SEATTLE -- Fishermen enjoying a robust run of hatchery steelhead up Tokul Creek near Fall City know their days are numbered.
State biologists say low preseason predictions of wild steelhead returns are forcing them to shorten the steelhead sport fishing season again this year.
It's a disappointing announcement for many fishermen who say they have been responsibly catching and releasing wild steelhead for years. But the State Department of Fish and Wildlife is concerned that any additional pressure on the declining steelhead returns could be harmful.
Meanwhile researchers trying to find out what is happening to the steelhead have made a disturbing discovery. Jacques White of the group "Long Live The Kings" said the organization attached tracer tags on young steelhead migrating out of Western Washington rivers to see where they went out in the open ocean.
"We found that those tagged fish are not making it outside Puget Sound. There is something happening in the South Sound and Hood Canal that is keeping those fish from migration out into the Pacific Ocean," said White.
The group is now trying to find out if the problem is related to pollution or predators or something else. The answer may lead to improved runs down the road, but for now, most steelhead fishing will end in this state on February 1.