Six Eastern Washington rivers opened today [Sept. 29] for hatchery steelhead fishing due to a robust return of steelhead.
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 rivers opening are the Upper Columbia, Methow, Wenatchee, Icicle, Entiat and Okanogan rivers. The Similkameen River will also open to hatchery steelhead retention beginning Nov. 1.
The daily limit is four adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead loner than 20 inches.
All other steelhead 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.
“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,” Jim Scott, the state Fish and Wildlife assistant fish program manager said in a news release.
Steelhead fisheries are carefully managed to assure that natural-origin steelhead returning to the upper Columbia River Basin survive to spawn.
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.
Here is a breakdown of the open fishing areas:
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.