The 2011 summer steelhead season has set a series of new records and milestones as a cooperative marketing effort between the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Travel Oregon, Oregon State Marine Board and the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association (NSIA) combined to log the strongest steelhead catches in the last 42 years (since 1969).
With an estimated 13,000 hatchery summer steelhead kept in August a new record for hatchery summer steelhead recreational harvest was set. It will be several more months before the final tallies are completed but there's no doubt that the Columbia River summer steelhead season will have generated tens of thousands of additional angler trips and untold millions in economic benefit.
"We're thrilled to see such strong results from this campaign. We knew the opportunity was there but we needed to do a better job of getting the word out. In spite of high water early in the season things really came together. I'm particularly gratified by the numbers of families that enjoyed this fishery. It's great seeing so many families fishing while picnicking and spending time together. Lower-Columbia River communities benefited enormously as anglers staked their claim by bank and by boat to catch these iconic fish", said Liz Hamilton, Executive Director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.
Dan Grogan, President of Fisherman's Marine & Outdoor shared, "The Columbia River summer steelhead fishery was a windfall for us this year. Thanks to the marketing campaign initiated by NSIA, ODFW, the Marine Board and Travel Oregon we, along with hundreds of other businesses, saw the benefit of this effort at our cash registers. This fishery has always been strong but we needed to let people know where, how and when to enjoy it. We were ready for the business and the business was ready for us...it was a successful strategy and it just goes to show all-involved what can be accomplished by working together. We're very happy."
July also set a record with 8,549 fish kept.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spear-headed the campaign with targeted regional outreach through a range of media and press releases. They also developed a website, "steelheadsummer.com" that provided detailed information about the fishery. Travel Oregon was instrumental in spreading the word through their media channels which pulled people in from all over the country and outside the United States. The Marine Board made it a visible part of their outreach which was evident through the increased number of boats and information they provided throughout the season.
Hamilton finished, "This is something we were really excited about from the outset. All the partners met last February at the Portland Sportsman's Show, we discussed the campaign and went to work from there. We wanted to use this year to establish a baseline that we can build upon going forward. Clearly, this is a huge step forward and we expect to make significant strides in the coming years in driving more participation to this accessible, productive and enjoyable fishery. Where else in the country can you go and find this quality of fishing so close to a major metropolitan area yet far enough away that it's a quality outdoor experience? There were a lot of winners this year, from lower-Columbia River communities and the regional sportfishing industry to boat manufacturers and state agencies. We need more win-wins like this."