OLYMPIA — Fishery managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have closed Willapa Bay tributaries in an effort to meet preseason expectations for spawning wild steelhead.

Affected rivers include these tributaries of Willapa River: Forks Creek, Palix River and all forks, Nemah River North, South and Middle, Naselle River and Bear River.

The closures began March 2 and are expected to last through Friday, May 22.

With projected low steelhead returns statewide this year, WDFW and tribal co-managers have taken steps in-season to maximize the number of wild steelhead that return to spawning grounds, including closing all fishing in the Chehalis River.

“Shifting angling pressure due to the fishing closure of the Chehalis last week is likely to affect the outcome of preseason plans to protect wild steelhead in other rivers,” said James Losee, fish program manager for WDFW’s coastal region. “These additional closures are needed to protect wild steelhead and ensure we meet preseason objectives.”

Losee noted that the number of wild steelhead spawning in the Chehalis River has fallen below the escapement goal every year since 2016, indicating a continuing problem with low returns that can also be seen in Willapa Bay.

“When returns are this low, it is challenging to predict the effect that changes in angling pressure will have on our ability to meet short- and long-term conservation goals,” Losee said.

Fishery managers will continue to monitor other area rivers and streams and announce additional fishery changes as needed. Anglers are encouraged to visit https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ to see in-season rule changes.

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