WA: Sol Duc wild steelhead management zone established; Snider Creek program to end

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)
has announced it will end a hatchery steelhead program at Snider
Creek next year to establish a wild steelhead management zone in
the Sol Duc River.

After next spring, no hatchery steelhead will be released into
the Sol Duc River, which will be the first wild steelhead
management zone formally established in the state under the
department’s Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, said Ron Warren,
regional fish program manager for WDFW. Snider Creek is a tributary
to the Sol Duc River in Clallam County.

Wild management zones, also known as wild stock gene banks, are
designed to preserve key populations of wild fish by minimizing
interactions with hatchery-produced fish, said Warren. Research has
shown that hatchery fish are often less genetically diverse and can
impact wild stocks through interbreeding or competition for food or
habitat.

WDFW is also looking to identify other streams that could be
candidates for wild management zones, said Warren. That effort
includes working with an advisory group to identify specific
streams in the Puget Sound region.

“Establishing wild management zones is part of a broad effort
aimed at modifying our hatchery programs to be compatible with
conservation and recovery of naturally spawning salmon and
steelhead populations,” Warren said. “Shifting hatchery steelhead
production away from the Sol Duc River – where we have one of the
largest wild steelhead populations in the state – is an important
step in that effort.”

Changes designed to support naturally spawning salmon and
steelhead populations are driven by plans and policies adopted by
the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, such as the Statewide
Steelhead Management Plan and the Hatchery and Fishery Reform
policy, Warren said.

The Statewide Steelhead Management Plan is available on the
department’s website at
http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/steelhead/, while the
commission’s hatchery and fishery reform policy is available at
http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/policies/c3619.html.

While the hatchery program will no longer take place at Snider
Creek, WDFW is working with stakeholders to re-establish a similar
effort in the Bogachiel or Calawah rivers, where the department
already releases hatchery steelhead, said Warren.

The program will end next spring, when 25,000 winter steelhead
smolts are released into the Sol Duc River, Warren said. Last year,
WDFW also discontinued its summer steelhead program on the Sol Duc
River, after releasing 20,000 smolts.

Before making that decision, WDFW conducted three public
meetings and reviewed about 400 public comments on the future of
the Snider Creek program.

While fewer and fewer hatchery steelhead will be returning to
the Sol Duc River in the coming years, anglers will continue to
have opportunities to fish for salmon and other game fish, as well
as retain one wild steelhead per license year on the river, said
Warren.

The Snider Creek program was created in 1986 as a joint project
with the Olympic Peninsula Guides’ Association to increase fishing
opportunities for steelhead on the Sol Duc River. The program is
unlike most other hatchery efforts in that it produces offspring
from wild steelhead rather than hatchery fish.

 

 

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