Much of Columbia River closes to steelhead fishing Monday

FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2013, file photo, a wild Idaho Salmon River steelhead is netted and quickly released in the Salmon River north of Riggins, Idaho. There is good and bad news associated with the latest update of projected steelhead returns to the Columbia and Snake rivers. Unfortunately the bad outweighs the good, and the good is only good when compared to the bad. (Pete Zimowsky / AP)

Sharp declines in steel head salmon returns have prompted state wildlife managers to close steelhead fishing on much of the Columbia River starting Monday.

Anglers must release any steelhead they intercept under the new emergency rule adopted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to an agency news release.

The rule will be in effect until further notice from Buoy 10 at the mouth of the Columbia River to Highway 395 in Pasco.

Monitoring at Bonneville Dam now indicates that 110,300 upriver steelhead will return to the Columbia this year, down from 182,400 fish projected before the fishing season began, said Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River fishery coordinator in the release.

The new projection is similar to the number of steelhead that returned last year, when fishery managers from Washington and Oregon closed steelhead fishing in the Columbia and many of its tributaries.

Although the new emergency rule does not close fisheries in area tributaries, that may be necessary in the weeks ahead, Lothrop said.

“Many factors are clearly taking a toll on our steelhead populations right now, including difficult ocean conditions,” he said. “We need to do what’s necessary to protect these runs.”

A recently announced “night closure” will remain in effect from Buoy 10 to Pasco, and at the Wind River and Drano Lake, two tributaries of the Columbia River.

Lothrop said WDFW will continue to monitor the summer steelhead returns as the season progresses.

The new emergency fishing rule is posted on WDFW’s website at fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/.