Advocating for Salmon Recovery and Fishing Opportunities

A Voice for Salmon, Steelhead, and the Communities that Rely on Them

We are the voice for fish and the landscapes they call home. Being able to recreate in our watersheds comes with immense responsibility, not just for those extracting fish, but for all of us who use these public waterways. We know that protecting our natural resources is more critical than ever as we face environmentally regressive policies, industrial growth, and climate change. From fighting for public river access to pursuing more fish-friendly hydrosystem management on the Columbia, Willamette, and Snake rivers, the Northwest Steelheaders has a 60-year history of advocating for healthy fish runs and abundant recreational fisheries.

A History of Advocating for Fish


• The Association of Northwest Steelheaders was created to protect our sport fisheries.

• Northwest Steelheader members worked toward legislation that would classify Steelhead as a State Game fish.

• Fought commercial overharvesting and non-selective gill net practices in the Columbia River.

• Proposed legislation eliminating gill net take of Striped Bass in Coos Bay.

• Helped pass the National Environmental Policy Act.


• Steelhead classified as a State Game fish in 1974, thereby eliminating them as a targeted commercial gill net fishery.

• Filed suit against the Army Corps of Engineers to stop construction on the Snake River Lower Granite dam project.

• Gill nets legislated out of Coos Bay to protect Striped Bass fishery.


• Fish protection language included in the Northwest Power Act.

• Passage of stream-side riparian buffer zone rules.

• Deschutes River land acquisition for public use.

• Sandy River land acquisition for public use.

• Fought High Seas Drift Net fishing that targeted Salmon and Steelhead beyond Territorial Waters.

• U.S./Canada Salmon Interceptor Treaty signed.

• In-stream water rights law passed to provide minimum stream flows.

• NW Steelheaders are instrumental in the implementation of mass marking of hatchery fish allowing selective fisheries.


• NW Steelheaders take a lead role in addressing predation of fish by Cormorants and Sea Lions.

• Helped to ban high seas drift nets.

• Introduced legislation that addressed unscreened irrigation diversions that affected threatened and endangered fish species.

• NW Steelheaders take a lead role in protecting public rights to access Oregon’s navigable rivers and streams.

• Joined coalition fighting Columbia River Hydro Management causing Salmon extinction.

• Began efforts to remove the Sandy River Dam.

• Passed legislation to fund Cormorant predation study and research.

21st Century

• Willamette Spring Chinook fishery switched to selective fisheries as a result of our efforts to protect threatened and endangered native salmon.

• Sandy River declared navigable thereby allowing greater access for anglers.

• Clackamas River Dam FERC relicensing.

• Won Lawsuit against federal Biop opinion, winning spill water at dams for juvenile salmon.

• John Day River declared navigable.

• Became National Wildlife Federation Oregon Affiliate.

• Blocked ship breaking in Yaquina Bay.

• Won River Rights appeal at US Supreme Court.

• Instrumental in passing legislation banning in water ship breaking in Oregon.

• Caused seven miles of Sandy River above old Marmot Dam site for selective harvest.

• Persuaded Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to require the release of wild spring Chinook.

Improving Columbia River Fisheries Management

The Columbia River Fisheries Management Policy, agreed to by both Washington and Oregon in 2013 made two primary commitments to the recreational fishing community: to remove non-treaty commercial gillnets from the lower mainstem Columbia River and prioritize recreational harvest allocation over commercial fishing interests. In October 2020, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission backtracked on these promises by deciding to not only reintroduce commercial gillnets on their side of the lower mainstem Columbia, but to supplement this commercial fishery with a portion of our recreational harvest allocation.
Learn more about our fight to protect endangered salmon and steelhead from the devastating impacts of non-treaty commercial gillnets...

Restoring a Free-Flowing Lower Snake River

Northwest Steelheaders was one of the original parties that fought to prevent the Lower Granite Dam from being built on the lower Snake River in the early 1970s, and now we are more energized than ever to see it removed alongside the Little Goose, Lower Monumental, and Ice Harbor dams which create a nearly impassable 140-mile barrier for migrating salmon and steelhead. These four dams decimate salmon populations and have proven to be both economically inefficient while only providing a meager source of energy. We have participated in the Save our Wild Salmon Coalition for over 20 years, collectively fighting to protect and restore abundant, self-sustaining, and harvestable populations of wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia-Snake River Basin for the benefit of people, ecosystems, and communities that rely on healthy populations.
Learn more about our campaign to restore a free-flowing lower Snake River and improve adult salmon returns by more than 1 million fish...

Ensuring Public Access to Oregon's Rivers

Northwest Steelheaders is has long been the state-wide leader in advocating for the public’s right to use Oregon’s waterways for fishing, boating, and recreation. Our organization was involved in fighting to protect public access to the beds and banks of many of Oregon's premiere waterways, including the Deschutes, Sandy, and John Day rivers, as well as Lake Oswego.
Learn more about our efforts to protect public access to Oregon's waterways...

Modernizing Oregon's Hatchery Practices

Hatcheries are essential mitigation measures to maintain viable recreational, commercial, and tribal fisheries in the wake of extensive habitat degradation and hydropower development, which have greatly diminished wild salmon and steelhead populations. Hatchery-produced fish provide economic and cultural benefits to sustain the Northwests' fishing heritage while protecting wild, at-risk fish. Northwest Steelheaders believe that by employing prudent, science-based fishery and hatchery management plans and practices, hatcheries can be operated in ways that minimize risk to wild fish populations, support conservation and recovery objectives, and sustain robust harvest fisheries. To this end, we have recently advocated for continued funding of the North Santiam summer steelhead program and the Leaburg Hatchery in support of Hatchery and Wild Coexist’s Campaign.
Learn more our efforts to modernize Oregon's hatchery practices...