Enough steelhead have returned to allow the Lower Hanford Reach steelhead fishery to open two weeks earlier than expected.
Hatchery-marked steelhead fishery opens in the Columbia River between the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco and the wooden power line towers at the old Hanford townsite from Sept. 16 to Oct. 31.
All hatchery steelhead caught must be harvested and counted toward the daily bag limit. Anglers may not continue to fish for steelhead after the daily limit is retained.
Mandatory harvest of hatchery steelhead used as a population management tool under the Endangered Species Act to remove excess hatchery fish on the upper Columbia tributary spawning grounds.
The daily limit is two hatchery steelhead. Hatchery steelhead are identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar in its location. Minimum size is 20 inches.
Wild steelhead (adipose fin intact) must be immediately released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.
This action allows anglers to retain hatchery steelhead prior to the Oct. 1 opening listed in the Fishing in Washington Sport Fishing Rules (Page 77) from the Hwy. 395 Bridge to the old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers (Lower Hanford Reach), and removes the requirement for both an adipose fin clip and ventral fin clip for hatchery steelhead retained prior to Nov. 1.
The Lower Hanford Reach will remain open for hatchery steelhead fishing after Oct. 31 under the current permanent regulation listed in the fishing rules pamphlet and is scheduled to run through March 31, 2012.
Returns of hatchery and natural-origin steelhead to the Upper Columbia River have exceeded the run criteria of 8,300 counted over Priest Rapids Dam. This number (8,300) are required to open a conservation-based fishery under the Endangered Species Act.