I’m the Southern Oregon regional coordinator for the Oregon-based nonprofit the Native Fish Society. We’re made up of a small staff, nearly a hundred volunteers, and thousands of members that share a vision for a Pacific Northwest with clean water, abundant fish and thriving local communities. Over the past year, I worked with our south coast volunteers, staff, ODFW staff and local stakeholders on a fisheries plan for Southern Oregon.
After we worked with Mr. Krug, it was disappointing to read his comments published in a New Year’s Day guest editorial about this fisheries plan and specifically our position on the wild winter steelhead fishery. He stated, “Anti-fishing organizations that are profit-driven have campaigned relentlessly to eliminate harvest of fish in the South Coast Region.”
Let me reiterate, we seek no financial gain from our work, just the public good. Native Fish Society is not against fishing or the harvest of fish. Many of our members, staff and board are anglers. I personally fished over 50 days last year and harvested several fish.
Mr. Krug seemed to pit anglers who catch and release against those who take fish home. The truth is all anglers cause mortality. The concern we and many local guides and anglers have is not about fishing - it’s about how much mortality is too much - especially when talking about the winter steelhead fishery. To those who value our fishing heritage safeguarding the health of our steelhead populations is critical.
At present, ODFW does not have confident counts of adult wild steelhead returning to south coast streams. Nor do they have a timely and accurate accounting of how many fish are harvested in this fishery. This lack of critical information is not the fault of our hardworking local fisheries biologists, but instead the result of defunding of our fisheries management programs to send resources to fisheries where salmon and steelhead runs are collapsing.
Thanks to the fishery planning process, new monitoring efforts for all watersheds will begin next season and in five years will provide solid information about the health of wild steelhead populations and what amount of harvest they can provide. To be clear, we agree with Mr. Krug and support the sustainable harvest of wild winter steelhead as soon as credible information is available on wild returns.
For now, releasing wild steelhead and harvesting hatchery fish will conserve our opportunity to fish long into the future.