OLYMPIA - Anglers will get a second chance to catch up to 1,600 hatchery-reared summer steelhead moving through the Cowlitz River, thanks to a partnership between Tacoma Power and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Starting early next week (Monday or Tuesday), Tacoma Power will begin a "recycling" program for steelhead returning to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery, operated by WDFW. Tacoma Power and the WDFW will equally share the cost of the program.
Tacoma Power will transport and release 1,600 fish downstream at the I-5 boat launch, giving anglers another shot at catching summer steelhead.
Before undertaking the program, WDFW contracted with the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct a two-year study to determine, in part, how often recycled hatchery steelhead released in the lower Cowlitz stray into small tributary streams, where they could compete with wild steelhead. The study showed hatchery steelhead rarely moved into these smaller streams in the lower Cowlitz.
"We're excited to provide additional opportunities for steelhead fishing while remaining true to our commitment to protect and conserve wild steelhead," said Cindy LeFleur, WDFW regional fish manager.
The recycle study was funded through fees paid into the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement program. Anglers who fish for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries pay an annual fee in addition to their fishing licenses.
During July and August, up to 1,600 hatchery summer steelhead will be captured at the hatchery, marked to show they are being recycled, and released back into the lower Cowlitz, where they can migrate up the stretch of river for a second time.
"Tacoma Power funds the majority of the monitoring and evaluation work in the lower Cowlitz," said Keith Underwood, Tacoma Power natural resources manager. "This work will be used to measure any biological risks associated with this program."