In 2001, a licensed angler could kill up to 30 wild steelhead per year in the state of Washington. In spite of the species’ drastic statewide decline, fisheries managers maintained obsolete regulations. How long did it take Rich Simms and the Wild Steelhead Coalition to make a difference? Fourteen years.
In December 2015, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife made the harvest of wild steelhead by sportsmen entirely illegal. With the realization of “Wild Steelhead Release, Statewide, No Exceptions,” it was the perfect opportunity to honor and recognize Rich, an Industrial Designer for the Boeing Company by day. Rich is the 2017 Fly Fisherman Conservationist of the Year, an award sponsored by Far Bank Enterprises brands Sage, Redington and RIO.
“Many people in Washington don’t realize this fish is one of our state symbols. Steelhead don’t have the ‘panda effect’. If a state bird like the goldfinch collapsed, there would be an outcry,” he says. "The problem with steelhead is that the only people who really see them are anglers. We admire the beauty, the mystery and simply release them to disappear back into the water. It’s pretty amazing when you have that opportunity to do that, but not everyone gets that chance. That’s why it’s important for anglers to lead the charge.”
Read the full profile on Rich in the Winter 2017 print edition of Fly Fisherman: http://www.flyfisherman.com/