Fishing for Steelhead to close Dec. 8 on three rivers in the Upper Columbia Basin

OLYMPIA – Steelhead fisheries will close one hour after sunset on Dec. 8 on the upper Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to Wells Dam and on the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers.

Fishing for whitefish will also close on the Wenatchee River one hour after sunset on Dec. 8.

The closures will not, however, affect steelhead and whitefish fishing seasons on the Okanogan River, Similkameen River, Methow River, and mainstem Columbia River from Wells Dam upstream to Chief Joseph Dam. Those fisheries will remain open until further notice under previously published rules.

Jeff Korth, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the closures are necessary to keep impacts on wild steelhead within limits established under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“This year’s run is smaller than in recent years and contains a relatively high proportion of wild steelhead,” Korth said. “Because of that, we saw an increase in the rate of encounters with natural-origin fish in some fishing areas.”

Although anglers must release any wild, unmarked steelhead they intercept in area fisheries, some of those fish do not survive and are counted toward ESA impact limits.

The federal permit authorizing the steelhead fisheries sets a maximum allowable mortality of natural-origin steelhead to accommodate variations in run strength and angling effort on specific waters. WDFW closely monitors the fisheries and enforces fishing rules to protect wild steelhead.

The primary reason the upper Columbia steelhead fisheries are permitted is to remove excess hatchery fish from spawning grounds, said Korth, noting that those fisheries provide popular recreational fishing opportunities and economic benefits for rural communities throughout the region.

WDFW fisheries managers are analyzing fishery impacts to date, and will produce a steelhead run update next month, Korth said. Some areas could be reopened at a later date for additional fishing opportunities, and anglers should keep a close eye on the WDFW website for these possibilities.

Specific waters that will close to fishing for steelhead an hour after sunset Dec.8 include:

Mainstem Columbia River: From Rock Island Dam upstream to 400 feet below Wells Dam.
Wenatchee River: From the mouth upstream to the Icicle River Road Bridge.
Icicle River: From the mouth upstream to 500 feet below the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam.
Areas closing to whitefish angling an hour after sunset Dec. 8 include:

Wenatchee River: From the mouth upstream to the Icicle River Road Bridge.
Areas that remain open to fishing for hatchery steelhead include:

Mainstem Columbia River: From Wells Dam upstream to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam.
Methow River: From the mouth upstream to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop.
Okanogan River: From the mouth upstream to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville.
Similkameen River: From the mouth upstream to 400 feet below Enloe Dam.
When these fisheries are open, anglers must retain any legal hatchery steelhead, which can be identified by a clipped adipose fin, they catch until they reach their daily limit of two fish. Once anglers have retained two fish, they must stop fishing for steelhead.

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