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600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

This document is provided for archival purposes only.
Archived documents do not reflect current WDFW regulations or policy and may contain factual inaccuracies.

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September 17, 1997
Contact: Madonna Luers, (509) 456-4073; Bob Perleberg, (509) 662-0452; Bruce Sanford (360) 902-2706; Bob Leland, (360) 902-2817

Upper Columbia River steelhead and trout fishing closes Sept. 20 to protect endangered stocks

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 Joseph Dam.

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 unchanged.

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 day.

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 fisheries."

WDFW is working with NMFS to develop specific criteria for reinstating fishing opportunities.