OLYMPIA - Starting tomorrow (Sept. 29), hatchery steelhead fisheries will open on the upper Columbia, Wenatchee, Icicle, Entiat, Methow and Okanogan rivers, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
In addition, the Similkameen River will open to hatchery steelhead retention beginning Nov. 1.
On all rivers, anglers will have a daily limit of four adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead, which must measure at least 20 inches in length. Steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be immediately released unharmed without being removed from the water. Anglers also will be required to release any steelhead with one or more round holes punched in the tail fin.
Anglers on all rivers will be required to retain any legal hatchery steelhead they catch until the daily limit of four fish is reached. After they have retained four fish, anglers must stop fishing for hatchery steelhead.
A strong run of wild and hatchery-produced steelhead returning to the upper Columbia River allowed the department to open the fisheries, said Jim Scott, assistant director of WDFW’s fish program. More than 33,000 summer steelhead had been counted at Priest Rapids Dam through Sept. 22, well above the overall return’s 10-year average of nearly 14,500.
The selective fisheries, which target returning hatchery fish that exceeds the number needed to meet spawning goals, were approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Services (NOAA Fisheries). The fisheries will not impede recovery of the region’s wild steelhead, which are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), said Scott.
"This is a terrific fall fishing opportunity that also will help further fish recovery efforts by removing hatchery-origin steelhead and increasing the proportion of wild steelhead onto the spawning grounds," Scott said.
Steelhead fisheries are carefully managed to assure that natural-origin steelhead returning to the upper Columbia River Basin survive to spawn. WDFW will closely monitor the fisheries and enforce fishing rules to ensure protection of wild steelhead, said Scott.
Most fisheries are scheduled to remain open through March 31, 2010, although they could close earlier if the allowable incidental impact to wild steelhead is reached, said Scott.
Areas that will open to fishing for hatchery steelhead Sept. 29 include:
- Mainstem Columbia River: From Rock Island Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam. Night closure and selective gear rules apply, except fishing from a motorized vessel and bait are allowed.
- Wenatchee River: From the mouth to a sign about 800 feet below the most downstream side of Tumwater Dam. Night closure and selective gear rules apply.
- Icicle River: The Icicle will be open through Nov.15 from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam. Anglers fishing the Icicle also will be allowed to retain three coho (minimum size 12 inches) per day, but must release coho equipped with an anchor tag.
- Entiat River: Upstream from the Alternate Highway 97 Bridge near the mouth of the Entiat River to 800 feet downstream of the Entiat National Fish Hatchery outfall. Night closure and selective gear rules apply, except fishing from a motorized vessel is allowed.
- Methow River: From the Highway 97 Bridge in Pateros upstream to the second powerline crossing, and from the first Highway 153 Bridge north of Pateros to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop. The second powerline crossing upstream to the first Highway 153 Bridge is closed to fishing. Night closure and selective gear rules apply, except fishing from a motorized vessel is allowed.
- Okanogan River: From the mouth upstream except closed waters from the Lake Osoyoos Control Dam (Zosel Dam) downstream to the first Highway 97 Bridge below Oroville. Night closure and selective gear rules apply, except fishing from a motorized vessel is allowed.
In addition, the Similkameen River will be open from the mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam beginning Nov. 1. Night closure and selective gear rules will apply.
Salmon and other gamefish gear rules do not apply during the hatchery steelhead season. Additional regulations for the fisheries are available on WDFW’s website at /fishing/regulations.