Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are native throughout the Northern Pacific Rim. Highly diverse and legendary among anglers, steelhead inspire intense passion in those who understand and pursue them. Over the last 100 years, populations of steelhead have declined precipitously in many areas. Dam building, irresponsible timber harvest and mining, wasteful irrigation practices, overfishing and the idea that hatcheries could readily replace lost wild fish have contributed to their decline. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency responsible for managing steelhead and salmon currently list all but four of the fifteen evolutionarily significant units in the Lower 48 as either Threatened or Endangered with extinction. Many populations, even those listed as healthy, currently produce between 1% and 10% of their historic abundance. Meanwhile California, Oregon and Washington continue to permit the commercial and recreational harvest of wild steelhead on the few remaining healthy populations.
Luckily anglers and other advocates have united to bring a voice to these wonderful fish. In Oregon and California, several of the more intact, productive watersheds provide refuge for wild fish and recently the state of Washington began a similar process. Last summer Marmot Dam on the Sandy River, Oregon was removed, making it a landmark in river restoration and a hopeful symbol for recovery of our watersheds and the fish they support. With Condit, Glines Canyon and Elwha dams slated for removal in by 2012, and the possibility of removing the dams on the Klamath, we are beginning to make headway in the recovery effort. With a well organized, scientific and collaborative effort we can fight for wild steelhead and ensure that these iconic fish of the Pacific Northwest are here for future generations to enjoy.