Beginning Wednesday, Oct. 16, the long trek over the Cascades is well worth a shot at some of the finest winter-time steelhead fishing in the state.
That is when hatchery steelhead fishing opens on the Upper Columbia mainstem, Wenatchee, Icicle, Methow and Okanogan rivers until further notice. This will be followed by the Similkameen River opening to hatchery steelhead on Nov. 1.
State Fish and Wildlife predicts about 14,000 steelhead will return to the Upper Columbia River.
Less hatchery steelhead are forecasted back this season, and wild steelhead will dominate the returning number of fish so the sport fishery will be closely monitored to protect wild fish listed under the Endangered Species Act.
State Fish and Wildlife officials say the season could close sooner depending on the number of wild steelhead caught during the fishery.
Daily limit is two hatchery steelhead, which must be longer than 20 inches. Alll wild fish must be released without removing them from the river. Any steelhead with a floy (anchor) tag or those with one or more round quarter-inch holes punched in their caudal (tail) fin must be released.
If you plan on fishing tributaries to the Upper Columbia River you must keep any legal-size hatchery steelhead caught until the daily limit of two fish is achieved. Anglers must stop fishing once their two fish are caught.
Selective gear rules are in effect, but bait may be used on Columbia mainstem. No motorized vessels are allowed on the Wenatchee or Icicle rivers.
Fishing will be closed in the Columbia River at Vernita, Priest Rapids and Wanapum areas.
Here are the specific areas open during the season:
Columbia River mainstem is open from Rock Island Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam. Night closure and selective gear rules apply, except bait is allowed.
Wenatchee River is open from mouth to the Icicle River Road Bridge, including Icicle River from mouth to 500 feet below the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam. Night closure and selective gear rules apply. Motorized vessels are not allowed.
Methow River is open from mouth to the confluence of 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 is open from mouth up to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville. Night closure and selective gear rules apply.
Similkameen River is open from mouth to 400 below Enloe Dam. Night closure and selective gear rules apply.