The official word came out today, and the sport fishery for hatchery steelhead on the Lower Columbia River will open tomorrow (June 12).
Anglers will be able to catch a hatchery steelhead, along with sockeye salmon and hatchery jack chinook from Rocky Point up to the I-5 Bridge.
Beginning June 16, anglers may retain any jack chinook (marked or unmarked) but must release any adult chinook they catch until June 22, when the Columbia River opens for summer chinook fishing below Bonneville Dam.
Fishing rules, both before and after June 16, are described in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet.
“We would have liked to give anglers more of a spring fishery,” Bill Tweit, a state Fish and Wildlife Columbia River policy leader said in a news release. “But only now, when most spring chinook have passed Bonneville Dam, are fishery managers feeling confident that we can meet state and federal conservation goals.”
The steelhead fishery which was supposed to have reopened on May 16 has been shutdown in order to protect a lower than expected spring chinook return.
Spring chinook fisheries were cut short throughout the Columbia River, but fishery managers were still concerned about impacts on wild spring chinook caught and released in the steelhead fishery.
“We conduct these fisheries under strict federal limits on incidental mortality rates,” Tweit said. “When the run size is lower than expected, there is very little margin for error.”
The forecast called for 298,000 upriver spring chinook to return to the Columbia River this year. The latest forecast, issued June 8, anticipates a return of 165,000 fish — up 5,000 from the previous estimate.
“That small increase helped tip the balance to provide these four days of fishing,” Tweit said.