Our priority will always be to share this incredible sport, especially with those who need it most.
Check out our Veteran's Program Page for more info.
Short-term Wildfire Impacts Support Long-term Benefits.
By Betsy Emery, Advocacy and Campaign Manager
Just as landslides, floods, and fires have shaped our geography, they also form the foundation for the diversity of salmon life histories. Salmon’s ability to adapt to various habitat changes over time is a primary reason why they are some of the most resilient creatures on earth today.
For millions of years, fires have served as a source of natural regeneration in western U.S. forests. The fires salmon experienced before the widespread settlement of the west, however, were very different from the increasingly common catastrophic megafires they face today. Luckily, salmon communities are often resilient enough to be some of the quickest to bounce back.
When a fire reaches a riverbank, water temperatures can increase to lethal levels for these cold-water fish. This is especially dangerous for eggs and juveniles. If the fire burns a majority of the streamside plants, exposure to the sun may cause increased stream temperatures long after the fire, as the plants are slow to return to the banks and slopes. Hotter fires translate to hotter streams, more barren banks, and soil depleted of nutrients critical for succession including potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium. The soil along the bank is left exposed to wind and rain. When heavy rains arrive soon after the fire season, water tears into the soil, causing erosion, more runoff, and potential landslides.
Large flames that stoke heavy winds can also flush exposed sediment, soil, ash, wood and rocks into the river, making it difficult for fish to navigate, breathe or find food during and immediately after the fire. A rapid influx of sediment can flood spawning sites, kill redds, and increase the nitrogen content and acidity of the water. While the water quality is compromised in the short term, this rush of new sediments can increase overall nutrient availability in the stream in the long run, supporting abundant insects and prey fish for salmon to feed on. A few spawning cycles after a fire, average fish size has increased in some rivers.
Slopes above the river that are littered with weak or dead trees and shrubs supply a steady source of large instream wood. While an increase in logjams can isolate fish from each other and reduce critical water flow to redds, instream wood has a number of benefits. Logs often create pools for spawning, provide cover for juveniles, and increase overall habitat complexity.
Fisheries biologists and fire officials have traditionally believed fire to be bad for salmon and have gone to extensive measures to suppress fires from burning along riverbanks. With science supporting the benefits of fire in the long term, we must rethink how we manage fire near aquatic ecosystems to be a regenerative force for forests, streams, and the fish that call them home.
What are Certified Wildlife Habitats?
A certified wildlife habitat uses sustainable gardening practices to provide food, water, cover, and places to raise young for local wildlife.
The Association of Northwest Steelheaders is teaming up with National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife program to transform backyards, school grounds, places of worship, businesses, and community spaces into Certified Wildlife Habitats. Since 1973, the Garden for Wildlife program has empowered people to invite wildlife back into their neighborhoods by converting their gardens, both large and small, urban and rural, into habitat for local pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. Every habitat garden is a step toward replenishing resources for wildlife throughout Oregon’s watersheds, forests and urban areas.
The Northwest Steelheaders recognize that in order to ensure thriving populations of fish for future generations, we need to protect the habitat conditions upon which these species depend. In spending our free time along rivers and lakes, anglers are able to clearly witness the adverse effects of pollution, runoff, and high water temperatures. Strong salmon and steelhead runs rely on cold and clean water flowing through healthy riparian areas. By creating wildlife gardens and cultivating native plants in our communities, we are helping to prevent soil erosion, reduce runoff, and ultimately provide healthy salmon habitat conditions downstream. Sustainable gardens = healthy water = happy fish!
Certify Your Outdoor Space
There are currently over 3,000 Certified Wildlife Habitats in Oregon, and the list is growing!
Animals aren’t the only ones who benefit from the Garden for Wildlife Program. When you certify your outdoor space, you become a member of NWF’s Garden for Wildlife community and receive various benefits, including a personalized certificate, a subscription to National Wildlife Magazine, and 10% off the magazine catalog’s merchandise.
A portion of your $20 application processing fee (waived for schools) goes to supporting programs that educate children and adults on how to make a difference for salmon and wildlife. We also encourage you to purchase and proudly display a Certified Wildlife Habitat sign, which now sports an Association of Northwest Steelheaders logo. For every certification in Oregon, the Steelheaders receive $5. By displaying this sign in your beautiful garden, you may inspire your friends and neighbors to create their own Gardens for Wildlife.
Commercial fisherman sets gillnet at Young's Bay off of the Columbia River in Astoria. Photo by Don Ryan, AP file.
Washington Folds to Commercial Gillnetters on the lower Columbia, Oregon Must Stand Firm
Since October, Steelheaders has been working with a diverse coalition of organizations to ensure that Oregon doesn’t follow suit with Washington’s misguided policy to reinstate non-treaty commercial gill nets on the lower main stem of the Columbia River and reallocate portions of our treasured spring and summer Chinook harvest to commercial fisheries.
We co-signed a letter to Governors Brown and Inslee urging them to direct their fish and wildlife departments to remain steadfast in their commitment to remove non-selective gill nets from the lower mainstem in their negotiations with Washington. We’ve also been meeting with Oregon Commissioners and key staff about the need to stand firm in their commitments to prioritize public benefit and recreational allocation over private, profit-based harvests. This is a bread and butter issue for the Steelheaders community. Rest assured that we will continue to fight! We will track how the joint policy review process unfolds and keep you updated with opportunities to get involved.
Sign up to become a Columbia River Defender to receive action alerts on this issue.
By Ben Kayser, Digital Media and Communications Intern
Just before the election, Congress came together to enact a landmark piece of environmental legislation. With overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle, the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (ACE) passed, ensuring hundreds of millions of dollars will be used for specific and actionable conservation goals in collaboration with key stakeholders in the years to come.
The ACE Act is broad in scope to address a wide array of different conservation goals and is especially important for fisheries-related conservation. Title 2 renews funding for the National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnership Act (NFHP), established in 2006, which aims to encourage collaboration between public agencies and fisheries stakeholders to promote fish conservation. For far too long, recreational anglers, Indigenous peoples, and other key stakeholders haven’t been able to meaningfully engage in fish conservation decision making. Hopefully, with renewed funding for this type of engagement, our fishing community will be heard.
The NFHP calls for “measurable habitat conservation results through strategic actions of Fish Habitat Partnerships that lead to better fish habitat conditions and increased fishing opportunities by— (A) improving ecological conditions; (B) restoring natural processes; or (C) preventing the decline of intact and healthy systems.” There are also explicit calls to broaden community support of, and involvement in, fish habitat conservation by “increasing fishing opportunities” and “fostering the participation of local communities, especially young people in local communities.”
In 2019, the recreational fishing industry in Oregon is estimated to have generated $1.4 billion in economic benefits. The economic importance of recreational fishing is not lost on our legislators, and the law specifically acknowledges the need to raise “public awareness of the role healthy fish habitat play in the quality of life and economic well-being of local communities.”
The ACE Act also reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), which has helped protect nearly 30 million acres of wetlands over the last 30 years. Healthy wetlands are crucial ecosystems that support juvenile salmon and steelhead. To date, the NAWCA has funded over 110 wetland protection projects in Oregon and Washington using over $268 million to conserve 238,313 acres of wetlands. NAWCA funding is matched by state-level partners, doubling or sometimes tripling the impact of each project.
The spirit of collaboration that flows through this momentous piece of legislation is nothing short of a triumph for our threatened fish populations. In Oregon and Washington, we will advocate for funding to be allocated to essential habitat restoration projects, including salmon and steelhead spawning grounds, estuaries, and critical points in the Columbia River Basin. The legislation also provides enhanced opportunities for ODFW and other state agencies to apply for grants that support fish conservation and partner with interested private organizations.
Women's Program Hosts Collaborative Angler Training with ODFW
We held our first collaborative women's angler training on November 14th to convene a team of experienced fisherwomen to volunteer at future Northwest Mayflies events. Northwest Mayflies is a new Northwest Steelheaders program dedicated to building a community of female anglers. The training was limited to 15 people, it was socially distanced and outside, and masks were required. Women discussed their struggles and triumphs in the sport, shared their favorite gear tips and rig set-ups, and fished together along the banks of the Sandy River.
“When I was looking into starting this program, I talked to women I knew who’d been fishing for a long time. They told me that to really get involved in the sport, they either had to develop a thick skin and endure demeaning comments, search tirelessly for a group who would accept them, or go alone,” said Alix Soliman, Operations Manager and Northwest Mayflies Coordinator. "Women and nonbinary people who are interested in getting on the water deserve better options. They deserve to be welcomed. I want this group to be a warm invitation for them,” she said.
Future trainings and events will be held online until the group can gather in person safely again.
Fill out our survey to get involved.
Watch spring Chinook hatch and grow with hundreds of students across the Portland-metro area
With the transition to remote classroom learning, our Fish Eggs to Fry Program continued to receive overwhelming support. Together, we delivered 11,400 Chinook salmon eggs to 29 schools and partners for a total of 38 aquariums across the Portland-metro region. Our new virtual resources have helped expand the Fish Eggs to Fry program far beyond the classroom. We purchased GoPros and lent them to teachers to film and post egg updates on our new Fish Eggs to Fry Youtube channel. The challenge of distance learning created an opportunity for us to rethink how we develop and share educational resources.
“We were pleasantly surprised with the level of participation in Fish Eggs to Fry this fall despite schools being closed to in-person learning,” said Morgan Parks, NWF Oregon Education Manager. “This just goes to show how beloved this program really is. In a time of uncertainty, connecting with nature—even across screens—is more important and of more interest than ever before.”
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Thanks to your generosity, our first-ever virtual fundraiser went off without a hitch! We surpassed our goal and raised $11,557.38 through the auction, derby, and individual donations!
With your help, we will overcome the financial, social, and physical boundaries that stand in the way of good river stewardship in the northwest… through education! Your contribution directly supports our work to engage new female anglers, teach more school children about salmon conservation, and improve access to fishing and outdoor education for underprivileged families. A man once said that “the charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” By supporting education at Northwest Steelheaders, you’ve given hundreds of novice anglers the opportunity to experience an adventure fueled by hope.
Your dedication to our cause means the world to us, especially during these uncertain times. We simply wouldn’t be able to educate the next generation of conservation-minded anglers without you!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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