It turns out that most steelhead anglers, despite our reputation, actually agree on a lot of things.
Today, Trout Unlimited released the results of an extensive poll of more than 630 active steelhead anglers in California, Oregon and Washington that reveals broad support for wild steelhead conservation and for managing fisheries to sustain wild steelhead populations.
Indeed, this support cuts across all preferred gear types (lures, flies and bait), across a broad demographic range, and across the three states. Steelhead management, however, often is not in sync with angler views regarding the high value steelheaders place on wild steelhead and opportunities to fish for them.
The poll was conducted by the highly regarded, non-partisan public opinion research firm, Southwick & Associates, which has done opinion research for many state fish and wildlife agencies across the country.
Here are a few highlights:
- A solid majority of anglers (62%) favor a balanced approach to managing steelhead, with some rivers for wild steelhead and other rivers for hatchery fish.
- When wild populations are low, a strong majority (68%) of anglers support releasing any wild fish caught versus just 24% of anglers who would prefer to keep wild fish they caught.
- In order to protect wild steelhead, more anglers (55%) chose longer seasons with more restrictions on fishing gear and methods than shorter seasons with fewer gear/method restrictions (32%).
- 58% of anglers support closing a hatchery that provides harvest opportunity if that hatchery harms wild steelhead and jeopardizes a catch-and-release fishery for wild fish. Given these conditions, only 27% of anglers supported keeping the hatchery in operation.
That supporters of wild steelhead conservation and catch-and-release fisheries are “elitist fly anglers, not gear and bait anglers,” and “non-locals who care more about fish than fishing opportunity.”
The truth is that most of us—steelhead anglers of all stripes from rural, suburban and urban areas—highly value wild steelhead and the opportunity to fish for them consistent with their long-term conservation.
It is time steelhead management reflects the actual views of most anglers and the scientific evidence. At Wild Steelheaders United and Trout Unlimited, we are working hard to make this happen.
That means getting our best remaining wild steelhead rivers managed exclusively for wild fish. It means new fishing regulations that protect wild steelhead and maximize fishing opportunity. It means using hatchery fish to provide harvest opportunity in some rivers.
Please join us in promoting this vision by signing the credo. You’ll have plenty of company.
— Rob Masonis
Director of Western Conservation, Trout Unlimited