The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife closed steelhead and trout fishing on the Columbia River from the U.S. Highway 395 bridge at Pasco upstream to Chief Joseph Dam on Saturday.
All tributaries within that reach also have been closed for steelhead (trout over 20 inches). Trout fishing remains open, although selective fishery regulations have been extended through Dec. 31 on tributaries that are open after Oct. 31 and are already covered by those regulations.
Salmon fishing is allowed this year, but all wild and hatchery steelhead caught by salmon fishers must be released immediately, the department said. Fishing seasons for sturgeon and other game fish, including bass, walleye and whitefish, remain unchanged.
The emergency closure came in response to the National Marine Fisheries Service’s listing of Upper Columbia steelhead as endangered. WDFW acted, in advance, to preserve steelhead, which officially become endangered on Oct. 17.
When permanent fishing regulations are adopted for 1998-99, the steelhead closures will be continued, WDFW officials said. However, some remaining Skamania Hatchery steelhead will return to the Ringold Hatchery area upstream from Highway 395 next year, and fishing for them will be allowed, concurrent with a salmon fishery in that area, May 1-Aug. 15.
Until last weekend’s shutdown, only wild steelhead had to be released in the Upper Columbia River, as well as many Washington rivers. Now, hatchery steelhead, whose adipose fin has been clipped, must be released as well.
Because upper Columbia River steelhead hatchery stock are of local native origin, from the Wells Dam area, they are considered essential to the recovery of the endangered stock, the department said. Hatchery stocks planted in the Snake River are not native, so steelhead fishing remains unchanged on that river.
Lake treatment canceled
Jump Off Joe Lake in southern Stevens County will not be treated to kill non-sport fish this fall as planned, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department reports.
Higher-than-normal water levels could make treatment with the chemical rotenone hazardous to downstream fish.
Because of the change in plans, normal catch limits will resume on the lake beginning Oct. 1. Jump Off Joe will be open through Oct. 31 with a five-trout and five-bass daily limit.
The lake had been scheduled to close Sept. 30, with rotenone treatment to follow. Because all fish left in the lake would have been killed by the chemical, catch limits had been temporarily lifted.
Jump Off Joe has small yellow perch, largemouth bass, goldfish, pumpkinseed sunfish, eastern brook trout and planted rainbow trout.
The department had planned to restock the lake with largemouth bass and bluegill sunfish after the treatment, with continued planting of catchable rainbow trout.
The treatment was canceled because rotenone concentrations would have drifted with the higher-than-normal flows through the outlet stream, potentially killing fish in the Colville River between Valley, Wash., and Chewelah, said agency spokeswoman Madonna Luers.
The department will reconsider Jump Off Joe Lake and other waters for warmwater fish enhancement work in 1998.