OLYMPIA – Hatchery steelhead fisheries will open this month on portions of the upper Columbia River and several tributaries, including the first steelhead fishery on the Wenatchee River in 10 years, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
Starting Saturday (Oct. 6), anglers will be allowed to fish for hatchery steelhead on the upper Columbia River mainstem – from Wells Dam upstream to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam – and on portions of the Methow and Okanogan rivers.
Beginning Oct. 22, hatchery steelhead fisheries also will open on the upper Columbia River mainstem, from Rock Island Dam upstream to Wells Dam, as well as a 20-mile stretch of the Wenatchee River.
In all fisheries anglers will have a daily limit of two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead. Steelhead with an intact adipose fin, and those bearing an anchor tag, must be immediately released unharmed without being removed from the water.
For the fisheries in the Columbia River mainstem, statewide freshwater rules apply. In the Okanogan, Methow and Wenatchee rivers, selective gear rules apply. A night closure is in effect for all these open areas.
Approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Services (NOAA Fisheries), the hatchery steelhead fisheries target an abundant return of hatchery fish that exceeds the number needed to meet spawning goals. Wild steelhead returns to the region are also up this year. The fisheries will not impede recovery of wild steelhead listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings.
“Our first goal is to protect and recover wild steelhead populations, so they can exist in a sustainable manner without the aid of hatchery-produced fish,” Koenings said. “These selective fisheries for hatchery steelhead will further that effort by removing hatchery-origin steelhead and allowing greater numbers of wild steelhead onto the spawning grounds.”
This year’s fall fisheries also will contribute to the local economy of communities in a region committed to salmon recovery, Koenings said.
Steelhead fisheries are carefully managed to assure that natural-origin steelhead returning to the Wenatchee, Methow and Okanogan basins survive to spawn. WDFW will closely monitor the fisheries, enforcing fishing rules to ensure protection of wild steelhead, Koenings said. While most areas are scheduled to remain open through March 31, 2008, the fisheries could close earlier if the allowable incidental impact to wild steelhead is reached.
“Anglers need to do their part and follow the rules if these selective fishing opportunities are going to continue into the future,” Koenings said.
Areas that will open to fishing for hatchery steelhead Oct. 6 include:
- Mainstem Columbia River: From Wells Dam upstream to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam.
- Methow River: From the Highway 97 Bridge in Pateros upstream to the second powerline crossing, and from the first Highway 153 Bridge north of Pateros to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop. The second powerline crossing upstream to the first Highway 153 Bridge is closed to fishing.
- Okanogan River: From the mouth upstream except closed waters from the Lake Osoyoos Control Dam (Zosel Dam) downstream to a quarter mile below the railroad trestle. The area from 500 feet below the Highway 155 Bridge (Central Street) at Omak to a line across the river 500 feet above the mouth of Omak Creek will close March 1, 2008.
Areas opening to fishing for hatchery steelhead Oct. 22 include:
- Mainstem Columbia River: From Rock Island Dam upstream to Wells Dam.
- Wenatchee River: From the mouth upstream to the Icicle Road Bridge at the west end of Leavenworth.
In addition, the Similkameen River also will open to hatchery steelhead retention later this year. Beginning Nov. 15, anglers can fish for hatchery steelhead from the mouth to the Railroad Trestle Bridge. Anglers fishing the Similkameen also will have a daily limit of two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead. Statewide freshwater fishing rules apply, except that night fishing will be prohibited.
Additional regulations for the fisheries are available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.