VANCOUVER, Wash. – Starting Saturday (June 7), anglers will be required to release any spring chinook salmon they intercept on the Lewis River under a new fishing rule approved today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
The new rule will be in effect until further notice from the mouth of the Lewis River to the mouth of the East Fork, and from the mouth of the North Fork Lewis to the overhead powerlines below Merwin Dam.
Pat Frazier, WDFW regional fish manager, said the new rule is designed to increase the number of spring chinook available for hatchery broodstock. As with the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers, which were closed to chinook retention last month, chinook returns to the Lewis River are falling short of hatchery production goals, Frazier said.
“As most anglers know, spring chinook returns to the Columbia River and several of its tributaries have fallen short of expectations,” Frazier said. “If we don’t meet our hatchery production goals, we could wind up with an even bigger shortfall in future years.”
Through June 4, collections of female chinook salmon on the Lewis River were 200 fish short of the number needed for hatchery broodstock, Frazier said.
Meanwhile, the steelhead return has been strong this year to both the North Fork Lewis and Cowlitz rivers, where WDFW has increased the catch limit to three hatchery fish per day. The three-fish limit, adopted in mid-May, is not affected by the requirement to release chinook salmon on those rivers.
On the North Fork Lewis River, the three-fish limit will remain in effect through Sept. 30 from Colvin Creek upstream to the overhead powerlines below Merwin Dam and through Oct. 31 from the Interstate 5 Bridge upstream to Colvin Creek.
“Returns of hatchery steelhead have been better than expected, allowing us to increase catch limits for those fish on some rivers,” Frazier said. “Once conservation goals have been met, we look for every opportunity to increase fishing opportunities where we can.”
The Grays and Elochoman rivers, for example, were recently opened for spring chinook, providing additional fishing opportunities while also helping to remove stray hatchery fish. It was one of a number of in-season management actions designed to align fishing rules for Columbia River tributaries with fish available for harvest.
Catch limits and other rules noted below replace those referenced in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations:
- Cowlitz River: All spring chinook salmon must be released through July 31 from boundary markers at the mouth to Mayfield Dam. However, anglers may retain up to three hatchery steelhead through Oct. from the Highway 4 Bridge at Kelso upstream to Mayfield Dam.
- Drano Lake: Anglers may retain up to six hatchery spring chinook salmon, including two adults, through June 30 downstream from markers across from the Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery and upstream of the Highway 14 Bridge. However, all fishing at Drano Lake will be closed June 11 to avoid gear conflicts with Yakama tribal fisheries.
- Elochoman River: Anglers may retain up to six hatchery spring chinook salmon, including two adults, through July 31 from the mouth to West Fork.
- Grays River: Anglers may retain up to six hatchery spring chinook salmon, including two adults, plus two hatchery steelhead through July 31 from the mouth of the mainstem Grays River to the South Fork and from the mouth of the West Fork Grays River to the hatchery intake/footbridge.
- Kalama River: All spring chinook salmon must be released through July 31 from boundary markers at the mouth of the river to the upper salmon hatchery.
- Wind River: Anglers may retain up to six hatchery spring chinook salmon, including two adults, from the buoy line/markers at the mouth of the river upstream to a point 400 feet below Shipherd Falls; from a point 100 feet above the falls to 400 feet below the coffer dam; and from a point 100 feet above the coffer dam to 800 yards below the Carson National Fish Hatchery.
Meanwhile, the mainstem Columbia River remains closed until further notice for salmon and steelhead fishing below Interstate 5, but will open no later than June 16.
For any additional regulation changes, anglers can call the Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500) or check the WDFW website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations).