Wild Steelhead

In Washington, anglers do not count steelhead by the number of fish caught per day, but by fish caught per season.  This grueling reality has earned steelhead the moniker “the fish of a thousand casts.” But this epithet is not a tribute to steelhead. Rather it is a dubious distinction because steelhead are not particularly hard to catch. They are just very hard to find. 

It has not always been this way. A century ago, Washington’s rivers were teeming with steelhead. In those days, steelhead were so abundant that it was common lore that you could walk across rivers on their backs.  Back then, steelhead were not “the fish of a thousand casts.”

However, a century of gross mismanagement has decimated steelhead populations throughout Washington. In places like Puget Sound, famed steelhead populations have been reduced to 3% of their historic abundance, despite the fact that 66% of the habitat remains. In the course of a lifetime, steelhead went from being too abundant to count to being listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The disappearance of steelhead is not a mystery. We are well aware of what has caused it.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – the federal agency charged with protecting this imperiled fish – have identified the four culprits responsible for steelhead’s precipitous decline – hydropower, hatcheries, harvest, and habitat loss.

Last Frontier Strategies is proud to partner with the Wild Steelhead Coalition to help assist their work to overcome these threats and increase the return of wild steelhead to the waters of the West Coast.