OLYMPIA – A newly developed wheelchair-accessible fishing site at the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery on Blue Creek will allow persons with disabilities who use wheelchairs to participate in a new steelhead season that opens today.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has opened the waters of Blue Creek in Lewis County from the mouth of the creek to a point above the rearing pond outlet of the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery, for a hatchery cutthroat and steelhead fishing season that opens Dec. 1 and runs through Dec. 31.
Opening with the season is a new wheelchair-accessible site which allows space for up to seven wheelchairs at a time. The creek has more hatchery cutthroat and steelhead than what is needed for broodstock purposes, providing a fishing opportunity for both able-bodied fishers and those who must use wheelchairs.
The site was developed jointly by the WDFW and Tacoma Power and coordinated with the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation (IAC). It is inside the fenced Cowlitz Trout Hatchery, which is owned by Tacoma Power and operated by WDFW. The site has a compact gravel pad, edge protection and signs. A portable, wheelchair-accessible restroom is available nearby.
"We are happy we were able to work with the hatchery, Tacoma Power and the IAC to develop this wheelchair-accessible site," said Brenda Kane, American Disabilities Act coordinator for WDFW. "Our goal is to provide equal access to fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing throughout the state. We try to choose areas where there's ample opportunity, so people with disabilities can be successful in the recreation they choose."
Only fishers with disabilities that require the use of wheelchairs -- or their designated harvesters -- are allowed to use the site and to fish in the upper 40 feet of the Blue Creek fishing area around the rearing pond outlet. Other able-bodied companions may fish for their own limits downstream from the wheelchair-accessible area.
The Designated Harvester Program allows for a person with a disability that requires use of a wheelchair to provide a Designated Harvester Card to an able-bodied person with a fishing license; in that case, the designated harvester must accompany the disabled fisher on the special site and may fish only on behalf of the disabled fisher.
Wheelchair-accessible parking and restrooms are available in the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery lobby area, where fishers who use a wheelchair must check in and get an identification tag to use while fishing at the site. Tags are available on a first-come, first-served basis during hatchery hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Water levels in Blue Creek are currently lower than average, but fishing opportunity is expected to increase as water volume rises in about 10 days, according to hatchery staff.
The Blue Creek season has a daily limit of five trout with no more than two over 20 inches long from the mouth of the creek to signs posted upstream from the rearing pond outlet. Minimum size is 12 inches. Wild cutthroat, wild steelhead and any steelhead with a missing ventral fin must be released. The season has night closure and non-buoyant lure restrictions.
For additional rules, license information and details, refer to the WDFW "Fishing in Washington" pamphlet.
To get to the hatchery, take U.S. Highway 12 east from Interstate 5 and drive six miles to the town of Ethel. Take a right turn on Tucker Road and drive one mile. Where Tucker Road bends right, continue straight onto Classe Road and travel 1.5 miles until the road comes to a "T." Turn left onto Spencer Road and drive 1.3 miles to the hatchery. The entrance is on the right side of the road.