Now that I have a better understanding, albeit incomplete, of the Skagit management practices in regard to wild steelhead I do have some thoughts on the future. As always trying to figure out how to have your cake and eat it too presents problems, compromises, and outrage from someone. Change is always difficult and all too often slow in coming. I am not affiliated with any group, coalition, government agency, club, sport fishing equipment manufacturer, or conservation entity. I’m just a guy with a fishing pole. Over the years I have discovered that I have a very low tolerance for bureaucratic red tape and often seek the path of least resistance. Probably a fault, but in this instance it might be useful. In my limited dealings with WDFW I have never found them to be resistant to sport fishermen suggesting more restrictive regulation changes. Sport fishermen on the other hand are highly resistant to these types of changes even as they complain of the poor quality of their fishing. Where is the path of least resistance? I offer up the following as my own thoughts. I claim no originality of them per se, and if they are something you thought of first, then congratulations all around are in order as we are on the same page. Also, the following does not necessarily reflect my opinions, prejudices, or own personal needs. Nor is it designed to affix or imply blame at anyone for anything. It is presented merely as a study to begin the search for an alternative to the status quo using what is available to us now as much as possible. First, in regard to the tribal harvest, this is a fact that will not go away unless the tribes or congress effect change. For now these fish numbers need to be pushed over next to those containing the numbers of poor marine survival, flood loss, poaching, etc. And it is important to remember, if the steelhead runs increase, so will the harvest by the Tribes. To increase the size of future returns will, as a matter of course, require cooperation. Not from the Tribes, but from the fish. Those fish available to help would be the 50% of the harvestable surplus available to the recreational angler. What makes the task even more formidable is that only a portion of our 50%, are wild fish. The situation is unique. Our only allies being the very victims themselves. What do we do? How do we do it? What we can do is resolutely manage the fish available to us in an aggressive and decisive manner. How we do it is by setting aside all other agendas until a goal is reached. I know you’ve all heard that before so I would like to offer up some specifics. Let’s list what we have to work with. 1. Wild Steelhead 2. A hatchery 3. WDFW 4. A river system 5. Us – the sport fishermen At first glance I think that covers it but some others could reveal themselves as we move along. Step 1. Close the river system to sport fishing. For how long I cannot say but for the purpose of this discussion let’s pick a period of five years. The Tribes will keep fishing; the closure is for the sport fishermen. Why close it? There are several good reasons for a closure. Probably the most important reason is to allow the WDFW biologists a period of study. Secondly, a closure will ease pressure on our only allies, the wild steelhead. Liken it to stepping back and taking a deep breath if you will. In conjunction with this closure the hatchery production needs to continue as if there is no closure. Why? For the purposes of tribal allocation there is no distinction between hatchery and wild fish. It is simply a numbers game for them. To help the wild fish during this five year closure we need to make an attempt to slant their harvest towards the hatchery fish as much as possible. Can a sport fishing closure be viable from an enforcement perspective? Ask any enforcement officer and he will tell you what they have told me. No fishing is easier to enforce than the plethora of regulations in force when fishing is allowed. Does everyone else sit idle during this closure? No. We now have a five year window to make preparations for opening day. Step 2. Reopen the river system under new sport fishing guidelines. Aggressive management is required here, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle for less. We just have to do our fishing differently than we did before the closure. A. No wild steelhead retention allowed. Nothing new here. B. Fishing from any floating device prohibited. The idea here is to let the fish have the middle of the river and confine all fishing to fishing from the bank. In exchange for this more restrictive rule we need more public bank access. Maybe something on the order of every ½ or ¾ mile would be sufficent. This may seem like excessive bank access but keep in mind for all intents and purposes the Skagit and Sauk are un-crossable. In many areas all that would be required is a little bit of shoulder instead of a mile long guardrail next to the road. In other areas property or rights of way will need to be purchased or leased to cut down on the instances of trespassing. An added benefit of more access for us is more access for enforcement. It’s going to take money and time to do this. The time part of the equation is easy, we have a five year closure to work with. As for the financing, read on. C. Taking a page from out northern neighbors we designate the Skagit and Sauk systems as classified waters and charge $10-$20 a day to fish them. People will balk at this because it is new but it is a win-win situation. If they refuse to pay and go elsewhere it results in less pressure on the resource. If they do pay they are helping to finance the formidable task of getting more bank access created. D. Create exclusion zones. Not in the marine environment where the battle for it cannot be won, but in the river itself. I once fished a small trout stream in PA that had such a policy. Every 1,000 yards or so was a well posted, 300 yard no fishing zone. After adjusting for the scale of the river, these safe havens could be established on the Skagit and Sauk at the discretion of WDFW biologists. Among other things this would allow them to exclude sensitive areas at major tributary mouths from fishing. Discuss.