Supporting steelhead in the Columbia Basin

In Washington by steelheaders

Since April 1, 2010, anglers over 15, who fish for salmon and steelhead in Washington’s Columbia River basin, have been required to purchase a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement (CRSSE). This tag generates on average $1.6 million annually to help improve fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River Basin.


Recently we made a push for the renewal and extension of the (CRSSE), which was proposed in the Washington State Legislature as SB 6274. The tag, purchased by salmon and steelhead anglers directs dollars to benefit things such as increased opportunity, monitoring, data collection and evaluation, reporting and enforcement.


The Washington State Senate proposed to renew the CRSSE through 2022. However, a House amendment changed this to 2017.  Wild Steelheaders United took action by sending out letters to their Representatives, but unfortunately the amendment went forward.


The Washington Governor Inslee’s staff recently asked us why we support the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Recreational Endorsement tag? Here is what we had to say:


We appreciate the fact Governor Inslee’s office values our opinion on the matter of S.B. 6274.

In these times of budget restraints on all state agencies, nothing says, “we as a user group are willing help pay for what we love,” like the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Recreational Endorsement tag. This is no surprise coming from sportsmen who have historically voted to tax ourselves in the name of conservation funding. Throughout the country, state and federal agencies have different forms of “conservation stamps” or “duck stamps” to support state and federal wildlife agencies and habitat.

To be clear, we wanted the Senate version of this bill, which extends funding to the year 2022. This would provide adequate funding for long-term monitoring without a fight every budget session. Trout Unlimited was disappointed with the House amendment, which will only continue this program till 2017. We want a dedicated fund for WDFW, with limited influence by the legislature. This source of funding is important to complete those crucial items that are always first to be cut.

The wording of S.B. 6274 says it all:

“The program must facilitate continued and, to the maximum extent possible, improved recreational salmon and steelhead selective fishing opportunities on the Columbia river and its tributaries by supplementing the resources available to the department to carry out the scientific monitoring and evaluation, data collection, permitting, reporting, enforcement, and other activities necessary to provide such opportunities.”

Recovery of wild fishable populations of salmon and steelhead often lacks key elements in funding. Enforcement of poaching is lacking throughout Washington. This is always a need for WDFW.

This tag provides for 3 full-time enforcement officers. While the Columbia Basin does have funding for habitat restoration, little of this funding actually provides for the monitoring, evaluation and data collection needed to see if these restoration efforts are working. Monitoring is key for setting baseline population estimates. These are very important elements for making important decisions like whether to open or close a fishery and when. Long term monitoring also provides a baseline to see where we are succeeding in returning wild salmon and steelhead. All of this is important to NOAA’s understanding of ESA listed salmon and steelhead and whether we are meeting recovery goals.

Trout Unlimited and our chapters are involved in numerous restoration projects in the Yakima, Wenatchee, Methow and Spokane river basins. Also Dan Davies, of our Icicle Valley Chapter represents Trout Unlimited on the Columbia Basin Endorsement Board. So we have some skin in the game regarding wanting to know WDFW has the funding it needs to ensure all this great work is actually accomplishing the goal and is providing for a better recreational fishery in Washington.

The impressive list of projects WDFW has implemented with the funding from these tags are all critical to TU either because we have members who utilize the fishery, contributing dollars to the local recreation economy, or because we have invested millions on the ground, increasing instream flows, repairing dilapidated irrigation systems, and protecting ESA listed species. Some of those projects areas include:

  • Expanded Snake River spring chinook fishing
  • Monitoring sockeye, summer chinook and steelhead fishing in the Upper Columbia, Wenatchee, Methow, and Okanogan rivers
  • Expanded summer chinook fishing in the Wenatchee River
  • Monitoring Lower Columbia summer chinook fisheries
  • Monitoring expanded steelhead fishing in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River
  • Monitoring Yakima River spring chinook fishery
  • Monitoring Klickitat River steelhead creel
  • Monitoring Washougal River winter steelhead creel
  • Installation of resistance board weirs in the Cowlitz River for steelhead management
  • Wind River summer steelhead hooking mortality study
  • Enforcement of salmon and steelhead fisheries in the Columbia River and its tributaries


We believe there is a huge funding gap for these very important elements in fisheries management.  We, as recreational anglers, are willing to pay a small fee to help cover some of this gap.