New information indicates closure decision should be reversed
Last week, Coastal Conservation Association and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation signed a joint letter to the Department of Interior requesting a reversal or withdrawal from a 2016 decision (Solicitor Opinion M-37034) that led to the closure of recreational fishing on the Skokomish River.
“Recreational fisheries in Puget Sound have been cut drastically in recent years,” said Nello Picinich, executive director of CCA Washington. “The Skokomish River once drew thousands of anglers annually in pursuit of hatchery Chinook and Coho salmon. This is one of many fisheries in Puget Sound that we have been working hard to restore.”
The Skokomish River once provided popular and productive salmon fishing for Puget Sound recreational bank anglers. In 2016, due to a Department of the Interior opinion, public access to the banks of the Skokomish River was eliminated. For the past five years, anglers worked to restore this lost access because, without bank access, there is no opportunity to target abundant runs of hatchery Chinook and Coho in their natal stream.
In 2019, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted a comprehensive and thorough review of all relevant facts and found that the opinion that created the boundary of the Skokomish Reservation along the Skokomish River should “be reversed, or at a minimum be withdrawn, based upon extensive new information and associated legal analyses.”
The letter states, “As our annual salmon season setting process will begin soon, we respectfully ask that your Department expedite the review process and offer your decision by December 31, 2020. This will allow state and tribal fisheries managers adequate time to negotiate and plan for a 2021 salmon season on the Skokomish River. Knowing that anglers will again return to the Skokomish River in 2021 would be welcome news to local businesses such as tackle stores, hotels and restaurants.”
“Recreational fishing generates $2.4 billion annually for Washington’s economy,” according to Chris Horton, senior director of Fisheries Policy for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “Along with the dozens of businesses in the state who rely on recreational fishing opportunity, we remain optimistic that fishermen will once again be allowed to fish on the banks of the Skokomish River.”