OLYMPIA - Fishing for hatchery steelhead is scheduled to open Oct. 8 in the upper Columbia, Okanogan and Methow rivers under special rules designed to protect wild fish, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
Starting Nov.15, anglers will also be allowed to fish for hatchery steelhead on the Similkameen River, when most wild chinook will have finished spawning.
The daily catch limit on all four rivers is two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead of at least 20 inches in length. All steelhead with an intact adipose fin the small, fatty fin on the back near the tail and those bearing a disk tag must immediately be released unharmed.
Both wild and hatchery-origin steelhead in the region are listed as "endangered" under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), which required WDFW to obtain a permit from NOAA-Fisheries before opening the fisheries.
A key objective of steelhead fisheries in the region is to reduce the proportion of hatchery-origin steelhead contributing to the adult spawning escapement next spring, said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings.
"Removing hatchery-origin fish will increase the proportion of wild steelhead on the spawning grounds and improve the natural production potential in the upper Columbia River basin," he said. Of course, we also recognize the enormous value of this fishery for anglers and local communities.
Consistent with its federal permit, WDFW will closely monitor the fishery to ensure that enough wild steelhead reach area rivers to spawn, Koenings said.
If we need to modify the fishery to meet ESA escapement goals for wild steelhead, we will, Koenings said. But I am confident we will meet those goals, as we have in previous years.
Barring any changes necessary to meet ESA goals, the following waters are scheduled to open for hatchery steelhead fishing Oct. 8 through March 31:
- The Columbia River from Rocky Reach Dam to the Highway 17 bridge at Bridgeport. Standard gear rules will be in effect.
- The Okanogan River from the mouth upstream to one-quarter mile below the railroad trestle below Zosel Dam. However, the section of river from the Highway 155 bridge in Omak to a line across the river 500 feet above the mouth of Omak Creek will close March 1. Selective gear rules, including a prohibition on bait and barbed hooks, will be in effect.
- The Methow River from the mouth (Highway 97 Bridge) upstream to the second power line crossing, and from the first Highway 153 bridge north of Pateros to the confluence with the Chewuch River. Selective gear rules will be in effect.
In addition, the Similkameen River will open to fishing for hatchery steelhead from Nov. 15 through March 31 from the mouth upstream to 400 feet below Enloe Dam. Selective gear rules will be in effect.
Anglers will be allowed to use boats with motors on the Okanogan and Methow rivers, but night closures will be in effect on all four rivers.
Additional regulations, including a full description of open and closed areas, are available on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.