OLYMPIA – Hatchery steelhead fisheries will close on the Methow, Wenatchee and upper Columbia rivers Sunday (Feb. 24) to protect wild steelhead, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
Steelhead fishing will close Sunday on the three rivers an hour after sunset.
The closures are necessary to comply with provisions of a federal permit that authorized steelhead fishing in those rivers, said Bob Leland, WDFW's steelhead program manager. The permit prescribes strict limits on the incidental catch of wild steelhead, which are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
“We expect the fisheries in those rivers to meet their allowed incidental catch by the closure date,” Leland said.
The region’s sport fisheries for hatchery steelhead target an abundant return of hatchery fish that exceeds the number needed to meet spawning goals, Leland said. The fisheries also help with recovery efforts of ESA-listed steelhead by removing hatchery-origin fish, allowing a greater proportion of wild steelhead onto the spawning grounds.
The closures do not affect hatchery steelhead fisheries under way on the Okanogan and the Similkameen rivers. Those fisheries are scheduled to remain open through March.
More information on those fisheries, as well as rule changes for the Methow, Wenatchee and upper Columbia River, can be found on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.