OLYMPIA—With bull trout spawning now in some of eastern Washington's streams and rivers, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) reminds anglers that fishing is not allowed on this threatened species in most waters.
WDFW fish biologist Jim Cummins of Yakima recently reported evidence that a bull trout was caught and cleaned by an angler on Indian Creek, which feeds Rimrock Lake in Yakima County, where bull trout will be spawning through mid-September and where fishing is closed.
Columbia River bull trout are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. Any person knowingly catching and keeping a bull trout is guilty of a criminal misdemeanor and can be fined up to $50,000 and/or jail sentencing.
Bull trout are very vulnerable because they are spawning and rearing in eastside rivers and streams now through October. Those spawning waters and others are either completely closed to all fishing or are closed to taking bull trout, as listed in the fishing rules pamphlet. The only exception in eastern Washington is a portion of Lost River in Okanogan County, as listed under the "Special Rules" section.
"A real trouble spot for illegal harvest of bull trout is the North Fork of the Tieton River, below Clear Lake dam," Cummins said. "That water was open to fishing June 1 - August 15, but some people are still fishing there and even in the area up to 400 feet below the fish ladder, which is closed year-round. More than 100 bull trout enter the river to feed or spawn in this area through September."
Other southcentral Washington waters closed to all fishing all year to protect bull trout include the North Fork of Ahtanum Creek (1.7 mile section), Box Canyon Creek (Kachess Lake tributary, 4 mile section), Deep Creek (Bumping Lake tributary, 3.7 mile section), Gold Creek (Kacheelus Lake tributary), and South Fork of the Tieton River (12.5 mile section).
Southeast Washington waters closed to all fishing all year include: George and Charlie creeks and all other tributaries of Asotin Creek, North Fork and South Fork of Asotin Creek and all tributaries; Blue Creek and all other tributaries of Mill Creek upstream from Bennington Lake; all tributaries of the Touchet River, upstream from the confluence of the North and South forks and all tributaries of the Tucannon River.
Bull trout caught in other eastside open waters (except Lost River) must be released unharmed immediately. Bull trout are generally dark (olive green to brown) above with light spots (cream to crimson), no markings or spots on the gill plate or dorsal fin, and have a slightly forked tail. The most similar species is lake trout, which have spots on the gill plate and a more deeply forked tail.
Anglers should check the regulations pamphlet for all details, including the color picture and description of bull trout on page 60 for identification assistance.