The Wenatchee River salmon fishery—recently opened for the first time in at least 25 years— is the latest result of the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement program.
Since April 2010, all anglers 15 years and older fishing for salmon or steelhead on the Columbia River or its tributaries have been required to purchase an $8.75 endorsement to support management of those fisheries. The endorsement pays for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fishery management activities including scientific monitoring and evaluation, data collection, permitting, reporting and enforcement.
The endorsement has generated more than $1 million annually to avert recreational fishery closures and increase fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River basin.
“This program has made it possible to maintain existing opportunity and open new fisheries such as the Wenatchee River hatchery summer salmon season,” said WDFW Fish Program Assistant Director Jim Scott.
The Wenatchee River fishery opened Aug. 1 from the river mouth at the confluence with the Columbia River to 400 feet below Dryden Dam. Anglers are allowed to retain two hatchery-marked (adipose-fin-clipped) adult and jack summer chinook salmon per day. The season runs through Oct. 15 with selective gear rules and night closure in effect. Anglers are required release fish other than hatchery chinook salmon.
Another section of the Wenatchee River, from the mouth of Peshastin Creek to the Icicle Creek road bridge west of Leavenworth, will open Sept. 1 through Oct. 15 for retention of hatchery summer chinook salmon under the same rules.
Season and rule details are listed on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=1077.
The Wenatchee River fishery is allowed because hatchery summer chinook returns to the river are expected to exceed spawning escapement needs, WDFW’s Northcentral Regional Fish Program Manager Jeff Korth explained. Hatchery summer chinook are not listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, but Upper Columbia River spring chinook are listed as endangered and steelhead and bull trout are listed as threatened. The majority of spring chinook and bull trout have already migrated to the upper Wenatchee River, but a few steelhead remain in the area of the recently-opened fishery.
“Monitoring the impacts of the fishery on listed stocks is essential, but monitoring and other management activities for this fishery are expensive,” Scott said.
Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement program was created by the 2009 Washington Legislature (Senate Bill 5421). A board of citizens representing four regions within the Columbia River basin reviews fishery proposals and has been instrumental in the success of the program.
Besides the Wenatchee River fishery, the endorsement program also supported salmon or steelhead seasons on other rivers in the Columbia River system, including the Snake, Entiat, Methow, Okanogan and Similkameen.