News Release

Elwha River fishing closure extended to support fish restoration

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Date: April 28, 2022

PORT ANGELES –The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Olympic National Park and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced an extension to the recreational and commercial fishing closure for the Elwha River and its tributaries through June 30, 2023.  

 

In place since 2011, when removal of the two Elwha dams began, a moratorium on fishing in these waters helps protect depleted native salmonid populations including federally threatened populations of Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout. This moratorium does not apply to mountain lakes in the Elwha River basin within Olympic National Park or to Lake Sutherland, which will remain open to sport fishing from the fourth Saturday in April through October 31.  

 

“The Tribe is eager to resume fishing on the Elwha, a river of central importance to our people and culture, which was freed in large part through the persistence of our elders,” said Lower Elwha Klallam Vice-Chair, Russ Hepfer. “But out of our respect for the fish themselves, we know we need to wait a little longer until the runs are restored to the point that they can sustain some harvest. The dams were in place for 100 years and it took patience and determination to get them removed; the same patience and determination will also result in restored fisheries.” Monitoring the recovery of salmon and trout populations is a cooperative effort among Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Olympic National Park, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and WDFW. Each year, project partners evaluate spawner abundance, distribution, and juvenile production throughout the river system using a variety of tools including sonar, redd surveys, snorkel surveys, tangle net surveys and smolt trapping. 

 

Successful restoration of Elwha fish populations is measured by the abundance, productivity, diversity, and spatial distribution of fish.  Positive signs of salmon recovery are being observed in the Elwha River. After final obstacles to fish migration were removed from the Glines Canyon dam site in 2016, fisheries biologists have confirmed that adult Chinook salmon, sockeye salmon, coho salmon, winter and summer steelhead, bull trout, pink salmon and Pacific lamprey have migrated upstream past that site, with some adults reaching as high as river mile 40 in the Elwha. Chum salmon have been documented upstream of the former Elwha Dam site but not yet above the Glines Canyon Dam site.  Recent increases in the egg to smolt survival of Chinook salmon are also encouraging but have not yet led to substantial increases in abundance of natural-origin adults.  

 

Future fisheries will be developed in a manner consistent with the long-term recovery objectives for the Elwha River.  The Elwha Tribe, WDFW, and Olympic National Park continue to explore options to provide fishing opportunities which are consistent with recovery goals for the Elwha watershed. Recreational and commercial fishing will resume when there is broad distribution of spawning adults in newly accessible habitats upstream of the former dam sites, when spawning occurs at a rate that allows for population growth and diversity, and when there is a harvestable surplus of fish returning to the Elwha River. While there are positive signs of recovery, some fish populations remain low, and the lack of habitat use in the upper reach of the river indicates that further recolonization and spatial expansion are needed to reach population levels capable of supporting sustainable fisheries.   

 

Due to the adverse effects of poaching on the successful and timely recovery of salmon in the Elwha, we encourage the public to report any illegal fishing to law enforcement at: WDFW, 360-902-2936, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, 360-452-6759, and Olympic National Park 360-565-3115. For updated fishing regulations on waters within Olympic National Park, please visit nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/fishing.htm. For waters outside the Park, please visit wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.  



Last updated: April 28, 2022

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