Elwha River Fishing Closure
April 1, 2019
Extension of Recreational and Commercial Fishing Closure Announced for Elwha River and Its Tributaries
OLYMPIA – The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Olympic National Park, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have agreed that it is necessary to extend the fishing closure in the Elwha River for another two years, from June 1, 2019 to July 1, 2021.
The fishing closure applies to all recreational and commercial fishing in the Elwha River and its tributaries. A fishing moratorium in these waters has been in place since 2011 to protect depleted native salmonid populations, including four federally listed fish species which are needed to re-colonize habitats between and upstream of the two former dam sites. Mountain lakes in the Elwha basin within Olympic National Park and Lake Sutherland will remain open to sport fishing from the fourth Saturday in April through October 31.
The restoration of salmonid spawning and rearing in habitats upstream of the former Glines Canyon Dam is paramount to successful restoration. These early re-colonizers play an important role in establishing spawning and juvenile rearing in habitats of the upper watershed. Final impediments to migrating fish were removed from the Glines Canyon dam site in 2016.
To date, fisheries biologists confirmed upstream passage of adult Chinook salmon, sockeye salmon, coho salmon, winter and summer steelhead, bull trout, and Pacific lamprey past the former Glines Canyon Dam site with some adults reaching as high as river mile 40 in the Elwha. Pink salmon and chum salmon have been documented upstream of the former Elwha Dam site but not above the Glines Canyon Dam site. Despite these encouraging signs, for all species, vacant upstream habitat indicates further recolonization and spatial expansion are needed to reach population abundances the Elwha watershed is capable of supporting.
The Elwha project partners evaluate spawner abundance, extent of distribution, and juvenile production each year throughout the system using a variety of tools including sonar, redd surveys, snorkel surveys, and smolt trapping. Recreational and commercial fishing will resume when there is broad distribution of spawning adults in newly accessible habitats above the former dam sites, when spawning occurs at a rate that allows for population growth and diversity, and when there is adequate escapement and a harvestable surplus. The salmon and steelhead populations are expanding into newly opened habitats, but are not yet at recovery objectives.
Monitoring ecosystem recovery in the Elwha is a cooperative effort among Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Olympic National Park, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.