OLYMPIA – Hatchery steelhead fisheries will close on the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers March 31 to protect wild steelhead, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
Steelhead fishing will close that day on the two rivers an hour after sunset.
Since last fall, hatchery steelhead fisheries on the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers have been open by emergency regulation, said Bob Leland, WDFW steelhead program manager. The fisheries were allowed under a federal permit that prescribes strict limits on the incidental catch of wild steelhead, which are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
“The closures are necessary to protect wild steelhead that are spawning in the two rivers,” Leland said.
Sport fisheries for hatchery steelhead on the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers 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 Similkameen River whitefish fishery also will close an hour after sunset March 31, while the Okanogan River from the mouth to the highway bridge at Malott will remain open to game fish other than trout and steelhead.
Fishing regulations for the two rivers can be found on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.