Drought halts recreational fishing in Olympic National Park

King salmon in Elwha River August, 2015. Photo by John Gussman

August 20, 2015

By Barb Maynes

Photo at right: King salmon in Elwha River August, 2015. Photo by John Gussman

To protect fish during the ongoing severe drought conditions, an emergency closure of recreational fishing will be enacted on Monday, August 10 at 12:01 a.m. on most rivers and streams within Olympic National Park.

Low water and high water temperatures can slow or even stop upstream salmon migrations. The broad application of this closure is necessary to address angling pressure during these extreme drought conditions to better protect Pacific salmon, steelhead trout, and federally threatened bull trout in the park’s rivers and creeks.

The following river systems within Olympic National Park will close to all recreational fishing on August 10: Bogachiel, South Fork Calawah, Sol Duc, North Fork Sol Duc, Dickey, Queets, Salmon, Quinault, and North Fork Skokomish Rivers (including East and North Forks) and their tributaries and Cedar, Goodman, Kalaloch, and Mosquito Creeks in the Pacific Coastal area.

The Elwha, Hoh and South Fork Hoh Rivers are already closed within the park to protect salmon populations.

The mouth and coastal section of the Quillayute River within Olympic National Park remains open for recreational fishing, as do Lake Crescent, Lake Ozette and the park’s many high country lakes.

This year’s severe drought conditions have reduced river flows to historic low levels. Low river and stream levels not only reduce the amount of water and space available for fish, but also lead to elevated water temperatures that can weaken or even kill Pacific salmon. Current conditions have made Pacific salmon, steelhead and bulltrout exceptionally vulnerable because of low stream flows and high water temperatures.

Pacific salmon and trout show signs of physiological stress at water temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, with lethal effects beginning at 70 degrees. Daily high temperatures in excess of 60 degrees have already been observed in many Olympic Peninsula rivers and have occasionally reached 70 degrees in the lower Sol Duc and Dungeness Rivers.

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