OLYMPIA – Starting June 9, anglers may catch up to six summer-run hatchery steelhead per day on the Cowlitz River under a new rule adopted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
At the same time, the fishing boundary below the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery will move upstream to 100 feet below the barrier dam. Night closure and non-buoyant lure restriction are now in effect upstream of Mill Creek.
Only those fish measuring 20 inches in length with a clipped adipose fin may be retained. Unmarked steelhead and those with a clipped right ventral fin must be released.
The new limit – up from two hatchery fish per day – is still expected to allow enough fish to reach Cowlitz River hatcheries to meet this year’s production goals, said Wolf Dammers, WDFW fish biologist.
“We want to give anglers every opportunity to catch returning fish not needed for hatchery production,” Dammers said. “Increasing the daily limit makes the most sense, because fishery managers can no longer transport hatchery fish downstream to give anglers another chance to catch them.”
That practice, called “recycling,” was suspended under a management plan approved last year by the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission (FERC) as part of the relicensing agreement for Mayfield and Mossyrock dams on the Cowlitz River. Dammers noted that the suspension will be in effect until studies are completed to determine the effects of recycling on wild steelhead.
While summer steelhead are now moving into the Cowlitz River in increasing numbers, the run isn’t expected to peak until July or August, Dammers said. “These are great fish and we want to make sure they are put to the best possible use,” he said.
Since early May, WDFW has transported several dozen summer-run hatchery steelhead from Cowlitz River hatcheries to Kress Lake near Kalama, where they have supplemented the lake’s recreational fishery. That stocking effort was recently discontinued due to warming water temperatures, Dammers said.
Besides increasing the daily catch limit, WDFW will begin providing local food banks with summer steelhead next week. Fish that are not of food-grade quality will be used to enhance nutrient levels in the lower Cowlitz River, Dammers said.