For the moment well to be precise starting Friday, March 16, the selective fisheries for hatchery-reared steelhead on the Wenatchee, Icicle, and Methow rivers will reopen on a short term basis.
Anglers will be allowed to catch whitefish in the Wenatchee and Methow rivers so long as those rivers are open to steelhead fishing.
Steelhead fisheries in all three rivers are tentatively scheduled to run through March 31, but could end sooner if fishing impacts on wild steelhead reach annual federal limits, Jeff Korth, regional WDFW fish manager said in a news release.
“These limited openings are designed to support wild-steelhead recovery by reducing the number of hatchery fish on the spawning grounds,” Korth said. “Anglers can play an important role in that effort by removing hatchery fish not needed to meet spawning goals.”
Because the fisheries could close on short notice, Korth recommends that anglers check the department’s Fishing Hotline at (360-902-2500) or the Fishing Rule website.
The Similkameen and Okanogan rivers will remain open for steelhead fishing, although sections of the Okanogan River around the mouth of Omak and Tonasket creeks will close to all fishing March 16 to protect wild steelhead staging for spawning.
The daily limit on all rivers open to fishing is two hatchery steelhead, marked with a clipped adipose fin and measuring at least 20 inches in length. Anglers must retain any legal hatchery steelhead they catch until they reach their daily limit of two fish. At that point, they must stop fishing for steelhead.
Any steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be released unharmed and must not be removed from the water.
Selective gear rules apply to all areas where steelhead seasons are open.
Areas that will be open to fishing for hatchery steelhead on March 16 include:
Wenatchee River: From the mouth to the Icicle River Road Bridge, including the Icicle River from the mouth to a point 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam. Night closure and selective gear rules apply. Motorized vessels are not allowed.
Methow River: From the mouth to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop. Fishing from a floating device is prohibited from the second powerline crossing to the first Highway 153 Bridge. Night closure and selective gear rules apply.
Okanogan River: From the mouth upstream to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville. Night closure and selective gear rules apply. All fishing is closed from the first powerline crossing downstream of the Highway 155 Bridge in Omak (Coulee Dam Credit Union Building) to the mouth of Omak Creek and from the Tonasket Bridge (Fourth Street) downstream to the Tonasket Lagoons Park boat launch.
Similkameen River: From the mouth upstream to 400 feet below Enloe Dam.
Areas that will open to fishing for whitefish on March 16 include:
Wenatchee River: From the mouth to the Highway 2 bridge at Leavenworth.
Methow River: From Gold Creek to the falls above Brush Creek.
To participate in these fisheries, anglers must possess a valid fishing license and a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement. Revenue from the endorsement supports salmon or steelhead seasons on many rivers in the Columbia River system, including enforcing fishery regulations and monitoring the upper Columbia River steelhead fisheries.
The endorsement has generated more than $1 million annually for WDFW to maintain and increase fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River basin.
(Photos taken by Christopher Solomon, courtesy of The Seattle Times)