As a longtime Oregon resident, angler, and guide, I spend 40-60 days a year during winter steelhead season on the rivers of the Southern Oregon coast. I interact with anglers that use all types of methods, and every one of them I’ve talked to has noticed a significant decline in encounters with wild steelhead. How can this be explained? There are only 12 rivers left in the Lower 48 where anglers can still legally harvest a wild steelhead. All twelve of these are in my home state of Oregon, and ten of them are in the Southwest Zone, where myself, other guides, and a huge contingent of recreational anglers annually chase the legendary winter steelhead run.
On January 17, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-2 to deny a petition that would have temporarily prohibited the killing of wild winter steelhead throughout the Southwest Zone. A similar petition was denied in 2018. Why? According to a statement posted on the ODFW website, staff recommended denial because they “do not have a conservation concern for wild winter steelhead on the south coast for 2020.”