SPOKANE – Rainbow Lake in southeast Washington's Columbia County is now closed to fishing because of problems with a water intake structure and a resulting risk to endangered spring chinook salmon.
Rainbow Lake is one of seven small man-made lakes off the Tucannon River, stocked with rainbow trout by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) from the Tucannon fish hatchery.
A water intake screen at the lake inlet adjacent to the Tucannon River has structural problems that allow spring chinook salmon smolts to enter the lake from the river, explained WDFW fish biologist Glen Mendel. To avoid accidental catch of this listed stock of fish by rainbow trout fishers, Mendel said, Rainbow Lake is closed until further notice.
WDFW officials are working on solution – including lowering water levels – that would encourage the salmon smolts to leave the lake and the stocked rainbow to stay, but Mendel said there are no guarantees of success.
On a separate issue, Mendel is reminding anglers that trout and steelhead fishing is closed on the section of Washington's Snake River that has been newly opened to fishing for hatchery chinook salmon. Taking trout or steelhead during closed season is a misdemeanor that can result in fines of up to $250.
"We've also seen some fishers going after the salmon on portions of the Snake that are not open for this special season," Mendel said.
As previously announced, the mainstem Snake River is open for spring chinook salmon from Texas Rapids above the mouth of the Tucannon River upstream to Red Wolf Bridge at Clarkston; all permanent closure areas around dams remain in effect.
Barbless hooks are required, and only hatchery salmon, identified by a missing adipose fin and healed scar, may be retained. All wild salmon and steelhead must be immediately released unharmed. The daily bag limit is two hatchery fish at least 12 inches in size.
The Snake River chinook season is scheduled to run through the month of May, depending on catch rates.