A Voice for the Fish

We are the voice for fish and the landscapes they call home. Public access to watersheds comes with immense responsibility, not just for those extracting fish, but for all who recreate in public waterways. We know that the protection of our natural resources is more critical than ever, as we face environmentally regressive policies on the national stage, industrial growth, and climate change worldwide. From fighting for public river access to pursuing more fish-friendly hydro management on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, the Northwest Steelheaders has a long 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.

Quest for 100K

It was not long ago that 100,000 salmon and steelhead traveled above Willamette Falls at Oregon City to spawn. In the past couple of decades, their journey has been cut short. In 2018, The Association of Northwest Steelheaders launched the Quest for 100K Campaign with the lofty goal to bringing back an average of 100 thousand hatchery and wild spring Chinook to the Willamette Basin on an annual basis. Learn more...


Due to extensive habitat degradation and hydropower development, the abundance and productivity of wild salmon and steelhead populations remain greatly diminished. Hatcheries are thus essential mitigation measures necessary to maintain viable recreational, commercial, and tribal fisheries, capable of providing economic, quality-of-life, and cultural benefits. 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...

Columbia River Management Reform: Gillnets

The Columbia River Management Reform initiated by the governor and approved by the legislature would have gillnets removed from the main stem Columbia River. However, The Oregon and Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissions are once again considering proposals to backtrack on the promises made to recreational anglers as part of the original Columbia River Reform Policy Agreement. Learn more...

Save our Salmon: Snake River Dam Removal

NW Steelheaders is dedicated to removing 4 lower Snake River dams, which are decimating salmon populations and have proven to be both economically inefficient and a meager power source. NW Steelheaders has been a member of SOS for over 20 years, a coalition founded in 1992 with the mission to protect and restore abundant, self-sustaining, and harvestable populations of wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia-Snake River Basin and Northwest marine waters for the benefit of people, fish and wildlife, and ecosystems. SOS boasts a long, successful history of leading and coordinating its members and allies to plan and execute regionally-focused, politically-targeted, multi-pronged programs. Learn more...

Public Access & River Rights

Northwest Steelheaders has long been a leader in advocating for the public’s right to use Oregon’s waterways for fishing, boating, and recreation, and has previously fought to protect public access along the Deschutes and Sandy Rivers, and elsewhere in the state. Not long ago, Steelheaders prevailed in an important case concerning the public’s right to use of the bed and banks of the John Day River. More recently, Steelheaders filed an amicus brief in the Lake Oswego case because it concerns important issues that affect the public’s use and access to waterways throughout Oregon. Learn more...