Selective Chinook Salmon Sport Fisheries in Puget Sound With notes on variants for Coho salmon and Steelhead.


The Endangered Species Act (ESA) imposed complex challenges to the management of the sport fishery for Chinook salmon in Puget Sound, Washington State. In order to protect limited stocks of “native or wild” Chinook (i.e., those that are not from hatchery origin and naturally spawn in streams), total closures to sport fishing were strongly considered.

Wild and “hatchery” Chinook (i.e., those that are reared in a hatchery) co-mingle in the same Puget Sound habitat. The hatchery fish are often sufficiently abundant in many areas to allow some level of sport fishing. Total closure of the sport fishery for all Chinook was therefore a major issue for sport fishermen because of the high economic value of the sport, the potential overabundance of adult hatchery fish, and the sport of catching this prized species.

To differentiate hatchery from wild salmon, the adipose fin is removed from hatchery-reared smolts before release. Thus, when an angler brings a Chinook to shore or a boat, the angler can visually determine if it is from hatchery origin, based on the absence of this fin. This allows a mark-selective fishery targeting hatchery fish.

Mark-selective Chinook salmon fisheries are sometimes further constrained by “encounter” quotas. In Puget Sound, quotas for angler “encounters” (a combination of legal-size Chinook, wild Chinook, sublegal hatchery fish, and sublegal wild fish) are established annually for 9 specific marine management areas. For selective river fisheries in the Puget Sound area, the encounter approach is not used.

Current management using quotas on catch and encounters allows sport fisheries on hatchery Chinook salmon. Co-managers Washington Department of Fisheries (WDFW) and Native American Tribes use three major methods to manage the Chinook sport fisheries in Puget Sound:

  1. review of angler punch card data,
  2. creel census surveys supplemented with test boat fishing and aerial surveys, and
  3. quotas on encounters in areas of Puget Sound where sublegal and legal sized Chinook salmon co-mingle.

Punch Cards

In addition to a fishing license, anglers fishing for salmon (all species) and certain other species (e.g., steelhead and halibut) must also purchase a punch card. When one of these species is caught and kept, the angler records the date, location, species, and other information on the card. The punch card must be returned to the WDFW at the end of the recording season. If the cards are not returned, there is a penalty charge made on the next license purchased. The card is used to determine annual harvest and historical trends for the various management areas.

Creel Census

To supplement the punch card information, additional “real time” data are monitored through angler “creel” surveys at various sites. These face-to-face surveys collect information on species caught and kept, number of fish released (including any wild salmon, sublegal fish, others species), hours and management area fished.


Recording encounters involves the reporting during creel surveys of all Chinook kept and released, including whether fish caught were legal-sized and adipose clipped, legal-adipose intact, sublegal-adipose clipped, or sublegal-adipose intact. Information collected during the creel surveys also records Chinook retained and an estimate from the angler of those that have been hooked and released (legal, sublegal, or native). This information is supplemented by test boat fishing and aerial surveys.

During the pre-season, each of the 9 management areas in Puget Sound is assigned specific seasonal encounter quota numbers. If any of the quotas are reached in an area, that area is closed to further fishing for Chinook.


Mark-selective sport fisheries on hatchery salmon in the Puget Sound have been allowed through the use of quotas on angler catch and encounters for specific management areas. The quotas are determined during the pre-season by the fisheries co-managers WDFW and the Tribes. Quotas are derived from a model that includes historical punch card data, spawning surveys from earlier years, and other population and catch data.

The sport fishery for Chinook has severely declined in recent decades. There is a wide array of potential reasons for this decline. These include massive increases in predators (e.g., seals and sea lions), ocean conditions, loss of freshwater habitat, and others. In past decades, fishing for Chinook salmon was open the entire year, with much higher daily limits (up to 3 fish). The fishery has been severely reduced to only a few weeks in summer and limited months in the winter, often with only a 1 fish daily limit. The addition of the encounters approach in recent years has also contributed to large crowds that are condensed into the shortened periods. This, for some, has catching a prized Chinook salmon a lot less enjoyable.

In general, the encounters approach has been useful for allowing Chinook salmon sport fishing to continue on a limited basis while maintaining protections for wild Chinook. There are some drawbacks, however. For example, if the pre-season estimate of Chinook abundance for a particular management area is underestimated, the encounters quota may be reached early and the season closed, even though there may be substantially high survival rates that might have allowed a higher quota value.

Coho salmon and steelhead are also adipose clipped at the hatchery. This allows selective sport fisheries for these species to continue as well, while allowing release of wild spawning adults. However, the encounters methodology is not currently used for these species (capture of sublegal fish is low). In areas where adult Coho populations are low, a selective fishery may occur, in which only hatchery fish are allowed to be retained. However, in areas where populations of “native” Coho are abundant, both wild and hatchery Coho may be kept.

In general, nearly all steelhead management areas in Washington require release of native steelhead, which, in most cases, have a high survival rate when released.

In sum, these mark-selective sport fisheries in Puget Sound allow sport fisheries that otherwise might be banned altogether. Harvest of hatchery fish may also help reduce competition with wild fish for spawning habitat and food resources.


Puget Sound Salmon Fishing – Closed Until Further Notice

For the first time in almost 30 years, there may be no salmon fishing in Puget Sound in 2016.  Several reasons are apparent for this situation.  First, the Coho salmon returns this year are projected to be very poor as a result of unfavorable ocean conditions and the drought in many Washington streams that occurred last year.  The projected returns of adult Coho salmon are very low (particularly for non-hatchery or wild fish that are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act).  There are also concerns about low returns of wild Chinook salmon.

Seasons in Washington are set on an annual basis by the co-managers of the resource.  These co-managers are the Washington Department of Fisheries (WDFW), which represents the non-Indian sport and commercial fishermen on one side and the Indian tribes in Puget Sound, which represent the interests of about 20 different tribes.  This co-management approach evolved after the Judge Boldt decision in 1974 that established the 50/50 split on harvest between the two entities.  Initially, the court system set regulations, but the co-management approach evolved shortly thereafter to let the resource managers set the seasons rather than the court system.

Under the co-management process, seasons have been negotiated and set in the early spring each year.  The co-managers meet, present their positions based on the information each has (including models of the fish returns), discussions are conducted, and the seasons are mutually agreed upon.  These negotiated regulations are then forwarded to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which then provides final review and approval.  Then the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issues permits for the seasons.

This process has worked in finalizing the seasons, until this year.  When the co-managers first met in late April, the WDFW proposed a restricted season that would allow a “selective fishery” for hatchery Chinook salmon along with possible fishing for hatchery Coho.  (Hatchery fish are marked by the removal of their adipose fin).  The Tribes, however, proposed a total closure for all salmon fishing in Puget Sound to protect wild Coho and all Chinook salmon.

In the first two meetings, the co-managers showed no movement toward an agreement on the Puget Sound situation.  (However, agreement was reached on seasons for the Columbia River and the outer coast of Washington and included severely restricted quotas accompanied with selective fishing for marked fish.)   WDFW walked out of the meetings regarding Puget Sound.   Although the two sides have been in further discussion, as of this date – May 19 – no agreement has been made.

To further complicate the situation, WDFW and the Tribes have decided to submit separate proposals to the NOAA in order to obtain separate permits for their proposed seasons.  (NOAA issues the final permits as part of the Endangered Species Act).  NOAA’s response to this has been “WDFW and the Tribes must come to agreement with NOAA offering assistance to the process, but it will not make a decision on the proposals”.  To process these permit submittals, NOAA has estimated that the Tribal proposal (which does include some limited fishing in some isolated situations) could possibly be processed in time for this co-manager’s reduced seasons to go forward.  However, NOAA has indicated that the WDFW proposal could be lengthy (due to the need for public review and comment) and likely could not be processed this year.

In general, the salmon seasons for both Tribal and non-Tribal fishermen in Puget Sound have been severely reduced over the past several decades as a result of lower returns resulting from habitat losses, dramatic increases in predators (birds, seals, sea lions, etc.), and the 50/50 split with the Indian Tribes.  If no agreement can be reached in the next few weeks, there will be no sport/commercial fishing for Puget Sound salmon in 2016.  This outcome will likely result in major regional economic impacts (a sporting goods store has already closed).  There are about 200,000 salmon anglers that have held licenses in the Puget Sound region.  If the closures continue, these fishermen would have no opportunity to fish for salmon in the Puget Sound basin – only ardent fishermen will likely travel to the coastal ports of Washington or the Columbia River to participate in their sport.

In a related development, the WDFW has closed all fishing (all species) in all Puget Sound streams, rivers, and lakes accessible to Coho or Chinook salmon.  These closures include large lakes such as Lake Washington where there is a popular fishery for bass and other warm water species.  In addition, the summer-run steelhead season, another very popular fishery in many Puget Sound streams, usually opens in early June (which is only a few weeks from this date).  This fishery is also destined to remain closed if no agreement can be reached.

Although NOAA has been the Federal agency that was presumed to issue the final permits for the Tribal and the non-Tribal sport/commercial fisheries, much to the surprise of many fishermen and non-fishermen, the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved a separate permit for a limited Tribal fishery for spring Chinook salmon in the Skagit River (a major tributary of Puget Sound).  The fishery was conducted and resulted in several demonstrations by non-Tribal fishermen, both on the Skagit River and at the state capitol in Olympia.

Most of the Tribes favor some type of agreement.  However, two of the Tribes do not favor any agreement except no fishing.  This has complicated the entire negotiation process because all Tribes in the co-management process must agree to the final regulations before they can be submitted for approval.

As a result of this convoluted process, the likelihood of a salmon fishery in Puget Sound this year is clearly in doubt.  Many of the non-Tribal fishermen believe the current negotiation process needs to be overhauled.

More on Mark-Selective Steelhead Fisheries

Don Beyer and many others are concerned with the recent movement to limit hatchery production and mark-selective fisheries of Steelhead in the Puget Sound and Columbia River regions in Washington State. At the center of the debate have been proposals to eliminate hatchery programs on rivers with wild Steelhead.1 Typically, WA Steelhead fisheries focused on winter hatchery fish (adipose fin clipped), with catch-and-release of wild non-clipped fish in winter and spring. In recent years, popular mark-selective and wild catch-and-release fisheries have been shut down on rivers in WA with seemingly healthy populations of wild Steelhead.2 Will NMFS extend these strategies to California?
Steelhead Catch Photo

Recent catch of a hatchery Steelhead in the lower American River in Sacramento. (Photo by T. Cannon)

Marking of Hatchery Fish for Selective Fisheries

by Don Beyer

Salmon and steelhead hatcheries have been in existence for decades along the Pacific coast. The purpose of these hatcheries has been to maintain or improve fisheries for sport, commercial, and tribal interests. They are also a key factor in providing mitigation for habitat losses due to water resource projects such as dams, urbanization, land use alterations, and pollution which have negatively impacted wild fish populations.

Hatchery fish are utilized for food consumption by not only humans, but by marine mammals (e.g., Orcas, seals/sea lions, porpoise/dolphins), birds (bald eagles/ospreys/herons), and other fish (e.g., bull trout), many of which are protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Marine Mammal Act, or other similar Federal acts. The sport fishing industry that has developed over decades around fish resulting from hatchery programs also has a very large economic impact involving millions of dollars.

As a result of the ESA and its efforts to protect non-hatchery raised salmon or steelhead, it was difficult for fishermen to distinguish between hatchery and non-hatchery fish and it appeared that harvest would need to be strictly curtailed or eliminated. To resolve this challenge, hatchery fish were required to be clearly “marked” so that they could be differentiated from non-hatchery fish. The most widely adopted approach has been to remove the adipose fin (a small non-functional fin near the tail of the fish) in juvenile fish before they leave the hatchery to migrate to the ocean. In this manner, if a fisherman caught a salmon or steelhead with an intact adipose fin, they were required to carefully release the fish (even if the season was open for that species). This approach (termed “selective fishery”) was to allow fishermen to continue fishing while protecting ESA-listed salmon or steelhead. Without this approach, the sport, commercial, and likely tribal fisheries would have ceased to exist. It took many years in all Pacific coast states, along with the efforts of many people, to get the selective fishery approved and implemented.

Other approaches are also being undertaken to minimize or eliminate interactions of ESA and non-ESA listed fish. For example, in the past, steelhead from Washington state hatcheries were released at the hatchery and often at other locations either upstream, downstream, or even other river systems. To minimize potential interactions with ESA-listed steelhead, this practice has been minimized to releases only at the hatchery. This takes advantage of the exceptional homing abilities of adult hatchery fish to return to their place of origin (i.e., the hatchery), thus reducing the interactions with non-hatchery fish.

Without the adipose-marking of fish, current fisheries would not be able to continue because fish protected under ESA could not be differentiated from hatchery fish. As such, a major food source for humans and other ecosystem components (e.g., those mentioned above) would cease to exist along with the loss of a major industry dependent on hatchery production. Without selective fishing, the only possibility for a return to a harvestable level of fish would be for ESA-listed species to recover to a level of sustainability that includes harvest. This is a long-term undertaking and may not be possible in some areas where the habitat would not sustain recovery. However, in some situations such as the Columbia River system, progress is being made through recovery of habitat, improvements in hydroelectric and hatchery programs, and harvest restrictions. On the latter, the selective fishery approach has allowed a very viable sport, commercial, and tribal harvest to continue.

Trap-and-Haul of Salmon/Steelhead Around Instream Barriers

By Don Beyer
Dams, impassable falls, and other instream barriers such as reduced flow, high temperature, poor water quality block or impede the migration of salmonids. The following are brief summaries of several case studies in Washington State where trapping and transport around these barriers has had encouraging results.

Recovery of Baker River Sockeye Salmon

Baker River is a tributary to the Skagit River in northern Washington State. Sockeye salmon have a very challenging life history in that they need a lake for young rearing prior to smolt outmigration to the ocean. Before the development of two hydroelectric dams, the native Baker Sockeye salmon used natural Baker Lake for spawning and rearing. After the two dams were constructed (the first dam, Lower Baker, was completed in 1925 below the lake, the upstream dam was completed at Baker Lake outlet in 1959) the sockeye salmon migrations were nearly completely blocked. Natural spawning habitat was destroyed upstream of the upper dam. The adult returns of sockeye salmon prior to the dams were estimated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife1 to be about 20,000 fish but the returns fell to a low of about 99 fish in 1985.

Considerable efforts have gone into research and development of ways to facilitate both upstream and downstream passage around the two dams. The current efforts include improved trap-and-haul operation facilities below the lowermost dam, trucking to artificial spawning beaches (also newly improved) located on Baker Lake, and a new conservation hatchery next to the spawning beaches. Some adults are also released into Baker Lake to spawn naturally in Baker River and its tributaries upstream of the lake. Downstream smolt migration has been improved by trapping outmigrating smolts at both dams and transporting by truck for release below the lowermost dam. The outmigrant collection facilities have been upgraded with nets behind each dam that guide the outmigrants to the traps where they are collected and transported below the lowermost dam.

These improvements have resulted in a record run of 22,500 adult sockeye in 2010. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife2 forecast for returns in 2015 is 46,268 adults. The improved runs have resulted in removal of the Baker River sockeye from the Endangered Species Act candidate list. In addition, the current runs support both a tribal fishery (in downstream areas) and sport fishery (in downstream areas and in Baker Lake).

Adult Salmon/Steelhead Trap and Haul – South Fork Skykomish River at Sunset Falls

The South Fork Skykomish River joins the North Fork near Index, Washington. Combined, the two forks form the Skykomish River, which eventually flows into Puget Sound (as the Snohomish River) at Everett, Washington. This Snohomish River basin supports significant runs of coho salmon, Chinook salmon, chum salmon, pink salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout. Sunset Falls (near Index) is the first of three steep gradients that historically formed a totally impassable barrier to upstream migration of adult salmonids. The drainage area upstream of these barriers is about 350 square miles which has many mainstem and tributary areas that are favorable for spawning and rearing of anadromous fish.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (at the time they were the Washington Department of Fisheries) built a trap and haul facility below Sunset Falls in 1958. Trapped adult anadromous fish are captured and transported by truck to an area above the uppermost falls. These fish then migrate further upstream to spawn naturally.

The trap and haul approach has been in operation since 1958 and has passed an average of 25,000 total fish (all species) per year. This average has increased in recent years (to 46,000) due to large increases in pink salmon returns3.

Cowlitz River Fish Transport

The Cowlitz River is a major tributary to the Lower Columbia River that supports major runs of salmon and steelhead. Upstream passage of adult fish was blocked by construction of Mayfield Dam which began operation in 1963. Initial attempts to pass adults upstream were made by capturing adult fish below the dam and transporting them upstream. Outmigrants were passed around the dam through a bypass system. The situation became more complex when Mossyrock Dam (upstream of Mayfield Dam) began operation in 1968. At the same time, a barrier dam was constructed downstream of Mayfield Dam to channel fish into a newly constructed hatchery. This hatchery, one of the largest in the world, was mainly composed of concrete raceways for holding of adults and rearing of juveniles. In addition, another hatchery, primarily dedicated to production of steelhead, was constructed downstream. This hatchery has large rearing ponds for the juvenile steelhead rather than concrete raceways.

The operation of the barrier dam provided the opportunity to utilize fish for production in the hatchery or to move adults to upstream areas to naturally spawn. The challenge then was to have the outmigrants successfully migrate downstream through the reservoirs and dams.

The success of the two hatcheries has been monitored and evaluated over the years since they began operation until the mid-1990s. During this period, the mainstem below the barrier dam supported an intense sport fishery which in some years had been very good and other years not so good (mixed results that have been attributed to a number of factors including the fish handling/hatchery conditions, ocean survival, commercial/sport fisheries downstream, volcanic eruptions (i.e., Mt. St. Helens in 1980), and others). This fishery continues to the present day.

Although the fish management approach to the Cowlitz River evolved over a number of years, the situation changed when another dam (Cowlitz Falls Dam) was completed 1994. This dam is located upstream of the Mossyrock reservoir. With the current operation of the three dams, a new emphasis was placed on natural production of fish in upstream areas. Adults are transported from the downstream barrier dam to areas upstream of the Cowlitz Falls Dam where they can naturally spawn. They are also transported to the Tilton River, a tributary to the Mossyrock reservoir.

Outmigrating juveniles are funneled into bypass flumes at the Cowlitz Falls Dam where they are passed downstream to a fish collection facility. At the facility, fish are marked with various methods including coded wire tags implanted in the snout of the fish that allows for later identification. Some are radio tagged for research purposes.

Upstream migrating adults originating from above the dams captured at the barrier dam can then be transported above the Cowlitz Falls Dam with natural production (unmarked) fish. Fish marked originally at the hatchery can also be kept for production at that facility.

The Cowlitz River situation can best be described as an evolving process that is moving in a favorable direction. The fish management approach has maintained and, in some instances (such as increased limit sizes), improved the very active sport fishery in the downstream areas. Improvements in utilizing the areas upstream of the dams for natural production should assist in further expansion of the fisheries resources in the Cowlitz River basin while increasing natural production.

Puget Sound Winter Steelhead Sport Fishing – Gone for Good?

Puget Sound is a large inland marine system whose rivers and streams have historically had excellent populations of winter steelhead (both native and hatchery fish) that supported important sport fishing opportunities. Many anglers would brave rain, cold and snow to stand in a stream for hours, trying to hook onto one of these prized fish (up to a trophy size of 20 lbs). Sadly, over the last few decades, this sport fishery has been slowly disappearing and is now almost gone, maybe for good. How come?

A little bit of background on major events that have affected this sport fishery. First was the Judge Boldt decision in 1972, where the judge ruled that the salmon/steelhead resources within Puget Sound must be shared 50-50 between Native Americans and non-Native Americans. This immediately decreased the number of steelhead and salmon available to the sport fishermen. It also led to the co-management of the resources. Various positive and negative opinions have been expressed over the Boldt decision. However, it set the management in a different direction with more people involved. It also set new and untested legal issues in motion.

A second event that affected this fishery was the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Through many legal battles, protection of “wild” or “native” steelhead became paramount because studies with various results showed that hatchery steelhead were/were not as viable as the “native” fish. You can pick which side you want on this one, because studies with both positive and negative results exist. It has been claimed, however, that hatchery fish are not good for the native fish (even though they swim around in the Pacific Ocean for several years and return to their stream of origin to spawn). Likely, most sport fishermen and the general population would like to see strong returns of “native” fish, with no need for hatcheries.

In addition to the Boldt decision and the ESA, other legislation has also affected the salmon and steelhead populations of Puget Sound (and elsewhere along the Pacific Coast). Of particular interest is the protection of seals, sea lions, and other predators (such as birds) under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation.

How have these events affected the winter steelhead sport fishery? First, as noted above, the Boldt decision diminished the number of fish available to the sport fishery. To some degree, this was mitigated by a very active program to develop mark-selective fishing on hatchery steelhead. Though details changed, the general approach was to mark outmigrating steelhead at hatcheries by removing the adipose fins (a small fin near the tail of the fish). With this clearly visible “mark”, the fishermen were allowed to keep marked fish, but unmarked fish (i.e., fish with a visible adipose fin) had to be returned to the stream (i.e., not kept). Other measures, such as using barbless hooks and reduced seasons, were implemented to further protect the “native” fish. These efforts allowed a viable winter steelhead fishery to occur, although the success rate per angler in Puget Sound streams has diminished, likely due to population growth and increased interest in this fishery.

The ESA has been used to eliminate much of the hatchery production of winter steelhead in Puget Sound streams. In a recent legal dispute, the “Wild Fish Conservancy” fought for the elimination of hatchery production of winter steelhead in Puget Sound streams. The case was settled with the Washington Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (WDFW) paying the legal fees and several thousand dollars to the Conservancy (the funds likely came out of sport fishermen’s money paid for license fees). As part of the settlement, the WDFW also agreed to not release any outmigrant steelhead from hatcheries in many Puget Sound streams. In 2014, the outmigrants that were already being reared in the hatcheries were released to lakes or other water bodies where they could not migrate to the ocean and return as adults. That left only one year of young hatchery fish to keep the hatchery system operable. So, what happened in 2015? The WDFW again released the outmigrants into non-migratory lakes. With no winter steelhead in the mark/selective approach returning as brood stock, the hatchery program has essentially dissolved, and future prospects for any revival are dependent on a determination by the National Marine Fisheries Service on whether or how hatchery management can be made compatible with recovery of wild Puget Sound steelhead.

The protection of predators on steelhead (as mentioned above) is only one additional step down for future steelhead recovery. The virtual explosion of marine mammal populations with little or no control (because of protection under the MMPA) further diminishes the populations available for any future sport fishing.

Is this situation (i.e., elimination of the sport fishery for steelhead in certain Puget Sound streams) a universal event? The answer is no. Some streams in Washington support very important winter steelhead sport fisheries through hatchery production. A good example is the Cowlitz River in southwest Washington. The returns of adult winter steelhead this year were so good that the limit was raised from 2 fish to 3 fish per day, mainly because the hatchery had sufficient numbers of returning adults for its program. Another example is the Columbia River system, which has increasing or record returns of a number of hatchery salmon/steelhead runs that support a very viable sport fishing program.

So, what’s the bottom line on the differences between the decline in Puget Sound sport fishing opportunities in Puget Sound (ongoing for many years) and programs that are currently very successful? In my opinion, the successful programs (through many years of negotiations, discussions, and back-and-forth efforts) have established recovery plans that have established goals of re-establishing and increasing salmon/steelhead and have put in the efforts to achieve those goals. It takes time and effort plus considerable amounts of money to make these plans work. On the Columbia, for example, millions of dollars have been spent on research, habitat restoration and enhancement, management, and other planning efforts. This money has been derived from water users, hydropower producers, and others. The sport fishermen also provide additional funds by paying an additional license fee if they fish in the Columbia River basin. Overall, a mix of both hatchery fish and native fish are part of the planning goals.

There are many very positive efforts in Puget Sound to recover steelhead and other anadromous fish populations. However, hatchery fish are not currently in the mix on some streams, and planning efforts appear to be bogged down. What appears to the general public is that winter steelhead sport fishing, for the foreseeable future, will continue to decline and perhaps entirely disappear because no releases of outmigrants have been made to continue the cycle. In addition, it is likely that with the large number of people now in the Puget Sound area, wild fish will not recover to a level that could support a sport fishery.

Are there possible solutions to the challenges of decreased opportunities for sports fishermen? This is a complex question, and many diverse opinions have been expressed. The diversity of environmental conditions and resource utilization play a large role in maintaining or recovering wild steelhead and salmon populations along the Pacific coast. For example, in Alaska, most of the salmon/steelhead populations are wild even though significant commercial fisheries (and localized sport fisheries) exist. In general, the watershed conditions and climate offer favorable conditions for these populations to be sustained.

In contrast to Alaska, the often severe environmental challenges faced by wild salmon/steelhead populations in other Pacific coast states (i.e., Washington, Oregon, and California) need to be realistically factored into the management plans (they are often considered, but the discussion often bogs down before plans are completed or implemented). For example, can wild steelhead/salmon populations be maintained in California if drought conditions leave only dry and impassable stream conditions for outmigrants or returning adults? The answer, of course, is no, unless some type of intervention (e.g., transport around critical areas) is provided. Similarly, under such conditions, can wild fish populations be maintained without some type of intervention such as hatchery supplementation or transport around dry stream beds? If the answer is to eliminate consideration of supplementation (where needed) and other interventions such as transport, the probability is that wild populations can’t support even a limited sport fishery or that the populations will disappear altogether (such as the case where streams run dry due to drought conditions). If the answer is to actively pursue measures to at least maintain populations through some type of interventions in hopes that conditions future conditions become more favorable, there may be a probability that stressed populations can survive.

In Puget Sound, the loss of two years of winter steelhead hatchery production (i.e., no outmigrants) in some streams clearly will diminish the probability of a sport fishery in those streams affected. Environmental conditions such as streamflow are still somewhat favorable to maintenance of residual wild populations which, in general, cannot by themselves sustain a sport fishery.