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Stream temps already uncomfortably high for trout, salmon

FISHING — Stream temperatures are spiking high much earlier than normal because the region's snowpack already has disappeared.

The Snake River near Anatone is reading 72.32 degrees F, that's about 8 degrees warmer than the median for this date.

The Okanogan River at Malott is at 78.62 degrees F, nearly 15 degrees higher than the median temperature for this date.

High water temps are bad news for fish, especially trout, salmon and steelhead.

Warmer water can form a "thermal barrier" that prevents salmon and steelhead from leaving the Columbia and heading up the Snake toward Idaho.  A thermal barrier at the mouth of the Okanagon may keep sockeye stacking up in the Columbia near Brewster. Fishermen can play these temperature issues to their favor in some cases.

But that doesn't mean anglers should overplay stressed fish, especially when trout or salmon are being released.

Be prepared to employ your most sensitive catch and release techniques, such as using stouter rods and heavier leaders to reel in fish as fast as possible for release without taking the fish out of the water.

Expect emergency restrictions to be announced this summer, possibly prohibiting trout fishing in the afternoons in some waters.

Links to USGS gauge and temperature readings for some streams can be found here:

Here are some Celsius to Fahrenheit conversions to help you process the information on the chart.

  • 17C = 62.6F
  • 18C = 64.4F
  • 19C = 66.2F
  • 20C = 68F
  • 21C = 69.8F
  • 22C = 71.6F

Rock Lake getting 255,000 steelhead thanks to lawsuit

FISHING – Rock Lake is being planted this week with 255,000 steelhead from Washington hatcheries connected to a wild fish lawsuit that prevents their release in Puget Sound streams.

The fish are 6-8 inches long and should be a big boost fishing at the Whitman County lake starting this fall, said Chris Donley, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife inland lakes manager.

The lawsuit-restricted fish prospered when stocked last year in Sprague Lake during the first year the steelhead were salvaged for inland waters. But Sprague will not share in the steelhead bounty this year.  "We want to highlight Sprague for its excellent bass fishing," Donley said.

Stocking in Rock Lake began Friday with a plant of 45,000 fish. The trucks will continue to roll to get all of the fish into the lake by June 29, Donley said.

Other trout releases:  Lake Spokane received another plant of about 120,000 triploid rainbow trout this year that should be producing well by fall. The plant is funded by Avista as part of a recreation mitigation for operating Long Lake Dam.  The  trout stocked in last year's debut of the program for Lake Spokane produced a lot of satisfied anglers last fall, winter and this spring.

Steelhead to be released again at inland lakes

FISHING — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish managers will release "early winter" hatchery steelhead into inland lakes again this year, now that federal fisheries officials have decided to conduct a full-scale environmental impact analysis of all Puget Sound hatchery steelhead programs.

No word yet on whether steelhead will once again be stocked in Sprague Lake, but some anglers hope so. They blossomed to nice proportions (see photo) since being stocked last year.

Here are details about the plan from WDFW:

WDFW leaders announced the action Thursday after learning that the National Marine Fisheries Service has decided to develop an environmental impact statement to evaluate the effects of early winter steelhead hatchery programs on the survival and recovery of wild Puget Sound steelhead and chinook salmon, which are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The decision was based, in part, on more than 2,000 public comments to NMFS that expressed a wide range of questions and concerns about the environmental impact of hatchery steelhead programs.

In March, NMFS (also known as NOAA Fisheries) published a draft environmental assessment of hatchery steelhead programs in three river basins. WDFW officials had hoped NMFS' completion of the assessment would lead to approval of WDFW steelhead hatchery operations and clear the way for the release of steelhead into several Puget Sound rivers under terms of a federal court settlement last year. However, the additional time needed to complete a more detailed EIS means that a decision on approval of these hatchery programs will come after the release window for 2015.

"We support the conservation and recovery of wild salmon and steelhead, but we are disappointed that NMFS has been unable to complete the review of these programs," said WDFW Director Jim Unsworth. "The decision by NMFS to conduct a full and potentially lengthy EIS process will delay approval of these hatchery programs and have serious impacts on recreational fishing on several Puget Sound rivers."

However, Unsworth said WDFW understands the controversial nature of the subject, as well as the federal government's desire to analyze hatchery programs within a full-scale EIS that stands up to potential legal challenges and clears the way for hatcheries to stay in operation for the long-term.

Last year the Wild Fish Conservancy of Duvall sued WDFW, alleging that the department's Puget Sound hatchery steelhead programs violated the Endangered Species Act by impairing the recovery of wild steelhead, salmon, and bull trout. In settling that case, the department agreed to refrain from planting early winter (Chambers Creek) steelhead into most rivers in the Puget Sound region until NMFS completed its environmental review.

Until recently, WDFW officials believed the federal agency's timetable would allow the release of juvenile steelhead into several rivers this spring, but those plans have now been canceled. One exception is the release of 180,000 early winter steelhead into the Skykomish River, which is permitted under the federal court order approving the settlement.

Jim Scott, head of the WDFW Fish Program, said rivers that will not receive steelhead in 2015 include the Nooksack, Stillaguamish and Dungeness, which would have received 150,000, 130,000, and 10,000 steelhead, respectively. Earlier this year, NMFS announced it would conduct a full EIS for hatcheries that release steelhead into the Snoqualmie and Green rivers, which were slated to receive 74,000 and 70,000 fish, Scott said.

Instead of releasing juvenile steelhead into those five rivers, WDFW will plant them into inland waters that have no connection with Puget Sound, he said. WDFW will announce its fish planting schedule as soon as possible on the department's website: http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

Snake River flows increased to flush smolts downstream

FISHERIES — While most anglers are thinking of the spring chinook heading upstream in the Columbia and Snake Rivers, water managers are thinking of young salmon that need a boost get get downstream through reservoirs to the ocean.

To help young fish pass the dams safely, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun spilling more water at the four lower Snake River and four lower Columbia River dams to facilitate the timely and safe passage of juvenile salmon and steelhead.

The federally required spill began at the lower Snake River dams April 3 and will pick up at the lower Columbia River dams starting April 10.

Juvenile fish survival past dams has increased as a result of dam modifications, such as surface passage, juvenile bypass systems, turbine improvements and more effective and efficient spill operations, said Rock Peters, senior program manager for the Corps’ Northwestern Division.

Nature isn't cooperating so much in the best interest of salmon and steelhead this  year.

The most recent water supply forecast issued by the Northwest River Forecast Center for the Columbia River Basin (Apr–Aug) is 84 percent of normal as measured at The Dalles Dam and 70 percent of normal for the Snake River Basin, (Apr–Jul), as measured at Lower Granite Dam.

Hanford Reach steelheaders had good month

FISHING — Steelheaders landed a record catch in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River last month.

"During the month of March, anglers landed 764 steelhead and harvested 606 hatchery steelhead in the Hanford Reach sport fishery, just beating out the old record of 750 catch (2010) and 453 harvest (2009)," reports Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish biologist in the Tri-Cities. 

The fishery for steelhead in the Hanford Reach and Columbia River above Bonneville Dam is closed effective March 31, BUT the shoreline along the Ringold Springs Hatchery access area will remain open to “bank fishing” from April 1-15. 

Here's the rest of Hoffarth's March report for the Reach:

WDFW estimates 1,468 anglers fished in March and 6,824 anglers since the fishery opened on October 1. 

WDFW staff interviewed 417 anglers in March, 28% of the estimated anglers fishing in the Reach during the month.  Anglers averaged a steelhead for every 9 hours of fishing, with boat anglers averaging 6 hours/fish compared to bank anglers at 16 hours/fish. 

This season, 89% of the fish caught during the fishery have been hatchery origin adipose clipped fish.  The majority of the fish harvested during this year's fishery originated from Ringold Springs Hatchery (adipose + right ventral fin clipped).  These totals include 76 hatchery steelhead donated to Ringold Springs Hatchery to use as broodstock.

An estimated 2,058 hatchery steelhead have been harvested since the fishery opened on October 1.  Total catch including fish released is 2,658 steelhead.  Ringold Springs Hatchery staff collected and transported all the hatchery steelhead captured at the trap this fall and released them back into the river in the Tri-cities to give anglers another opportunity to catch these returning adults.  These “recycled” fish are marked (caudal clipped) prior to release.  Of the 2,058 fish harvested since October 1, 395 (19%) were previously captured at the trap and released.

 

 

Steelheader praises Idaho officer’s streamside manner

FISHING — A Washington steelhead angler Rick Itami was so impressed with the routine action's of an Idaho Fish and Game Department conservation officer, he was moved to write this report to share his respect.

I wanted to share a positive experience I had with an IDF&G Conservation Officer while fishing the Little Salmon River near Riggins, ID this past Monday. 

A fellow fishing next to me landed a small male steelhead that was fin-clipped.  He let the fish flop around among the rocks and dirt for several seconds until he finally figured out the fish was too dark to keep.  So he grabbed the fish with a couple of fingers in the gills and flung it out into the middle of the river without any thought of the fish possibly needing to be revived.  As luck would have it, a Conservation Officer by the name of Dennis Brandt was watching this activity from behind and above us.  He came down and very tactfully but firmly admonished the fellow for his careless handling of the fish.  When confronted, the fisherman was remorseful and very apologetic.  Message delivered well. 

As all this was going on, I managed to hook and land a nice female keeper of about 7 pounds.  After checking my license and tag, Dennis offered to take my picture with his cell phone and send it to my e-mail address.  When I got back to the motel and cranked up my laptop, there was Dennis' e-mail with the photo and a nice note thanking me for fishing Idaho waters (I live in WA).  I was so impressed by Dennis' courtesy, professionalism and friendly demeanor that I sent an e-mail to his supervisor in McCall, ID to let him know what a model CO he had working the Little Salmon River.

It's nice to run into the really good public servants out there protecting our fisheries and still maintaining good relations with the fishing public.

Steelhead seasons changing in Upper Columbia tributaries

FISHING — Steelheading was opened today on another section of the Wenatchee River, but the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department says a section of the Methow River will close to steelheading on March 1.

Following are details on these and other Upper Columbia region rivers from the state agency, which regularly updates these types of changing regulations on its website.

Actions:

  • Open an additional section of the Wenatchee River above Leavenworth on Feb. 21, 2015, to fishing for hatchery steelhead. 
  • Close a section of the Methow River in Winthrop on March 1, 2015, to fishing for steelhead. 

Fishing area locations and effective dates:

Areas that will open to fishing for steelhead one hour before sunrise on Feb. 21, 2015, until further notice include:

  • Wenatchee River:  From the Icicle River Road Bridge to 400 feet below Tumwater Dam.

Reason for changes:  Recent analysis of ongoing steelhead fisheries in the upper Columbia River shows that opening the new fishery in the upper basin will not exceed impact limits on natural-origin steelhead established by NOAA-Fisheries under section 10 of the federal Endangered Species Act. Expanding the fishery on the Wenatchee River will increase fishing opportunities for hatchery steelhead, reduce the proportion of hatchery fish on the spawning grounds, and further reduce competition between natural origin and hatchery juvenile production.

Areas that will close to fishing for steelhead one hour after sunset on March 1, 2015, (Sunday) until further notice include:

  • Methow River:  From the upstream boundary of Heckendorn Park (across from East 20 Pizza) to the Highway 20 Bridge in Winthrop, WA.

Reason for changes: Closed area will be utilized by Winthrop National Fish Hatchery personnel to capture natural origin steelhead broodstock to meet hatchery production and genetic management goals.

Ongoing regulations:

Areas that will continue to be open for steelhead angling until further notice include:

  • Mainstem Columbia River:  From Rock Island Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam.
  • Wenatchee River:  From the mouth to the Icicle Road Bridge, including the Icicle River from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam.
  • Entiat River:  From the mouth to approximately ½ mile upstream to a point perpendicular with the intersection of the Entiat River Road and Hedding Street.
  • Methow River:  From the mouth to the upstream boundary of Heckendorn Park in Winthrop and from Highway 20 bridge in Winthrop to the confluence of the Chewuch River. Fishing from a floating device is prohibited from the second powerline crossing (1 mile upstream from the mouth) to the first Hwy 153 Bridge (4 miles upstream from the mouth).
  • Similkameen River:  From the mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam.
  • Okanogan River:  From the mouth to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville.

Areas of the Okanogan River that will close to steelhead angling one hour after sunset Feb. 28, 2015, include:

  • Okanogan River: From the first power line crossing downstream of the Hwy 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.

General rules for all locations open to steelhead fishing:

  • Mandatory retention of hatchery steelhead, identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar at the location of the clipped fin.
  • Daily limit two (2) adipose fin clipped hatchery steelhead.
  • Selective gear rules and night closure are in effect for all steelhead fishery areas, except the use of bait is allowed on the mainstem Columbia River.
  • Adipose present steelhead must be released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.
  • Release all steelhead with a floy (anchor) tag attached and/or one or more round 1/4 inch in diameter holes punched in the caudal (tail) fin.
  • Motorized vessels are not allowed on the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers (Chelan County ordinance 7.20.190 Motorboat restrictions). 

Other information: 

Anglers should be aware that fishing rules are subject to change and that rivers can close at any time due to impacts on natural origin steelhead. Adhering to the mandatory retention of adipose clipped steelhead is vital in allowing the fishery to continue and to provide the maximum benefit to natural origin fish.

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.

Clearwater steelheading ‘on fire’

FISHING — Dan Barth reports that the steelhead fishing on the Clearwater River "has been on fire" the past week.

He said his boat hooked more than 50 fish!

"Plus it was sunny and warm in Orofino."

Clearwater steelheaders report good winter fishing

FISHING — Save for the periods of high, off-color water, the winter steelheading in Idaho's Clearwater River has been outstanding, says state Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager Joe DuPont.

Catch rates have been as low as five hours per fish, which is considered excellent for the hard fighting, yet sometimes elusive ocean-going rainbow trout.

Here are details from DuPont:

Unlike most anadromous species, Idaho steelhead can spend many months in fresh water before they spawn in the spring, giving anglers extra opportunity to fish for them. In the past few weeks Clearwater steelhead have begun showing up in the South Fork Clearwater.  Between 15 and 100 steelhead have been moving into the South Fork each day. More anglers are fishing the South Fork, and Dupont expects those numbers to increase as spring approaches.

While catch rates on the Lower Clearwater rose a bit at the end of January, anglers should not be discouraged. There are plenty of fish still moving through the system, and the best is yet to come.

As you get closer to spawning, you will see more fish showing up in the areas they were released from. Late in the season, you can experience incredible catch rates in the lower Clearwater.”

One of the major release points is just below Dworshak Dam. Most steelhead spawn in March and early April, so anglers fishing the North Fork Clearwater (below Dworshak) and the main Clearwater just downstream from the North Fork will have good opportunity to catch more steelhead in less time for the next six to eight weeks. The same phenomenon will occur in the Salmon River, as steelhead continue to move up the system toward the places they were hatched or released.

Toby Wyatt of Reel Time Fishing out of Clarkston has an even higher opinion of the recent action in today's fishing report:

Steelhead fishing on the Clearwater has been epic, catch rates are well into double digits. All of our boats hit double digits every day in January, making it the best month we can remember. We are continuing to see excellent catch rates so far this month. Currently we are off the river due to high and muddy flows, but the river is on the drop and will be fish-able by the start of next week. We expect the Clearwater to fire back up and no doubt we will be back to some red hot fishing! We still have a good month left in the season so get a hold of us to experience some of the best fishing we’ve seen in years.

Check out some cool drone footage shot on the Clearwater by a Reel Time client on Jan. 29-30:

 

  • See information on Idaho steelhead fishing, including dam counts and catch rates.

Upper Columbia reopens to keeping steelhead

FISHING — The Upper Columbia River and some tributaries are re-opened for steelhead fishing today. 

Meanwhile, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also announced that some sections of the Okanogan River will close March 1.

Following is the agency's official announcement:

Upper Columbia River, tributaries re-open
for steelhead fishing; parts of Okanogan to close

Action 1:   Effective immediately, allow retention of hatchery steelhead on portions of the upper Columbia River and portions of the Wenatchee, Entiat, Icicle, Methow, Okanogan, and Similkameen rivers until further notice.

Action 2:   Close sections of the Okanogan River on March 1, 2015, to protect natural origin steelhead staging prior to spawning.

Species affected:   Hatchery adipose fin clipped steelhead.

ACTION 1 - Reopen hatchery steelhead fishery

Effective dates:   Immediately, until further notice.

Locations:

  1. The mainstem Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam.
  2. The Wenatchee River from the mouth to the Wenatchee River at the Icicle Road Bridge, including the Icicle River from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam.
  3. The Entiat River from the mouth to approximately ½ mile upstream to a point perpendicular with the intersection of the Entiat River Road and Hedding Street.
  4. The Methow River from the mouth to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop. Fishing from a floating device is prohibited from the second powerline crossing (1 mile upstream from the mouth) to the first Hwy 153 Bridge (4 miles upstream from the mouth).
  5. The Okanogan River from the mouth to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville.
  6. The Similkameen River , from its mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam.

General Rules:

  1. Mandatory retention of hatchery steelhead, identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar at the location of the clipped fin.
  2. Daily limit two (2) adipose fin clipped hatchery steelhead.
  3. Selective gear rules and night closure are in effect for all steelhead fishery areas, except the use of bait is allowed on the mainstem Columbia River.
  4. Adipose present steelhead must be released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.
  5. Release all steelhead with a floy (anchor) tag attached and/or one or more round 1/4 inch in diameter holes punched in the caudal (tail) fin.
  6. Motorized vessels are not allowed on the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers (Chelan County ordinance 7.20.190 Motorboat restrictions) 

ACTION 2 - Close steelhead fishing

Effective dates:   One hour after sunset Feb. 28, 2015.

Locations:

  • 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 ACTIONS:   Hatchery-origin steelhead have returned to the upper Columbia River in excess of desired escapement. The fishery will reduce the number of excess hatchery-origin steelhead, and consequently increase the proportion of natural-origin steelhead on the spawning grounds. Higher proportions of naturally produced spawners are expected to improve genetic integrity and stock recruitment of upper Columbia River steelhead through perpetuation of steelhead stocks with the greatest natural-origin lineage.

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.

 

Steelheading’s been spotty in Hanford Reach

FISHING — Steelheaders have been having excellent fishing in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia —or not, depending on the day they were there.   Here's the latest report from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist in the Tri-Cities:

During the month of January anglers landed 286 steelhead and harvested 186 hatchery steelhead in the Hanford Reach sport fishery.  WDFW estimates 923 anglers fished in January and 4,267 anglers since the fishery opened on October 1.  WDFW staff interviewed 145 anglers in January, 16% of the estimated anglers fishing in the Reach during the month.  Anglers are averaging a steelhead for every 13 hours of fishing, with boat anglers averaging 9.5 hours/fish compared to bank anglers at 28 hours/fish.  Fishing was just a little slower than in December. 

Winter fishing has been very spotty, good one day, slow the next but good overall compared to prior years.  Harvest in January was the best in the past five years.  This season 84% of the fish caught during the fishery have been hatchery origin adipose clipped fish; only 68% of the fish caught in January were adipose clipped.  The majority of the fish harvested during this year's fishery have been released from Ringold Springs Hatchery (adipose + right ventral fin clipped).  

An estimated 1,149 hatchery steelhead have been harvested since the fishery opened on October 1.  Total catch including fish released is 1,511 steelhead.  Ringold Springs Hatchery staff collected and transported all the hatchery steelhead captured at the trap this fall and released them back into the river in the Tri-cities to give anglers another opportunity to catch these returning adults.  These "recycled" fish are marked (caudal clipped) prior to release. 

Of the 1,149 fish harvested since October 1, 209 (18%) were previously captured at the trap and released.

Steelheading improves in Idaho’s Clearwater River

FISHING — Anglers fishing the Clearwater River are enjoying a healthy increase in the number of steelhead returning, according to the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

After a lackluster season in 2013-2014, the number of “B-run” steelhead is up in 2015, and anglers are taking advantage.

Creel surveys and angler reports for the week ending on Jan. 25 indicate good success among anglers fishing the Clearwater with 265 anglers reported catching 277 steelhead.

"Numerous anglers have reported catching their daily limit of three hatchery steelhead this month; in some cases harvesting their limit within a few hours," according to the regional fisheries report.

Overall, anglers averaged one fish every five hours during the seven day period, with much of the action taking place on the weekend.

North Fork Clearwater anglers averaged 10 hours per fish during the week of ending Jan. 25. Anglers are not only catching fish in large numbers, they are also catching some large steelhead; as long as 37 inches.

Fishery managers expect angler success to remain high throughout the Clearwater drainage over the next three months. Anglers are also finding steelhead in the Salmon and Snake Rivers, and catch rates are likely to improve as water temperatures rise during the approach of spring.

Tucannon hatchery steelhead must be retained by anglers

FISHING — You catch em, you keep em according to a new rule going into effect Monday, Jan. 19, for hatchery-marked steelhead in the Tucannon River.  There's also a change in whitefish rules.

Here's the notice from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Action:  Rule changes for steelhead and whitefish fisheries.
Rule change for definition of the mouth of the Tucannon River.
Closes fishing effective March 1, 2015.

Effective date: Jan. 19 through Feb. 28, 2015; closed March 1, 2015.

Species affected: Hatchery steelhead (with missing adipose fin) and whitefish.

  1. All (hatchery origin) steelhead with a missing adipose fin landed in the Tucannon River) must be retained. Catch and release of hatchery steelhead is not allowed.

  2. Anglers may retain up to 15 whitefish and 2 hatchery steelhead, but must release all other fish.

  3. Barbless hooks are required.

  4. Release all wild steelhead.

  5. The area from Marengo (at Turner Road Bridge) upstream is closed to fishing.

Location:  For this emergency regulation, the Tucannon River is defined as the water lying south of a line of sight from an orange diamond-shaped sign attached to the Hwy 261 guard rail (northwest of the Tucannon River and adjacent to/downstream from the rest area turn off), running southeast across to the eastern, unsubmerged shoreline of the Tucannon River (point of land spit). The large embayment between the eastern shoreline of the Tucannon River and the rock bluff to the east along the south shore of the Snake River is considered part of the Snake River.

Reason for action: Wild steelhead returns to the Tucannon River are below management objectives for conservation and for maintaining fisheries under previous rules. Therefore, the fishery for hatchery steelhead must be constrained to provide more protection of naturally produced steelhead in the Tucannon River. The emergency regulations are designed to focus the fishery on removing stray hatchery steelhead that primarily enter the Tucannon River in late summer and fall to prevent them from spawning. The emergency rules also provide a refuge area above Marengo to protect early returning wild steelhead, and close the fishery before March when most of the wild steelhead return to the Tucannon River.

Other Information: Anglers must cease fishing for steelhead for the day once they have retained 2 hatchery steelhead. Adipose fin-clipped fish must have a healed scar at the location of the missing fin. All steelhead with unclipped adipose fins must be immediately released unharmed.

In addition, anglers may not remove any steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily bag limit. Anglers should be sure to identify their catch because chinook and coho salmon, as well as bull trout are also present in the Tucannon River during this steelhead fishery. Gamefish fisheries re-open in the Tucannon River on the first Saturday in June as described in the May 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. 

Specialty fly-tying classes offered at Silver Bow

FISHING — Nothing makes more sense in really dismal weather than looking forward by getting cozy with a fly-tying bench.

Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley, 924-9998, offers fly tying instruction for beginners on up.  Here are two specialty classes coming up:

Steelhead Fly Tying 101 — Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. Learn how to tie effective steelhead patterns for our region.

Cost: $50. Instructor: Mark Poirier.

Fly Tying Level II - Beyond the Basics — Jan. 13-14 at 6 p.m.  Learn six effective trout patterns to help you move beyond basic fly tying skills.

Cost: $50. Instructor: Dave Dana.

River changes could spur Clearwater steelheading

FISHING — Clarkston-based fishing guide Toby Wyatt has this professional insight on what steelhead anglers might expect, possibly as soon as this weekend:

Despite a very strong run of B run Steelhead due to low burn stained ( runoff from fire's) water the Clearwater has been mediocre, mostly single digit days.  Recent rains have brought cubic foot per second to over 10,000 - 3000 to 5000 is normal the river is chocolate milk the burn stain is gone. 
 
What happens next the fish swim into the river in MASS I am not just saying this to book trips it can and most likely will happen for instance the last time we had this same scenario when the river cleared I had a career day 47 fish landed. 
 
2 fish limit no size restrictions
 
Stop Wishing go fishing

Snake River dredging challenged by fishing groups

FISHING — A decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin dredging a silted-in shipping channel in the Snake River near Lewiston is facing a court challenge by Northwest fishing and conservation groups and the Nez Perce Tribe.

The groups said in a media release that they're "taking legal action against costly, illegal dredging on the lower Snake River aimed at propping up an outdated, environmentally destructive, money-losing waterway."

Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm Earthjustice, filed a complaint Monday with Seattle’s U.S. District Court challenging the Corps’ approval of a $6.7 million lower Snake River dredging project scheduled to begin in mid-December.

The legal action is backed by Idaho Rivers United, Pacific Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute of Fisheries Resources, Washington Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and Friends of the Clearwater.

  • A larger group of fish and river advocacy groups had filed these comments on the Environmental Impact Statement for the Corps plan.

Following is text from the media release stating the position of the environmental groups:

Dredging behind lower Granite Dam is the centerpiece of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Walla Walla district’s ill-advised plan for maintaining the little-used barging corridor between Pasco, Wash., and Lewiston, Idaho.

Though shipping on the Columbia River waterway remains robust, traffic on the lower Snake is so low that it qualifies for the Corps’ own “negligible use” project category.

The Corps’ Walla Walla District released its draft sediment management plan two years ago, asserting that dredging would provide $25 million in benefits but offering no supporting economic analysis.

Fishing and conservation groups and the Nez Perce Tribe have challenged the Corps plan because it puts salmon, steelhead, and Pacific lamprey at serious risk, purposefully dodges any real look at alternatives to dredging, and ignores the shaky economic justification for the barge corridor created by the four lower Snake River dams.

Despite thousands of comments noting the plan’s glaring errors and omissions, the Corps last week issued a record of decision adopting the plan. The agency immediately signed a contract with a dredging contractor to begin work Dec. 15.

“The lower Snake waterway exacts an enormous price from taxpayers as well as from wild salmon, steelhead, and Pacific Lamprey”, said Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda. “The Corps has failed to look at any alternatives to dredging this winter, and fails to provide an honest assessment of the fiscal and environmental costs involved in shoring up this out-of-date waterway.”

“These four dams are responsible for pushing the Snake River’s wild salmon and steelhead to the edge of extinction.” said SOS executive director Joseph Bogaard. “Climate change and other factors are making the lower Snake River dams ever more deadly to migrating fish while the economic justification for this waterway is slipping away.”

Over the past 15 years, the lower Snake waterway’s freight volume has declined 64 percent as farmers and other shippers move their products to trucks or rail. Maintenance expenses, meanwhile, have surged. Lewiston faces a chronic crisis of sedimentation and U.S. taxpayers now effectively subsidize every barge leaving Lewiston to the tune of about $18,000.

Navigation is the primary purpose of these dams. They generate significant power primarily in  the spring, when power demand and prices are low and the Northwest is awash in hydropower— so much so that wind farms are often forced to shut down.

“Every year, the federal government spends increasing amounts of tax dollars to prop up four obsolete dams on the lower Snake River,” said IRU Conservation Director Kevin Lewis. “Our specific claims include violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Clean Water Act.”

“Little thought has been given to the long-term economic and environmental consequences of long-term dredging,” said Gary MacFarlane of Friends of the Clearwater.

Snake River dredging to start in December, Corps says

RIVERS — Dredging in the Snake River at the ports of Lewiston and Clarkston could begin as early as mid December.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Walla Walla District says it's awarded a $6.7 million contract for maintenance dredging of the lower Snake River federal navigation channel and associated berthing areas at the the two ports near the Idaho-Washington border.

The contract was awarded to American Construction Co., Inc., of Tacoma.

The maintenance dredging is planned for the  "winter in-water work window," Dec. 15 to Feb. 28, when salmonid fish are less likely to be present in the river.

The Corp worked for years and stirred up controversy before releasing the long-term, comprehensive Lower Snake River Programmatic Sediment Management Plan last week. The plan calls for reestablishing the congressionally authorized dimensions of the Lower Snake River federal navigation channel.

Dredging is the only effective short-term tool available for maintaining the federal navigation channel to authorized dimensions of 250 feet wide by 14 feet deep at minimum operating pool, Corps officials say.

The contract specifies dredging of about 400,000 cubic yards in four areas:

  1.  the navigation lock approach at Ice Harbor Dam;
  2. confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers;
  3. Port of Lewiston berthing area; and
  4. Port of Clarkston berthing area.

The Corps plans to use the dredged material to create shallow-water habitat for juvenile salmon at Snake River mile 116, located just upstream of Knoxway Canyon and 23 miles downstream of Clarkston.

Steelheading success picks up in Hanford Reach

FISHING — Better news for steelheaders in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River in this report from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist in the Tri-Cities:

Over the past six weeks an estimated 574 hatchery steelhead have been harvested in the Hanford Reach.  Steelhead fishing picked up during the past two weeks after having been very slow in October.  WDFW staff interviewed 139 anglers last week that reported 68 steelhead caught, 62 of these were hatchery origin (adipose clipped). Anglers averaged a steelhead for every 3.3 hours of fishing. An estimated 219 hatchery steelhead were harvested during the week. 

The Columbia River is open to fishing for hatchery steelhead upstream to the wooden powerline towers at the old Hanford townsite through March 31, 2015.  On Thanksgiving a second section of the Hanford Reach will open for steelhead fishing, Vernita Bridge (Hwy 24 bridge) upstream to Priest Rapids Dam.

Biologist opposes detail in catch-and-release proposals for Grande Ronde steelhead

FISHING — Comment are due on Dec. 1 for a proposed a rule that would require anglers to keep all hatchery steelhead they catch on most of southeastern Washington, including the Grande Ronde with the exception of the first 2.5 miles up from the mouth.

See story here for the explanation of why the state is seeking the rule change.

To say the least, the proposal is causing a lot of discussion among anglers:

  • Catch-and-release enthusiasts would see good fishing days shortened if they had to stop after the second or third hatchery fish was taken into possession as required.
  • Wild steelhead advocates say anglers should participate in the effort to keep hatchery steelhead from fouling the spawning areas of wild steelhead.

Check out this and other proposals and make comments online.

Zero in the the stream strategy proposals here.   Look under Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, Walla Walla, and Whitman counties.

Some anglers are confused as to why the proposed rule would be more lenient on catch-and-release fishing in the 2.5 miles of the Grande Ronde up from its mouth to the county bridge.

Glen Mendel, a recently retired Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist who devoted much of his career to steelhead in southeastern Washington waters, supports catch and release in the lower section of the Grande Ronde but opposes the rule as proposed

He says he supports continuing catch-and-release in the lower Grande Ronde.  "I am recommending against harvest in the lower 2.5 miles," he said.  

To help anglers understand what's at stake, he put together the following explanation of his thoughts on the proposal. Read them ALL THE WAY TO THE END.

(Slide through the images above to see the graphics to which he refers in his text.)

As the recently retired fish management biologist for SE WA, I would like to provide some perspective regarding the current steelhead regulations in the lower 2.5 miles of the Grande Ronde River, as well as explain why I don’t think the regulations should change there to allow retention of steelhead.

In the 1970s, steelhead returns to SE WA were very poor and restrictions (including closures) were put in place in an effort to protect wild steelhead populations.  Public meetings occurred regarding steelhead regulations and fishery options for the Grande Ronde River within Washington.  Anglers were in disagreement, with some anglers wanting only catch and release fisheries and others wanting harvest opportunities.  These meetings were apparently contentious.  The lower  2 ½ miles set up as a catch and release fishery for steelhead as early as 1975, and later in the mid 1980s the remainder of the river was opened to provide opportunities to harvest returning hatchery steelhead produced as part of the Lower Snake River Compensation program in WA and OR.   Suggestions regarding changing the steelhead fishing regulations in the Grande Ronde have continued to come in nearly every year by various fishing interests that propose either allowing harvest throughout the entire Grande Ronde River within WA, or changing it all to catch and release and/ or fly fishing only.

The current fishing opportunities have proven to be popular and the Grande Ronde steelhead fisheries in southeast Washington (SE WA) attract anglers from all over the northwest and the nation (see figs. 1, and 2 from WDFW for anglers interviewed in both the upper portion of the Grande Ronde River in WA, and Fig. 3 from the lower 2 ½ miles).  These fisheries are nationally renowned and promoted in most regional and national fishing magazines.  Anglers are known to stay to fish the Grande Ronde for 3-30 consecutive days.  Therefore, it should be obvious that the Grande Ronde steelhead fisheries provide substantial contributions to the state and local economies.              

Many anglers are attracted to the relatively unique steelhead fishing opportunities in the lower 2 ½ miles of the Grande Ronde River (from the mouth to the County Road Bridge), plus many (~39% in 2013) of those anglers have extended fishing trips of 7 days or longer in this area (Figure 3).  This lower river section is bordered on both sides by easy road and river access, plus it is relatively close to population centers at Lewiston, ID, and Asotin and Clarkston, WA.  This area is also adjacent to fishery areas on the Snake River and upper portions of the Grande Ronde (within WA and OR) that allow harvest opportunities and provide other steelhead fishery options (e.g. use of drift boats on both rivers, and power boats on the Snake River) that are not available in the lower zone of the Grande Ronde.  Quality steelhead fishing exists on the lower 2 ½ miles of the Grande Ronde River during September through early November, with some anglers having reported catching as many as 10-20 steelhead in a single day there.  Few holes and preferred fishing areas exist in this 2 ½ miles and fishing can be crowded at times during the peak fall months.  This zone provides a highly valued, quality, fishing experience for steelhead anglers because of its lower river location where fish tend to stack up, its close proximity to other adjacent fishing areas with different fishing opportunities, and its regulations that require selective gear catch and release fishing.  The proposed change to the regulations and the fishery in this zone of the Grande Ronde River is not necessary to allow harvest or to try to maintain consistency of the mandatory hatchery steelhead retention requirement  because the fishing regulations in this 2 ½ mile zone of the Grande Ronde will not make, break, or substantially contribute to, recovery or restoration of wild steelhead populations as it comprises less than 1% of all the river miles open for steelhead fishing within SE WA (including the Snake, Grande Ronde, Tucannon, Touchet and Walla Walla rivers). 

However, current regulations do provide a highly valued and unique steelhead fishing opportunity in SE WA.  This area should continue to be managed as it is under current regulations to provide a quality fishery and to provide different fishery experiences within about a 5-10 mile radius of the mouth of the Grande Ronde.  It is not uncommon for Fish and Wildlife agencies to attempt to provide different types of hunting or fishing opportunities for the public by changing the timing and area of open seasons, as well as adjusting the gear type or harvest regulations to address the desires of different hunting or fishing publics.  Not all these types of changes are intended as conservation actions. 

As examples of efforts to create different opportunities, different hunting seasons and regulations (e.g. archery, muzzleloader and modern firearm) are offered to meet different management objectives and public hunting preferences in WA, plus about 35 miles away from the lower Grande Ronde the Idaho Department of Fish and Game provides catch and release steelhead fisheries each year in the lower Clearwater River until October 15 in order to maintain a highly valued, and relatively unique, fishing experience prior to opening that area for crowds and harvest.

I strongly recommend that WDFW reconsider the proposed change and maintain the current steelhead regulations and the catch and release steelhead fishery in the lower Grande Ronde River.  I see no need to change the current regulations for that lower zone. 

I am very concerned that allowing harvest in this 2 ½ mile zone, with its easy access on both sides of the river, limited number of preferred fishing areas available, and the very large crowds of anglers that take up residence during the fall months in adjacent areas at Heller Bar (as well as within a 30 minute to 4 hour drive) would likely destroy this great fishery and a great combination of adjacent fishing opportunities that currently satisfy differing recreational fisheries. 

This area is likely to become very crowded under the proposed harvest option and it may increase the frequency of angler disputes there. 

I recommend maintaining the current very high quality, and highly valued, catch and release fishery in the lower 2 ½ miles of the Grande Ronde River, at least during the three primary fall fishing months of September, October and November.

Never too late to become a steelhead angler

FISHING — Mark Potter is all smiles about his recent steelhead fishing trip with his father-in-law on the Grande Ronde River.

The two were fishing with guide John Sullivan and they caught-and-released eight wild steelhead plus two hatchery keepers to extend the fun to the dinner table.

Keen is a WWII veteran, served in Germany in the signal corp and followed General Patton’s troops.

Says Potter:

Floated Boggan's to Shumaker. First time Burt remembers fishing on river. About 75 feet from the pull-out Burt hooked this lunker.

Burton Keen, 92, and his wife Avis, 89, moved to Spokane from Northern Minnesota a year ago November.  Burt said after catching a beautiful wild fish, "This is the biggest fish I have ever caught , and I'm 92 and been fishing all my life."

It was hard for him to release it. 

A day to remember. 

Coho adding a new look to coolers of Idaho anglers

FISHING — Yes, I know that some of the coho Idaho anglers are catching hundreds of miles from the ocean in the Clearwater River are dark and off their prime.

But some of the salmon are bright and very good for eating, and opportunity not to miss in this year of record coho returns. 

The photo above shows a nice coho that stands out in a crowd of steelhead on Rick Itami's boat.  It's a sight popping up in coolers along the river since the state's first dedicated coho fishing season opened Oct. 17.

Here's Itami's report:

Thanks to funding from BPA, the Nez Perce Tribe has re-established a coho run in the Clearwater River to the point that this year for the first time, the IDF&G opened a sports fishing season that allows 2 fish per day and 6 in possession.  To top it off, you can keep wild or hatchery fish.  I didn't bother to target coho because the counts over Lower Granite never got above a few hundred per day which seemingly would not make it worthwhile to go after them.  But early this morning, I was trolling lighted lures for steelhead and was reeling in my line so that I could put away my trolling gear and try bobber fishing.  The fast-moving plug caught the attention of this beautiful female coho and she grabbed it just before I got it to the boat.  As you can see it is nice and bright and the flesh is deep red.  It's fillets are now headed to my new smoker along with the steelhead I caught.

See a report on an angler (who's also a fisheries biologist) who caught the first official state record coho in the new Clearwater season casting a spoon.

A record run (since 1938) of adult coho crossed Bonneville Dam and headed up the Columbia and Snake River systems this year and jacks are the 4th highest since at least 1980. 

  • Through Oct. 31, a total of 262,831 adult and 14,577 jack coho had been counted at Bonneville Dam. 
  • The previous record was 259,533 adults in 2001. 
  • The record for jacks is 22,204 fish in 1986. 

Coho were declared functionally extinct from the Snake River basin in the 1980s. But the run had tanked decades earlier. In 1995, the Nez Perce Tribe began an effort to re-establish the run using eggs and juveniles from surplus stock at hatcheries in the lower Columbia River basin.

The tribe’s fisheries division slowly increased the returns of the fish.

Here's more information from Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:

Over the past handful of years, enough adult coho returned from the ocean that the tribe was able to rely on them to spawn the next generation and did not need to supplement juvenile releases with the offspring of coho that returned to the lower Columbia. Tribal fisheries officials expected returns would improve once the transition was made to a localized brood stock. But they were not expecting the huge leap the run made this fall.

During the previous five years, an average of 3,145 coho returned at least as far as Lower Granite Dam. This year more than 17,100 coho have been counted at the dam.

Learn to tie steelhead tube flies at Silver Bow

FISHING — A few slots are open for a steelhead tube fly tying class Nov. 11, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.,  at  Silver Bow Fly Shop, 13210 E. Indiana Ave. in Spokane Valley.

  • Instructor: Mark Poirier
  • Cost: $65. Includes tube fly adapter. 
  • Contact: 924-9998.

Utah’s $50 bounty on coyotes may be boosting mule deer

HUNTING — Although credible evidence has suggested that wholesale killing of coyotes ultimately stimulates coyotes to produce more pups, Utah officials say a $50 bounty on the predators is contributing at least somewhat to the state's recovery of mule deer.

However, wildlife managers say habitat restoration has been the key, noting that the state has spent more than $125 million in the effort over the past eight years.

  • See the latest report from Brett Prettyman of the Salt Lake Tribune.

The Utah legislature allotted $500,000 to the Targeted Predator Control Program in 2012 as it approved the Mule Deer Preservation Act.

Based on two years of data, the state estimates that 25,054 coyotes have been killed, a 59 percent increase in the previous estimated annual harvest of 7,397 coyotes per year.

Unlike other Western states, Utah is reporting an increase in mule deer numbers in recent years. Most of the credit is being given to expansive habitat-restoration efforts.  Says Prettyman:

Since 2006, the initiative has restored more than 1 million acres and spent more than $125 million. Another 197,100 acres are currently under restoration and 10,600 more acres have been proposed.

Of the total spent, federal partners provided $69.5 million for the restoration projects from a mix of sources, including tag fees. And the state chipped in $42 million. Sportsmen's groups contributed close to $6.8 million. Federal agencies provided $6 million in in-kind contributions and landowners added another $2.6 million.

Utah's $50 coyote bounty is startling to some, a fee much higher than rare bounties in other states for predators or nuisance exotics such as nutria.

But it's not the only predator bounty program in the West.

The Northern Pikeminnow Reward Program pays $4-$8 a fish from the Columbia River to help reduce the native predator's impact on smolts of endangered salmon and steelhead. Since the issue is caused primarily by the Columbia and Snake River dams, which allow the pikeminnows an unfair and unnatural advantage, the Bonneville Power Administration picks up the tab.

  • The program has spent an average of bout $3 million a year for 25 years.
  • Some of the most accomplished angler participants make more than $30,000 each during the six-month reward season,including the top angler who pocketed $76,478 last year.
  • Anglers turned in 162,079 pikeminnows for bounties in 2013.
  • Total payments for the 2013 season of regular vouchers, coupons, and tagged fish totaled $1,138,251.

Modest bounties are paid in several states for rats, nutria, porcupine, house sparrows, starlings, snakes, beaver, coyotes and other critters. Utah's $50 coyote bounty appears to be the highest, but overall it pales in payouts to the Columbia River systems pikeminnow reward program.

Coho in spotlight; steelhead providing action

FISHING — The first coho fishing season on Idaho's Clearwater River has been capturing a lot of attention this weeke, but fishing guides correctly point out that steelheading — the bread and butter of late fall fishing in the Snake and Clearwater rivers — is doing just fine.

Here's the latest report from Toby Wyatt of Reel Time Fishing based out of Clarkston:

The Clearwater has been kicking out a lot of nice big B-run fish ranging anywhere from 12 to 18 pounds. This time of year these fish are hot and make some line screaming runs and acrobatic leaps. Dam counts are looking excellent for a great season. An email from Joe DuPont, IDF&G Clearwater Fishery Manager states that as of  10/7/14, over 9,000 hatchery Steelhead have passed over Lower Granite Dam (based on detected PIT tags) that are destined for the Clearwater River.  This is about triple of what we saw last year at this same time and 30% more than we saw 2 years ago.

One of the exciting things about the run this year is the vast majority of them are the larger 2-ocean fish unlike last year when many were the smaller 1-ocean fish.  To date, over 25,000 Clearwater River bound hatchery Steelhead have passed over Bonneville Dam, so there are still a lot on their way.  This means there will be no need to for emergency rules like we implemented last year to protect brood stock. The limit on the Clearwater for steelhead is 2 per day with no size restrictions.

Another exciting development on the Clearwater is that with combined efforts from the Nez Perce Tribe and IDF&G, we are allowed to catch and harvest Coho Salmon. This is the first time in the history of the State of Idaho where sportsmen are able to harvest Coho. The limit is 2 per day and the season is open until November 16th, 2014. Our boats have been landing a few Coho’s a day while targeting Steelhead, which is a nice added bonus to the day.

Fishing should continue to pick up from here on out.

 

Grande Ronde catch-and-release steelheading could be history

FISHING — Fisheries managers have proposed a rule that would require anglers to keep all hatchery steelhead they catch on most of southeastern Washington, including the Grande Ronde with the exception of the first 2.5 miles up from the mouth. Anglers would have to stop fishing when they retained their limit of two or three hatchery steelhead, depending on the river.

Check out this and other proposals and make comments online.

See the steelhead retention rule here.

Salmon ID chart helps Clearwater anglers identify catch

FISHING — Idaho's first specific coho fishing season opens today on the Clearwater River.

You can keep coho regardless of whether their adipose fins are clipped or unclipped in the mainstem or designated sections of the Middle Fork and North Fork below Dworshak Dam.

But since fall chinook is closed to harvest and unmarked steelhead must be released, anglers must be clear on identifying coho.

This chart should help.

TU offers $1K for top wild steelhead essay

FISHING — A good tale about steelhead will earn somebody $1,000 next month.

Trout Unlimited has launched an essay contest for authors angling for the cash prize and a spot in TROUT Magazine.

Entries must focus on wild steelhead and be no more than 500 words.

The winning essay will be read aloud at TU’s Nov. 20 launch of its new Wild Steelhead Initiative in Seattle.

“We’re looking for good stories about wild steelhead and why so many of us are willing endure even the worst conditions - frigid water, rain, sleet, snow - for hours, even days at a time in hopes of catching just one of these amazing fish,” said Shauna Sherard, TU’s northwest region communications director. “Wild steelhead have captured the souls and imaginations of American anglers for generations. Surely there are stories to tell, and TU wants to help die-hard steelheaders tell them.”

Wild steelhead in the Pacific Northwest still persist, but 70 percent of the region’s stocks require federal protection.

Here's TU's pitch:

The upcoming campaign will focus on improving wild steelhead numbers and the opportunity for anglers to pursue them. Until now, efforts have been focused on local watersheds and specific runs of wild steelhead. TU hopes to shine some much-needed light on the challenges wild steelhead face if they are to once again swim in historic numbers from southern Alaska all the way to southern California.

Surplus steelhead being dumped into trout lakes

FISHING – The steelheader’s loss will be the trout angler’s bonanza.

About 340,000 young steelhead raised at hatcheries to be released in Puget Sound streams will instead be stocked in Western Washington trout lakes this month.

A lawsuit filed by wild steelhead advocates prevented Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife managers from releasing the young steelhead this spring in most streams where they've been released for years.

Rather than waste the fish, they were kept at the hatcheries and raised to catchable sizes of 11-13 inches, said Chris Donley, state inland fish program manager.

The fish are being stocked into 47 West Side lakes, including 19 lakes where the catch limit will be increased from five to 10 trout beginning Oct. 18. 

The number of fish being stocked in the lakes is four times greater than last fall, Donley said, noting that fishing through the holidays should be excellent.

Sprague Lake is the only Eastern Washington lake to get a boost from the surplus steelhead.

To relieve pressure on hatcheries this spring, about 370,000 small steelhead were stocked in Sprague, where those that weren’t consumed by bass and channel catfish have grown to 13 or more inches long, Donley said.

Details on where the fall fish are being stocked are online.

Hatchery steelhead must be kept on Upper Columbia and tribs

FISHING — Starting Wednesday, Oct. 8, anglers must keep all the fin-clipped hatchery steelhead they catch in the upper Columbia River and portions of five tributaries up to their daily limit of two.

Fish managers want to thin out the big numbers of hatchery steelhead that are coming upstream with the wild fish stocks that are protected by Endangered Species rules.

Here's the info just-released by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Action:  Allow retention of hatchery steelhead.

General Rules:

  1. Mandatory retention of hatchery steelhead, identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar at the location of the clipped fin.
  2. Daily limit two (2) hatchery steelhead.
  3. Selective gear rules and night closure are in effect for all steelhead fishery areas, except the use of bait is allowed on mainstem Columbia River.
  4. Adipose present steelhead must be released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.
  5. Release all steelhead with a floy (anchor) tag attached and/or one or more round 1/4 inch in diameter holes punched in the caudal (tail) fin.
  6. Motorized vessels are not allowed on the Wenatchee and Icicle Rivers (Chelan Co ordinance 7.20.190 Motorboat restrictions) 

Effective dates and locations:

1)  Mainstem Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam; October 8, 2014 until further notice.

2) Wenatchee River from the mouth to the Wenatchee River at the Icicle Road Bridge, including the Icicle River from the mouth, to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam; October 8, 2014 until further notice.

3) Entiat River from the mouth to approximately ½ mile upstream to a point perpendicular with the intersection of the Entiat River Road and Hedding Street; October 8, 2014 until further notice.

4) Methow River from the mouth to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop; October 8, 2014 until further notice. Fishing from a floating device is prohibited from the second powerline crossing (1 mile upstream from the mouth) to the first Hwy 153 Bridge (4 miles upstream from the mouth).

5) Okanogan River from the mouth to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville; October 8, 2014 until further notice.

6) Similkameen River, from its mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam; November 1, 2014 until further notice.

Reason for action: Hatchery-origin steelhead in excess of desired escapement are forecast to return to the upper Columbia River. The fishery will reduce the number of excess hatchery-origin steelhead and consequently increase the proportion of natural-origin steelhead on the spawning grounds. Higher proportions of naturally produced spawners are expected to improve genetic integrity and stock recruitment of upper Columbia River steelhead through perpetuation of steelhead stocks with the greatest natural-origin lineage.

Other information:

Fishing rules are subject to change and that rivers can close at any time due to impacts on natural origin steelhead. Adhering to the mandatory retention of adipose clipped steelhead is vital in allowing the fishery to continue and to provide the maximum benefit to natural origin fish.

Mandatory steelhead retention begins on Hanford Reach

FISHING — Hanford Reach anglers must keep all fin-clipped hatchery steelhead they catch up to their daily limit starting Wednesday, Oct. 8, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has just announced.

The rule applies to the Columbia between the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco and Priest Rapids Dam.

Here's the scoop from the agency:

Action:     Open the Columbia River to retention of any hatchery steelhead between the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco and Priest Rapids Dam

Locations and Dates: 

      Area 1: Highway 395 Bridge upstream to old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers; Oct. 8, 2014 – Oct. 31, 2014.

      Area 2:  Old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers to Vernita Bridge; Oct. 8 - Oct. 22, 2014.

      Area 3:  Vernita Bridge to Priest Rapids Dam; Oct. 8 – Oct. 22, 2014 and Nov. 27, 2014 – until further notice.

Special Rules for Areas 2 and 3:

  • Mandatory retention of hatchery steelhead.  Adhering to the mandatory retention of adipose clipped steelhead is vital in allowing the expanded fishery to continue and to provide the maximum benefit to natural origin fish on upper Columbia tributary spawning grounds.
  • Selective gear rules are in effect, except the use of bait is allowed.

Other information:

  • This action removes the requirement for both an adipose fin clip and ventral fin clip for hatchery steelhead retained prior to November 1st in Area1. Fishing in Area 1 for any hatchery steelhead continues by permanent rule from Nov. 1 through Mar. 31, 2015 (see Page 73 in 2014-15 fishing rules pamphlet).
  • Daily limit of two (2) hatchery steelheadHatchery steelhead are identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar in its location.  Minimum size is 20 inches.
  • Wild steelhead (adipose fin intact) must be immediately released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.
  • 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.