Drought spurs emergency fishing ban in Olympic National Park

Stream temps reaching levels lethal to salmon

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Tough times for salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Photo via USGS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — With water temperatures approaching lethal levels for salmon, the National Park Service is enacted an emergency closure of recreational fishing on most rivers and streams in Olympic National Park.

The closure is aimed at protecting fish during the severe drought in the region. Current conditions have made Pacific salmon, steelhead and bulltrout exceptionally vulnerable because of low stream flows and high water temperatures, park service officials said.Rivers closed to recreational fishing include: 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.

According to the park service, the drought has 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.

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.

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 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.

Olympic National Park sport fishing regulations for 2015-2016 are available on the park’s website athttp://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/fishing.htm, as well as at park visitor centers, fee booths, ranger stations, and area fishing stores.

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