East Fork of the Lewis River
The East Fork of the Lewis River in Washington (photo: Stephanie Brock).

After several years of effort, wild steelhead advocates are claiming a victory in southwest Washington after the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced that it would cease all steelhead planting in perpetuity on four of the state's rivers. These rivers will be established as wild steelhead gene banks, part of an effort to restore and revitalize native steelhead populations throughout Washington.

Effective immediately, steelhead stocking will cease on the East Fork of the Lewis, the North Fork of the Toutle and the Green rivers. The Wind River, which hasn't been stocked since the late 1990s, will also remain unstocked in perpetuity and serve as part of the wild steelhead gene bank.

Phil Anderson, director of the WDFW since 1994 noted, "We are building a future where wild steelhead — our state fish — can be enjoyed as part of the natural heritage of our state. We will continue to support fisheries with hatchery production in selected areas of southwest Washington.''

According to information released by the Native Fish Society, the establishment of these rivers as wild steelhead gene banks is the result of "over two years of diligent work" by activists and one that will insure "that threatened populations will not have to compete with hatchery steelhead in their watersheds."