OLYMPIA – Fishing for hatchery steelhead is scheduled to open Saturday (Oct. 21) in the mainstem of the Upper Columbia River, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) announced today.
The hatchery-steelhead fishery will be open from the Rocky Reach Dam to 400 feet below the Chief Joseph Dam.
Anglers will have a daily limit of two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead. All steelhead with an intact adipose fin – and those bearing an anchor tag – must not be removed from the water and must be immediately released unharmed. Statewide freshwater fishing rules apply, except night fishing will be prohibited.
Upper Columbia River steelhead are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The fishery for hatchery steelhead, consistent with the ESA permit issued by NOAA Fisheries in 2003, will target hatchery fish that exceed the number needed for spawning, said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings.
“This fishery will aid wild fish recovery objectives by removing some hatchery-origin fish, thus increasing the proportion of wild steelhead on the spawning grounds,” said Koenings. “Besides offering a fall fishing opportunity, this fishery also provides a tremendous economic boost to a number of communities along the Columbia River.”
Steelhead fisheries are carefully managed to assure that natural-origin steelhead returning to the Wenatchee, Methow and Okanogan basins survive to spawn. The natural-origin steelhead run to the Methow this year falls well below run sizes of the past five years and is not large enough to allow fishing in that river.
Biologists with both agencies say they expect that not more than three natural-origin steelhead would be accidentally killed during the hatchery-fish-targeted season. WDFW and NOAA Fisheries will closely monitor the fishery to ensure protection of wild steelhead. If impacts reach three wild fish, the fishery will be closed.
NOAA Fisheries biologists say that as the number of natural-origin steelhead returning to each tributary basin increases, the opportunities to open fisheries on hatchery steelhead also increases. As improvements in hydroelectric dams, harvest, hatcheries and habitat bear fruit, the likelihood of tributary fisheries occurring in the future becomes brighter, the federal agency said.
Additional regulations for the fishery, which is scheduled to last through March 31, 2007, are available on WDFW’s website at /fishing/regulations