OLYMPIA – Hatchery steelhead fishing will close March 31 at one hour after sunset on the Methow, Okanogan and Similkameen rivers to protect wild steelhead returning to those waters.
The section of the Columbia River from Rocky Reach Dam to Chief Joseph Dam will also close to steelhead fishing at the same time.
Open since last fall, the steelhead fishery in those waters was authorized under a federal permit that prescribes strict limits on the incidental catch of wild steelhead protected under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Fishing regulations for those waters require that anglers release any wild steelhead they intercept.
“Except for some rough weather in winter, the fishery has gone extremely well,” said Bob Leland, steelhead program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “The closures are necessary to protect wild steelhead now returning to the Methow and Okanogan river systems.”
Leland said sport fisheries on the Methow, Okanogan, Similkameen and mainstem Columbia rivers target returns of hatchery fish that exceed the number needed to meet spawning goals. By removing excess hatchery fish, they aid recovery of ESA-listed steelhead by allowing a greater proportion of wild steelhead onto the spawning grounds.
In conjunction with the steelhead-fishing closures, whitefish fisheries will also close March 31 at an hour after sunset on the Similkameen and Methow rivers. However, fishing for game fish other than trout and steelhead will remain open on the Okanogan River from the mouth to the highway bridge at Malott and on the mainstem Columbia River from Rocky Reach to Chief Joseph Dam.
Fishing regulations for the above rivers can be found on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.