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Washington's fishing season to open in May despite steelhead drop

Winter steelhead numbers have reached a historic low, with 55 in 2019 reported in the Sultan River.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — Editors note: The above video aired in a previous story.

Despite concerns from scientists and conservationists, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the fishing season will start on May 23. 

WDFW said fishing does not make a large enough impact on wild winter steelhead to delay the fishing season.

The wild winter steelhead population in the Snohomish watershed has dropped by thousands since the 1980s. State biologists counted 28 steelhead in 2018 and 55 in 2019 on the Sultan River, a tributary of the Snohomish River. 

RELATED: $26 million granted to Washington salmon recovery projects

Some biologists and anglers argue delaying the fishing season would help fix the population decrease. According to the Everett Herald, most anglers are after hatchery salmon, but many are unable to identify when they catch a federally endangered steelhead or in some cases, the fish doesn't survive catch and release.

More time without humans on the river would give the salmon a greater chance of survival, biologists say.

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