OLYMPIA - Starting Sept. 1, anglers will be able to catch and keep hatchery fall chinook salmon on the Snake River.
State fishery managers are predicting another strong return of upriver bright chinook salmon to the Snake River this year and have expanded the daily catch limit to include three adult hatchery chinook, plus six hatchery jack chinook under 24 inches in length.
Anglers may also catch and keep up to three hatchery steelhead, but must stop fishing for the day for both hatchery chinook and steelhead once they have taken their three-fish steelhead limit. The retention season for hatchery steelhead on the Snake River opened on Jun. 16 this year.
Barbless hooks are required, and any salmon or steelhead not marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin must be released, along with any chinook salmon under 12 inches.
The fishery will be open seven days a week and will extend from beneath the southbound lanes of the Highway 12 Bridge near Pasco upriver to the Oregon state line, approximately 7 miles upstream of the mouth of the Grande Ronde River.
"This fishing opportunity for hatchery chinook salmon is a bonus for anglers during the traditionally productive Snake River steelhead fishery," said John Whalen, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Whalen said the retention fishery for chinook is expected to extend through Oct. 31, although it could close earlier based on ongoing assessments of the run size and catch totals.
Retention of hatchery chinook won’t increase impacts to fish protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, so long as anglers release wild chinook as required, Whalen said. Of the 434,600 upriver bright chinook salmon projected to enter the Columbia River this year, 31,600 are wild fall chinook bound for the Snake River.
For that reason, Whalen reminds anglers to identify their catch before they remove it from the water. State law prohibits removing chinook salmon or steelhead from the water unless they are retained as part of the daily catch limit.
Whalen advises anglers to check the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet and watch for updates on the WDFW website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/) on the upcoming fishery.
A portion of the funding to monitor the Snake River fishery comes via funds generated through sale of the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsements.