OLYMPIA – Anglers fishing at Kress Lake, a popular fishing area near Kalama, can expect to start reeling in adult summer-run steelhead under a new fish-distribution plan developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Starting this week, the lake will be stocked with adult summer-run hatchery steelhead – averaging six to 13 pounds – from the Cowlitz River Salmon Hatchery, where returning fish are expected to exceed this year’s production goals.
Depending on the size of the run, the department may also increase daily catch limits for Cowlitz River anglers and consider options such as sending some hatchery steelhead to area food banks, said Pat Frazier, regional WDFW fish manager.
“Our goal is to make the most of these fish and maximize fishing opportunities,” Frazier said. “Right now, we’re dealing with a relatively small number of fish, because the run is just getting started. But by late July, when the run hits its peak, we’ll have a lot more fish to go around.”
Frazier said the Cowlitz River hatchery may have more fish than usual this year because fishery managers can no longer transport hatchery fish downstream to give anglers additional opportunities to catch them.
This practice, called “recycling,” was suspended under a hatchery management plan approved last year by the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission (FERC) as part of a relicensing agreement for the Mayfield and Mossyrock dams on the Cowlitz River. The suspension will be in effect until studies are completed to determine the effects of recycling on wild steelhead, Frazier said.
“The bottom line is that we could have more fish available than usual, even though we’re not expecting an especially large return to the hatchery this year,” he said. “Once we meet our hatchery production goals, our challenge will be to put any additional fish to the best possible use.”
Besides trucking hatchery steelhead to Kress Lake and possibly making donations for food banks, WDFW is considering:
- Increasing the daily catch limit on the Cowlitz River once fishery managers are confident that hatchery production goals can be met.
- Opening Blue Creek, a tributary to the Cowlitz River, to angling if enough steelhead enter the stream to support a fishery.
- Using the carcasses of hatchery steelhead to enhance nutrient levels in the lower Cowlitz River.
Frazier noted that WDFW took similar actions to distribute hatchery-reared winter steelhead in the past year. As with summer steelhead, the distribution of those fish was largely spurred by the new FERC agreement that ended the practice of recycling hatchery steelhead, he said.