Wildwood Outfitters Blog and Fishing Report
The Lake Erie tributaries that we spend so much time fishing and guiding are home to one of the most powerful and sought after game fish in North America. The steelhead has a fighting ability that is matched by few others in the freshwater kingdom. Even though they inhabit the icy waters of the Great Lakes, their historic range is in the Pacific Northwest stretching from California to Alaska. Despite the boom times for East Coast steelhead, things are much more bleak in the West. Thankfully, groups like the Wild Steelhead Coalition are there with boots on the ground to help these in peril fish fight back to their former glory.
Pacific steelhead are tough, hardy fish worthy of great respect. They travel thousands of miles up sprawling rivers like the Snake and the Columbia. Once their spawning run has been completed, they head back to the ocean traveling as far away as the Sea of Japan! In the face of this arduous journey, they struggle to overcome over-harvest, habitat loss, dams, and poor management strategies along with a wide variety of natural factors. In fact, the numbers of fish were so low this year that the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife imposed a partial fishing ban on steelhead for the 2018 season. These fish need protection and champions, which is where the Wild Steelhead Coalition comes in.
Their organization of about 500 members works to protect these powerful fish and the habitat they need to successfully reproduce. Whether it's dam removal or hatchery regulation, the WSC works to ensure that more wild fish are able to return to their home rivers. Their fight transcends the rivers, as they work in the equally combative political and cultural arenas as well.
Last year they worked to get wild steelhead off the menu in restaurants, despite claims from Seafood Watch that they were a sustainable fish choice. Another battle, and an always ongoing fight, involves removal or restructuring of dams that block the run of these migratory fish upstream. While these dams serve purposes for humans and industry, they severely handcuff how far steelhead can travel and thus prevent them from reaching the headwaters of their home streams and rivers. It's imperative for the continuation of the fish they these dams come down, which is why the WSC works so tirelessly to make sure that happens up and down the Pacific coast.
One of their more recent endeavors was helping to publish a piece on the effects of Catch and Release on wild steelhead. Their research, and subsequent findings, have shed new light on angling practices and fish handling procedures. This goes far beyond the Pacific Northwest, and is something that should resonate with fly fishers all over the country.
To look into the WSC more and learn about the amazing fish they protect give their website a look here!