Wild Steelhead License Plate

In Washington by Nick Chambers

Have you ever thought, Oregon has a salmon plate, why not Washington? Well now is your chance to secure the opportunity as a Washingtonian to show your love of Washington’s state fish, the steelhead. WDFW has been working on a plate featuring a wild steelhead, but before this can become a reality they had to reach a  minimum of 3500 signatures.  Last Thursday, thankfully, they reach their mark.  But the more signatures they have to present to the WA Legislature, not only helps us get a steelhead plate, but also lets the legislature know more than the minimum care about steelhead. Follow this link to tell the legislature that you would like to buy one of these plates. By signing you are not obligating yourself to purchase, but rather simply expressing your interest and support for the idea.

We think this is a great move by WDFW. Budget shortfalls seem everywhere these days and The Department has not been immune. We as anglers always ask for better monitoring and research on steelhead. Now is the time to make that happen. Without additional funds, generating new projects is out of reach for the agency, and monitoring projects could be further restricted. An estimated $200,000 would be generated annually by sales of the plates and 100% of funds raised would directly benefit wild steelhead conservation. WDFW plans to use the extra money to help steelhead conservation and fisheries in three ways (quoted from WDFW website)

• Apply new techniques to improve estimates of the number of wild steelhead on the spawning grounds, and ensure that the population numbers are consistent with the productivity of the river.

• Bolster efforts to monitor interactions between wild and hatchery steelhead to help ensure future hatchery steelhead production and management actions support the recovery of wild stocks.

• Increase creel surveys to improve estimates for the number of wild steelhead harvested in fisheries and the number of wild steelhead caught and released by anglers.

But what does this mean to us as anglers? Current population estimate methodologies are ok in some basins but they do have limitations. Newer technologies, such as sonar and drones, are available for estimating run size and counting redds. They have the potential to improve how we monitor steelhead. Better counts lead to more informed management decisions and better policy surrounding wild steelhead fisheries.

The daunting task of separating hatchery and wild steelhead has been tossed around a lot lately with the gene bank discussion. Plate sales would fund efforts to examine and improve knowledge of interactions between hatchery and wild steelhead. This would help the state to produce management plans that will fall within Hatchery Scientific Review Group standards, be ESA compliant and support wild fish recovery.

Creel surveys are a window into the angling world for scientists and managers. Increasing the number of creel surveys will give the state better insight into how many wild fish are being harvested and caught-and-released. Such information is critical to assisting WDFW in understanding how to sustainably manage steelhead into the future.

No matter where you stand on the issue there is one thing we can all agree on, the better we understand our fisheries the better we can manage them. You wouldn’t make a decision to buy this or that fancy new gadget without reading all the latest reviews would you? Absolutely not. While the money will not solve every problem, it is another piece of the puzzle to helping fund staff and Department efforts in steelhead monitoring and research. Such efforts could go a long way to ensuring our fisheries remain open and viable into the future, which means that we get more time on the water doing what we love – fishing for steelhead.

Steelhead license plate

This is just a sample image, but that plate will look great on your fishing rig, whether a car or beat up old pickup that more closely resembles a “junkyard.” Nothing will say steelheader and conservation supporter more than having one of these on your bumper. Sign the Petition