OLYMPIA – As of Dec. 1, anglers will be required to follow selective gear rules when fishing for whitefish in the lower portions of the Methow and Similkameen rivers, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
The new rules prohibit the use of bait, restrict anglers to unscented artificial flies or lures with a single barbless hook and include other provisions listed on page 15 of WDFW's Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet.
Areas affected by the new rules include the Methow River between the Highway 97 bridge in Pateros upstream to the confluence with the Chewuch River, and the Similkameen River from the mouth upstream to 400 feet below Enloe Dam.
Bob Gibbons, WDFW inland fish manager, said the new selective fishing requirement for whitefish will make rules for that fishery consistent with those in effect for the hatchery steelhead fishery under way in those areas.
"Having one type of gear rules for all fisheries in the same areas will simplify regulations for anglers and aid in enforcement," Gibbons said.
Selective fishing rules will not be applied to areas of the Methow and Similkameen rivers where hatchery steelhead fisheries are not under way, Gibbons said. Standing whitefish rules – which allow anglers to use bait but restricts them to using a single barbless hook, 3/16 inch (size 14) or smaller – will remain in effect on the portion of the Methow River from the mouth of the Chewuch River to the falls above Brush Creek, and the Similkameen River above Enloe Dam.
The selective gear restriction also does not apply to the whitefish fishery in the Wenatchee or Entiat rivers, where steelhead fishing is closed.
Night fishing closures are in effect for all species in the mainstem Columbia River from Rocky Reach Dam to Chief Joseph Dam, and in the Methow, Okanogan and Similkameen rivers. Night closure is defined as one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.
Anglers are reminded that in areas open to steelhead fishing they may retain two marked, hatchery steelhead a day. Hatchery steelhead can be identified by a healed scar where either their adipose or ventral fin has been removed. In addition, to wild steelhead release, any fish with a disc tag must be released unharmed in all areas.
Areas above Rocky Reach Dam open for hatchery steelhead fishing with applicable gear restrictions for all species are as follows:
- The mainstem Columbia River from Rocky Reach Dam upriver to Chief Joseph Dam, open through March 31. General statewide freshwater rules are in effect.
- The Methow River, open through March 31 from the Highway 97 bridge in Pateros to the confluence with the Chewuch River in the town of Winthrop. Selective gear rules are in effect, except that motorized vessels are allowed.
- The Okanogan River, open through March 31 from the mouth upriver to one quarter-mile below the railway trestle below Zosel Dam. Selective gear rules are in effect, although motorized vessels are allowed.
- The Similkameen River, open through March 31 from the river mouth to a line 400 feet below Enloe Dam. Selective gear rules are in effect below Enloe Dam.