OLYMPIA – Hatchery steelhead fisheries will open Saturday (Oct. 4) on the upper Columbia, Methow and Okanogan rivers, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
In addition, the Similkameen River also will open to hatchery steelhead retention beginning Nov. 15.
In all fisheries, anglers will have a daily limit of two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead, which must measure at least 20 inches in length. Steelhead with an intact adipose fin, and those bearing an anchor tag, must be immediately released unharmed without being removed from the water.
A robust run of wild and hatchery-produced steelhead returning to the upper Columbia River allowed the department to open the fisheries, said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings.
Approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Services (NOAA Fisheries), the fisheries target the abundant return of hatchery fish that exceeds the number needed to meet spawning goals. The fisheries will not impede recovery of the region’s wild steelhead, which are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), said Koenings.
“By removing hatchery-origin steelhead and allowing a proportionally greater number of wild steelhead onto the spawning grounds, these fisheries will help further fish recovery efforts aimed at protecting and recovering wild steelhead populations,” Koenings said. “Besides offering a great fall fishing opportunity, these fisheries also will provide an economic boost to communities along the Columbia River.”
Steelhead fisheries are carefully managed to assure that natural-origin steelhead returning to the upper Columbia River Basin survive to spawn. WDFW will closely monitor the fisheries, enforcing fishing rules to ensure protection of wild steelhead, Koenings said. Although the fisheries are scheduled to remain open through March 31, 2009, they could close earlier if the allowable incidental impact to wild steelhead is reached.
“During previous fisheries, most anglers have done a good job of following the selective fishing rules,” Koenings said. “They need to keep doing their part if these fishing opportunities are going to continue into the future.”
Areas that will open to fishing for hatchery steelhead Oct. 4 include:
- Mainstem Columbia River: From Wells Dam upstream to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam. Night closure and selective gear rules apply, except motorized vessels and bait are allowed.
- Methow River: From the Highway 97 Bridge in Pateros upstream to the second powerline crossing, and from the first Highway 153 Bridge north of Pateros to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop. The second powerline crossing upstream to the first Highway 153 Bridge is closed to fishing. Night closure and selective gear rules apply, except motorized vessels are allowed. Whitefish gear rules do not apply.
- Okanogan River: From the mouth upstream except closed waters from the Lake Osoyoos Control Dam (Zosel Dam) downstream to the first Highway 97 Bridge. Night closure and selective gear rules apply, except motorized vessels are allowed.
Beginning Nov. 15, the Similkameen River will be open from the mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam. Night closure and selective gear rules will apply. Whitefish gear rules will not apply.
Additional regulations for the fisheries are available on WDFW’s website at /fishing/regulations.