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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

November 24, 2010 at 9:07 PM

Steelhead returns are expected to be down in some local rivers

The unofficial opening of early winter steelhead fishing occurs around Thanksgiving, but some local Puget Sound rivers are going to close Dec. 1 due to expected poor fish returns.

A section of the Stillaguamish River North Fork downstream from the Swede Heaven Bridge approximately four river miles to the French Creek confluence, including the Whitehorse Hatchery effluent and Fortson Hole area will be closed to all fishing Dec. 1 through Jan. 31.

The Whitehorse Hatchery facility is well under its steelhead egg-take spawning goal with release targets of 70,000 summer-run and 140,000 winter-run hatchery steelhead smolts. The closure of the fishery in this area is necessary in order to collect sufficient fish to meet broodstock needs.

If the spawning goal is achieved before Jan. 31, then it may reopen this section of the river.

Next on the closure list is the Nooksack River North Fork and Whatcom Creek from the mouth to Woburn Street Bridge will both be closed to all fishing from Dec. 1 until further notice.

Here to the Kendall Creek Hatchery and Whatcom Creek Hatchery had getting enough eggs from returning hatchery winter steelhead to meet spawning escapement goals.

The Samish River from the I-5 Bridge to the Hickson Bridge will close Dec. 1, and from the mouth to the I-5 Bridge will close Jan.1 to all fishing.

Hatchery steelhead releases were halted after spring of 2008. The closure will reduce incidental hooking mortality on wild steelhead, which are expected to return in numbers well below spawning escapement goals.

Steelhead anglers planning on heading to the northern Olympic coast should know that wild steelhead catch and keep is off-limits in eight rivers until mid-February.

The annual opening date for wild steelhead retention was changed from Dec. 1 to Feb. 16 in the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers.

Those eight rivers are the only waters in the state where wild steelhead were allowed to be kept in past years. All eight are currently open for hatchery-marked steelhead fishing.

“Making this change will help to maintain the diversity of the run – including a range of late and early returning fish – that is important in preserving the wild steelhead population,” Bob Leland, the state fish and Wildlife steelhead program manager said in a news release.

Anglers will still have an opportunity to catch and keep a wild fish during the peak of the return in late spring. As before, anglers will be allowed to retain one wild steelhead per license year on one of the eight rivers when they are open for wild retention.

Leland said anglers should be aware that the sportfishing rules adopted by the commission earlier this year also include regulations that prohibit the retention of wild steelhead on the Green (Duwamish), Pysht and Hoko rivers. The change is designed to protect wild steelhead on the three rivers, where wild runs have recently been in decline.

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