OLYMPIA -- Steelhead and trout fishing will close at 12:01 a.m. Saturday (Sept.
20) on the Columbia River from the Highway 395 bridge at Pasco upstream to Chief
All tributaries within this reach also will close for steelhead (trout over 20 inches),
but trout fishing will remain open with the following change: selective fishery regulations
will be extended through Dec. 31 on all tributaries that are under those regulations and
open after Oct. 31.
The emergency closure by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
(WDFW) is in response to the National Marine Fisheries Service's listing of Upper
Columbia steelhead as endangered. WDFW is enacting the closure now to save
steelhead, which officially become endangered on Oct. 17.
Salmon fishing is allowed this year, as currently regulated, but all wild and
hatchery steelhead caught by salmon fishers must be released immediately. Fishing
seasons for sturgeon and other game fish (such as bass, walleye and whitefish) remain
When permanent fishing regulations are adopted for 1998/99, these steelhead
closures will be continued. However, next year some remaining Skamania Hatchery
steelhead will be returning to the Ringold Hatchery area upstream from Highway 395
and fishing for them will be allowed May 1 - Aug. 15, concurrent with a salmon fishery in
that area. Salmon fishing within this region should remain open for the next year in
most areas, but specific regulations will depend on the number of returning steelhead.
Until now, only wild steelhead had to be released in the Upper Columbia River
(as in many Washington rivers). But now the hatchery steelhead, whose adipose fin has
been clipped, must be released as well. Since upper Columbia River steelhead
hatchery stock are of local, native origin (from the Wells Dam area), they are
considered essential to the recovery of the endangered stock.
Hatchery stocks planted in the Snake River are not native. They are not needed
to recover wild Snake River steelhead. NMFS recently listed wild stocks in the Snake as
threatened. At this time steelhead fishing remains unchanged on the Snake River; all
wild steelhead must be released, but up to two hatchery steelhead may be kept each
Harvest restrictions and hatchery strategies are important measures to recover
the endangered steelhead, said WDFW steelhead program manager Bruce Sanford,
but they alone will not restore steelhead populations.
"Most important is increasing the number of fish that survive as they migrate past
the Columbia River dams to and from the sea," Sanford said. "If enough steelhead
survive, we may be able to relax some of the closures and allow limited steelhead
WDFW is working with NMFS to develop specific criteria for reinstating fishing