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Okanogan River steelhead fishing to close Friday

FISHING — Two sections of the Okanogan River will close to fishing for steelhead one hour before official sunrise on Friday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says.

  • Okanogan River: From the first power line crossing downstream of the Highway 155 Bridge in Omak (Coulee Dam Credit Union Building) to the mouth of Omak Creek.
  • Okanogan River: From the Tonasket Bridge (4th Street) downstream to the Tonasket Lagoons Park boat launch.

Reason for action: Sections of the Okanogan River around the mouth of Omak and Tonasket Creeks will close early to protect natural origin steelhead staging prior to spawning within those tributaries.

General rules in areas open to steelhead fishing;

  • Mandatory retention of adipose-fin-clipped steelhead, daily limit two (2) hatchery steelhead, 20 inch minimum size. Hatchery steelhead are identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar in its location.
  • Adipose present steelhead must be released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.
  • Night closure and selective gear rules remain in effect.
  • Whitefish anglers must follow selective gear rules in areas open to steelhead fishing. No bait is allowed.

Other information:

All other areas currently open to steelhead fishing on the Columbia, Okanogan, Methow, Wenatchee, and Similkameen rivers remain open.

Anglers are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license.

Check for other emergency rules on the fishing hotline at 360-902-2500 or the webpage.

Upper Columbia and tribs open Wednesday for steelhead

FISHING — Starting Wednesday (Oct. 16), fishing will open for hatchery steelhead on the mainstem upper Columbia, Wenatchee, Icicle, Methow and Okanogan rivers until further notice.

In addition, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that the Similkameen River will open to hatchery steelhead retention beginning Nov. 1.

Jeff Korth, regional fish manager for WDFW, said approximately 14,000 adult steelhead are expected to return to the upper Columbia River this year - enough to allow the department to open area steelhead fisheries.

Korth noted, however, that fishing will be more tightly regulated than last year because fewer hatchery steelhead are projected to return this year and wild steelhead are expected to make up a higher proportion of the run.

"Careful management is required to protect naturally spawning steelhead listed under the federal Endangered Species Act," Korth said. "While these fisheries traditionally remain open through the winter, we may have to close fishing early due to the higher number of encounters with wild steelhead expected this year."

Korth said anglers should check WDFW's website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/ ) throughout the season for possible changes in the fishing regulations.
 
On all rivers, anglers will have a daily limit of two hatchery steelhead, marked with clipped adipose fins and measuring at least 20 inches in length. Anglers are required to immediately release any steelhead with an intact adipose fin without removing the fish from the water. All steelhead fitted with a floy (anchor) tag and those with one or more round quarter-inch holes punched in their caudal (tail) fin must also be released.

Anglers fishing tributaries to the upper Columbia River are also required to retain any legal-size hatchery steelhead they catch until the daily limit of two fish is reached. Once they have retained two fish, anglers must stop fishing for steelhead.

Selective gear rules apply to all areas where steelhead seasons are open, although bait may be used on the mainstem Columbia River. All anglers are required to follow selective gear rules and restrictions described in WDFW's Sport Fishing Rules, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Anglers should also be aware that motorized vessels are not allowed on the Wenatchee or Icicle rivers under Chelan County ordinances.

Areas that will open to fishing for hatchery steelhead Oct. 16 until further notice include:

  • Mainstem Columbia River: 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: Open from the mouth to the Icicle River Road Bridge, including the Icicle River from the mouth to 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: Open 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: Open from the mouth upstream to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville. Night closure and selective gear rules apply.

Areas that will open to fishing for hatchery steelhead Nov. 1 include:

  • Similkameen River: Open from the mouth to 400 below Enloe Dam. Night closure and selective gear rules apply.

Three areas of the Columbia River - Vernita, Priest Rapids and Wanapum - will not open for steelhead fishing this fall to preserve fishing opportunities on upper-river tributaries, Korth said.

All anglers must possess a valid fishing license and a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement to participate in these fisheries. 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.  

Methow River steelhead fishing to close Sunday

FISHING — Dang, the catching was so good, the limit of disturbance to wild fish stocks has been reached, forcing the state to announce this afternoon that fishing for steelhead and whitefish in the Methow and Chewuch rivers will close on Sunday evening.

Steelheading will continue in portions of the upper Columbia, Okanogan, Wenatchee and Similkameen rivers.

Read on for all the details just released from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Steelheading opens Tuesday on Upper Columbia and tribs

FISHING – Starting Tuesday (Oct. 16), hatchery steelhead fisheries will open on the mainstem upper Columbia, Wenatchee, Icicle, Entiat, Methow and Okanogan rivers, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today.

In addition, the Similkameen River will open to hatchery steelhead retention beginning Nov. 1.

All of these fisheries will remain open until further notice.

Jeff Korth, regional fish manager for WDFW, said approximately 18,000 adult steelhead are expected to return to the upper Columbia River this year – enough to allow the department to open area steelhead fisheries.

However, wild steelhead are expected to return in lower numbers than last year, requiring additional constraints on those fisheries.

“We carefully manage these fisheries to protect naturally spawning steelhead listed under the federal Endangered Species Act,” Korth said. “These fisheries traditionally remain open through the winter, but with lower numbers of wild steelhead and tighter allowable impacts on those fish we may have to close early.”

Korth said anglers should check WDFW’s website throughout the season for any regulation changes.

Read on for details about the fish you can and cannot keep, and specifically where fishing is allowed.

Colvilles install salmon weir across Okanogan River

FISHERIES — A temporary picket-style salmon weir recently has been installed on the Okanogan River about 15 miles upstream from its confluence with the Columbia River near Brewster, the Colville Tribe reports.

The structure spans the Okanogan river, but leaves room along the west bank for small waterdraft to pass around the weir.

The weir was installed a mile downstream from Malott Bridge during three weeks of construction by Chief Joseph Hatchery staff to test methods for sampling chinook salmon heading upstream to spawn.  The river can flow through the weir but the picket slots form a barrier to upstream-bound adult salmon and angles them into a trap.

“This summer we will watch for any negative effects the structure may cause,” said Keith Wolf, the hatchery's lead scientist. “We will be able to count fish, and get good estimates on the salmon returning to the Okanogan River. After closely monitoring the site for the next several weeks, we will see how salmon react to the weir and we’ll make any necessary modifications we need to for the permanent structure.”

The weir allows the staff to manage summer-fall chinook, sorting out fish of hatchery origin while releasing wild fish to continue their spawning migration.

Joe Peone, Colville Confederated Tribes (CCT) Fish and Wildlife director, explained in a media release:

“This project plays an important role in adult management of summer Chinook that are destined for the spawning grounds in the Similkameen River and the U.S. portion of the Okanogan River. It allows managers to manage natural-origin (NOR) summer Chinook to be the primary spawners (70%) and allows us to control the number of hatchery-origin spawners (HOR) about (30%) on the breading grounds.

In return, the CCT will be able to harvest the HOR summer Chinook and distribute to the CCT members,” he said. “At the same time, we want to make sure our Okanogan weir does not hinder any salmon stocks from migrating up the river. This is why we are doing a two-year feasibility study to monitor adult behavior as they approach the weir.”

The Okanogan River test weir was funded by Grant County Public Utility District and will be operating until the end of September.

Peone said the hatchery staff will operate the weir and communicate with resource agencies regarding the project findings.

Steelhead fishing opens in Upper Columbia and tribs

STEELHEAD FISHING — Fishing for hatchery steelhead opens Wednesday (Sept. 28) on the upper Columbia River above Rock Island Dam, and on the Wenatchee, Icicle, Entiat, Methow, and Okanogan rivers, the , the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says.

Salmon fishing will also reopen Wednesday from Wells Dam to Brewster, and the Similkameen River will open to hatchery steelhead retention beginning Nov. 1.

The steelhead fisheries will remain open until further notice, while the salmon fishery will run through Oct. 15.

Read on for details.

Steelheading to close April 1 on Upper Columbia and tribs

FISHING  — Steelhead fishing will close April 1 on the Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam to Chief Joseph Dam and the Wenatchee, Icicle, Entiat, Methow, Okanogan, and Similkameen rivers, the Washington Fish and Wildlife announced today.

Read on for details. 

Steelhead size overstated, so what’s new?

STEELHEADING — A few sharp-eyed readers noticed that fish in the photo of the "27.5-pound" steelhead   (see two blog posts below this one) I hooked Tuesday in the Okanogan River either didn't look that big or the guy holding the fish, Jerrod Gibbons, must have been about 8 feet tall and 400 pounds.

Sorry, I meant 27.5 INCH-LONG steelhead, not 27.5 inches.  The correction has been made in the text.

It's a normal sort of mistake for a fisherman.

I know the length for a fact because a WDFW biologist measured it when we pulled off the river.

Meanwhile, the photo above is of a wild fish — another third bigger than the one photographed a couple of blog posts below this.  Gibbons released this beautiful hen without bringing it out of the water.

Steelhead in the bag; I’m calling it a day

FISHING — Steelhead don't care if it's snowing, and neither does a serious steelhead fisherman.

Jerrod Gibbons of Okanogan Valley Guide Service holds a 27.5-inch long hatchery hen I hooked at 10 a.m. this morning on an orange 1/4-ounce jig under a bobber.  We were fishing the Okanogan River downstream from Omak in a snow storm.

The fish leaped fully out of the water four times during the battle despite the cold.

"These steelhead stay down to fight when they're in the Columbia, but once they head up the Okanogan they seem to hit another gear," said Gibbons, who's fished the river all of his life.

Among the other fish caught this morning by the group, including Jason Verbeck at left, was a bright wild hen Gibbons caught and released. It was another third bigger than this hatchery hen.

"The Okanogan fishes great right through the month  to the end of the season," Gibbons said.