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Tucannon River fishing to close March 1

FISHING — All fishing on the Tucannon River, including fishing for hatchery steelhead and whitefish, will close March 1 through June 6, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced.

Reason for action: A large component of Tucannon River wild steelhead enters the river in March. The recreational hatchery steelhead fishery emphasizes the removal of hatchery fish to prevent them from spawning. The incidental impact to wild steelhead from a recreational fishery is anticipated to increase to unacceptable levels in March.  The fishery is being closed to conserve this weak stock of wild steelhead.

Other information: The Tucannon River will reopen the first Saturday in June when game fish seasons open as identified in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s fishing-rule pamphlet.

Dearth of steelhead is opportunity for die-hard anglers

FISHING — If you're one of those steelheaders who's been avoiding the Clearwater River because of this season's poor fish returns, here's a big THANK YOU from the anglers who've been enjoying your absence.

Read on for the Lewiston Tribune story that points out the lack of effort has resulted in some excellent fishing for those who show up to enjoy all the elbow room and unbothered steelhead.

Latest spring chinook forecast looks promising

FISHING — The chart above was just released by Columbia River fisheries managers.  Get your tackle rigged.

Idaho winter-spring steelhead seasons underway

FISHING — Although it's a misnomer, Idaho's “spring” steelhead fishing season opened Jan. 1, continuing the season that started in the fall with a few twists.

Most important, you need a new fishing license.

While we're on that topic, be aware of the differences among the states.

  • Idaho's 2013 fishing license expired Dec. 31.
  • Montana's 2013-14 license expires Feb. 28.
  • Washington's 2013-14 license expires March 31.

 Meantime, Idaho's “spring” steelhead season is open on the:

  • Salmon River from its mouth to the posted boundary 100 yards downstream of the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery weir, near the town of Stanley.
  • Little Salmon River from its mouth to the U.S. Highway 95 Bridge near Smokey Boulder Road.
  • Snake River from the Washington state line at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers upstream to Oxbow Dam.
  • Clearwater River mainstem and Middle Fork Clearwater River from its mouth to Clear Creek.
  • North Fork Clearwater River from its mouth to Dworshak Dam.
  • South Fork Clearwater River from its mouth to the confluence of American and Red Rivers.
  • Boise River from its mouth to the Barber Dam.

The season runs through April 30 in most areas, except:

  • On the Salmon River from Lake Creek Bridge to Long Tom Creek, about a quarter mile upstream of the Middle Fork, the season ends March 31.
  • On the Little Salmon River, the season runs through May 15.
  • On the Snake River from Hells Canyon Dam to Oxbow Dam, the season runs through May 31.
  • On the Boise River upstream to Barber Dam, the season ends May 31.

 

The steelhead limits for the spring 2014 season on the Snake, Salmon and Little Salmon are three hatchery-marked fish per day and nine in possession. The limits in the Clearwater drainage are one fish per day and two in possession. In addition, in the North Fork Clearwater River and the Clearwater River downstream of the Orofino Bridge only steelhead 28 inches or less in total length may be kept.

The statewide limit for the spring season is 20 steelhead. Once limits are reached, the angler must stop fishing, even catch-and-release.

See more details in the 2013-15 Fishing Regulations pamphlet on the Idaho Fish and Game Website.

Anglers get a steelie start to the new year

FISHING — Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop sends this photo with the post, “Starting off 2014 right… Jennifer Nepean with her first ever steelhead!”

  • Caught on the Grande Ronde near Boggans New Year's Day. “The river is in great shape for winter fishing,” he said.
    • Silver Bow is offering several fly tying classes this month. Check them out.

Hanford Reach steelhead fishing rusty in December

FISHING — The Columbia River steelhead fishing report for December in the Hanford Reach isn't anything to get excited about.  Here's the summary just posted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist Paul Hoffarth in the Tri-Cities:

Cold weather has kept anglers away from the water in December. Only 82 angler trips taken in December so far.  Through December 15, staff interviewed 18 anglers with 1 wild steelhead released.  

Steelheading to close on upper Columbia

FISHING — Steelhead fisheries will close one hour after sunset on Sunday, 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.

The closures will not affect 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, said the closures are necessary to keep impacts on wild steelhead within limits established under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“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.

Read on for specific details about the closure:

2014 spring chinook forecast sees more fish

FISHING — The chart above, just released by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, is an early forecast for spring and summer chinook returning to the Columbia River next year.

The numbers suggest that almost twice as many spring chinook will return to the system to delight anglers in 2014 while the numbers of summer chinook bound for the upper Columbia could be slightly down.

The numbers will be updated several times over the coming months.

Hanford Reach steelhead catch lagging

FISHING — Through November 30, anglers have harvested a total of 243 steelhead in the Hanford Reach (Hwy 395 to old Hanford townsite), according to a report just posted by Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist for the area.

  • Roughly 50 percent of the steelhead encountered to date have been unclipped.
  • Both catch and harvest are well below last year’s fishery and the 10-year average. 
  • Anglers are averaging 20 pole hours for one hatchery steelhead. 
  • Bank anglers are faring a bit better than the boat anglers. 

Spokane-area anglers tops in steelhead derby

FISHING — Two Spokane area finished first and third in the unofficial results from the 2013 Kendall Chevrolet Clearwater Snake Steelhead Derby that started Nov. 23 and ended today, according to  the Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Although results won't be verified until Monday, the 2013 overall winner appears to be Lance Hall of Nine Mile Falls with a steelhead weighing 18.33 pounds. The prize is $2,000.

Jason Peters of Clarkston is in second and Kyle Zipse of Spokane is in third.

Hall also is the skins game winner, set to take home an additional $500 prize.

Continue reading for the complete unofficial results.

 

Steelheaders still required to keep all Tucannon hatchery fish

FISHING — In a correction to the S-R's weekly Hunting-Fishing report, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries managers remind steelheaders that, according to a rule enacted Aug. 30, anglers MUST RETAIN all hatchery-marked steelhead they catch in the Tucannon River up to their daily limit of two.

Following are some specific emergency regulations that anglers need to be aware of when fishing the Tucannon for steelhead:

  1. All steelhead reduced to possession (landed) in the Tucannon River with a missing adipose fin (hatchery origin) MUST BE RETAINED. Catch and release of hatchery steelhead is not allowed
  2. The area from Marengo (at Turner Road) upstream is closed to steelhead fishing
  3. The daily limit is reduced to 2 hatchery steelhead per day.
  4. Barbless hooks required.
  5. Release all wild steelhead.

Reason for action: Steelhead returns to the Tucannon River are not meeting management goals for conservation or for maintaining fisheries and 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 intended to focus the fishery on removal of stray hatchery steelhead that primarily enter the Tucannon River in late summer and fall to prevent them from spawning naturally, as well as 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. 

Steelheaders find action among Hanford Reach salmon

FISHING — Oh, yeah!  Steelhead are returning to the Upper Columbia River through the Hanford Reach, too.  Outnumbered by the record run of  fall chinook, some anglers almost forgot… but not everyone.

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

The majority of the boats and bank anglers fishing in the Hanford Reach were targeting salmon this past week.  WDFW staff interviewed 215 bank anglers fishing for steelhead and salmon and 40 boat anglers fishing for steelhead.  An estimated 111 steelhead were caught and 39 fish harvested by steelhead anglers this past week.  Salmon anglers caught an additional 24 steelhead bringing the total steelhead catch to 135 (harvest = 47). 

On October 17, the steelhead regulations were modified in the lower section of the Hanford Reach (Hwy 395 to the old Hanford town site wooden powerline towers) to allow retention of all hatchery steelhead.

For the season, Oct 1-20, an estimated 334 steelhead have been caught in the lower Hanford Reach and 90 steelhead have been harvested. 

Steelhead rules liberated on Hanford Reach

FISHING — Steelheading rules on a portion of the Columbia River are being liberated Thursday as enough fish move up the river to satisfy hatchery egg-taking needs.  

Here's the announcement just posted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Action:  Open a section of the Columbia River to retention of any hatchery steelhead

Species affected:  Hatchery steelhead

Effective Date:Oct. 17, 2013

Location:  Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco upstream to the old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers

Other information:

•      Daily limit of two (2) hatchery steelhead.  Hatchery 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.

This action removes the requirement for both an adipose fin clip and ventral fin clip for hatchery steelhead retained prior to Nov. 1. The Lower Hanford Reach will remain open for hatchery steelhead fishing after Oct. 31 under the current permanent regulation listed in the 2013-14 fishing rules pamphlet (Page 73) and is scheduled to run through March 31, 2014.

Reason for action: Hatchery-origin steelhead in excess of desired escapement are forecast to return to the upper Columbia River. This 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 recruitment of upper Columbia River steelhead through perpetuation of steelhead stocks with the greatest natural-origin lineage.  Steelhead fisheries for hatchery steelhead (adipose clip only) have recently opened in the upper Columbia and tributaries allowing early retention of adipose clip only steelhead in the lower Hanford Reach.  

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.  

Clearwater River steelhead limits reduced as B-run trickles in

FISHING — As predicted when the forecast for B-Run steelhead was downgraded last week, Idaho Fish and Game has reduced bag and possession limits on steelhead harvested in part of the Clearwater River drainage during the fall and spring seasons.

The change takes effect when the fall steelhead harvest season opens Tuesday (Oct.15) in the Clearwater River drainage.

The limits for the fall season and the spring 2014 season are one fish per day and two in possession. In addition, in the North Fork Clearwater River and the mainstem Clearwater River downstream of the Orofino bridge only steelhead 28 inches or less in total length may be kept.

Read on for more details.

Rivers coming into good shape for steelheading

FISHING — Steelhead fishing reports and creel census tallies from the Snake, Tucannon and Grande Ronde rivers have improved. It's time to go!

The Salmon River in particular has been out of sorts, as Amy Sinclair of Exodus River Adventures in Riggins reported last night:

October 7th and the Salmon River has just spent the last 25+ days looking like the mighty Colorado River (or like the Salmon River in May)…yes, this river never ceases to amaze me! On October 1st the Salmon River set a record high for the day of the year at 15,200 CFS; the old record was 7840 CFS set in 1983. The optimistic side to this is that these record setting flows are washing away a lot of the silt that settled during September’s wet weather and leaving us a clean river system as we enter the prime of the season.

As of this morning we have a river flow of 7450 CFS and a river temperature of 47-49 degrees, a perfect temperature to get steelhead into the Riggins area. With the river continuing to improve each day, good fishing and more importantly great fish stories, are just right around the corner. At Exodus we are officially kicking off the season tomorrow with our first jet boat trip.

Steelhead catches pick up in mid-Snake River

FISHING — Steelhead fishing success dramatically improved last week and through the weekend in the Snake River near Little Goose and Ice Harbor dams, according to creek reports just posted by the Washington Department of Fish and wildlife.

The hottest fishing was between from Lower Monumental Dam to Little Goose Dam, where anglers averaged 7 hours per fish caught. 

Anglers average 12 hours per fish caught from Ice Harbor Dam to Lower Monumental and 15 hours per fishg from Little Goose to Lower Granite Dam. 

Tucannon River anglers averaged 11 hours per steelhead caught.

Creel numbers for the Snake upstream of Lower Granite in Washington indicate slow fishing for steelhead, but Idaho Fish and Game hasn't posted numbers for the mouth of the Clearwater.  Heller bar fishing was fairly good late last week, said Joe DuPont, IFG regional fisheries manager.

No creel reports are out yet for the Grande Ronde, but I was there personally and steelheading was still very, very slow through Sunday.

Grande Ronde steelhead still lagging

FISHING — Despite much anticipation because of a surge of water last week coupled with good numbers of fish moving past Lower Granite Dam, angler reports from the Grande Ronde River over the weekend left much to be desired.

Catch rates were miserably low in the river between Troy and Schumaker, according to anglers I surveyed as well as the fishing info clearinghouse at Boggan's Oasis.

But the luck is going to change soon.  

Maybe this morning.

Fed shutdown delays fish counts at dams

FISHING — Online posting of fish counts over dams on the Columbia and Snake river is being delayed for some dams because of the federal shutdown.

The counts are keenly watched by anglers this time of year as they monitor salmon and steelhead movements during the upstream migrations.

The Fish Passage Center has been posting the counts as soon as it gets them through channels dealing with the shut-down U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Steelhead B-run returns downgraded again

FISHING — Columbia-Snake fisheries managers have just issued a forecast update the downgrades the prediction — again — for B-run steelhead — the large, coveted steelhead stocks that head up the Snake River each year bound primarily for the Clearwater and Salmon Rivers.

Here's the lastest in a blog post from Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:

The group of fisheries biologists from state, tribal and federal agencies met today and calculated only 10,700 B-run steelhead, including 2,500 wild fish, will return to the Columbia River, as measured at Bonneville Dam.

On average, about 71 percent of the B-run fish counted at Bonneville Dam, make it all the way to Lower Granite Dam. Based on that conversion rate, the predicted return above Granite is about 7,600, including 1,775 wild fish.

The preseason forecast called for a return of 31,600 B-run steelhead to Bonneville Dam and 22,400 to Lower Granite.

Last week, Idaho Fish and Game officials said they would consider lowering bag limits on hatchery steelhead when the Clearwater River opens to catch-and-keep fishing Oct. 15.

Steelhead still moving over Lower Granite

FISHING — It's not necessarily a year for celebration, but it isn't one of despair, either.

The steelhead counts over Lower Granite Dam continue to mount and put fish in the sights of anglers in the Snake, Clearwater and Grande Ronde river areas of Washington and Idaho.

Clearwater steelhead forecast reduced — again

FISHING – The forecast for B-run steelhead — the bigger steelhead bound primarily for Idaho's Clearwater River — has been downgraded for the second consecutive week, prompting fisheries officials to consider reducing bag limits for the Clearwater catch-and-keep season, which begins Oct. 15.

Fisheries managers from the federal government and Northwest states and tribes say only 15,000 B-run steelhead, including 3,700 wild fish, will return at least as far as Bonneville Dam.  About 70 percent of the run typically makes it to the Clearwater.

Sign up: youth steelhead fishing clinic in Lewiston

FISHING — It's time to sign-up young anglers ages 8-14 for the limited spaces in the annual Youth Steelhead Clinic set for Oct. 24 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Oct. 26 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Both events will be held at the Idaho Fish and Game regional office in Lewiston. 

To learn more or to register for this free clinic, contact the Lewiston Parks & Recreation office at (208) 746-2313.

Read on for details.

Good news, bad news for Snake fish runs, biologist says

FISHING — Some anglers are catching 10 chinook salmon a day in the Lewiston area this week in the best chinook salmon fishing season fish managers can remember.   Steelheading for keepers is so-so.

The chinook salmon returns to the Snake River this fall are huge, but the steelhead returns — notably for hatchery steelhead — are sub-par.

The exception is a near-record post-dams return of small wild steelhead, according to Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.

Click “continue reading” for a detailed analysis of the two fisheries DuPont has just posted.

Heller Bar boat ramp closed two days for repairs

FISHING — As reported earlier, the Snake River boat ramp at Heller Bar upstream from Asotin is being repaired this week, just as the chinook salmon and steelhead runs are spiking over Lower Granite Dam.  

While restricted access is being allowed most of the week, the boat ramp will be totally closed for use on Tuesday and Wednesday,the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says.

Here are more details in a story by Eric Barker at the Lewiston Tribune:


ROGERSBURG — The busy Heller Bar boat ramp will be closed Tuesday and
Wednesday as work crews from the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife make repairs to the concrete there.

The work will start on Monday and last through next Friday on the
two-lane ramp. One lane will be open on most days, allowing boaters to
use it. However, the ramp will close entirely for the two days in the
middle of the week.

“Broken concrete sections underwater at the bottom of the ramps could
cause severe damage to boat trailers,” said Bob Dice, manager for the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Blue Mountains wildlife
areas. “Fixing this now during very low water allows our work crew
access and gets the problem fixed before water levels and the steelhead
season pick up.”

The Snake River has eroded the lower portion of the ramp and caused the
chunks to break off. Trailers can be damaged if their wheels drop off
the broken portion of the ramp when people back down it to launch or
retrieve their boats. The construction crew will remove broken sections
and replace them with 11 feet of cabled concrete blocks that will extend
across the bottom of the entire ramp.

“The ramp repair is part of a larger effort to improve overall safety
and general conditions at the Heller Bar water access area,” said Steve
Sherlock, statewide access coordinator for the department. “Other future
improvements planned for this site include expansion of boat launching
opportunities, new signs, and an information kiosk.”
Heller Bar, at the northern end of Hells Canyon, is the starting point
for jet boat trips into the canyon and the take-out point for people who
raft the Lower Salmon and Snake rivers.

It can develop into a tent and camper city when steelhead begin to pulse
upriver and collect at the mouth of the Grande Ronde River.

The ramp area is owned by the state of Washington and managed by the
department.

Fishing: Chinook, steelhead surge in Snake River

FISHING — Oh, what a difference a little rain and cooler water temperatures have made to erase the thermal barrier that had been keeping steelhead and chinook salmon from progressing up the Snake River.

Graphs show the surge of each species booming up over Lower Granite Dam in the past few days en route to the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon river fisheries in Idaho.

Fish on!

Snake steelhead still stalled below Lower Granite Dam

FISHING — Meanwhile in the Snake River — anglers are praying for cooler weather and rain to break the apparent thermal block that's keeping steelhead from moving up through the Snake River past Lower Granite Dam.

Steelhead counts poised to boom at Lower Granite Dam

FISHING —  The bulk of this year's lower than average steelhead run has climbed over Bonneville Dam, the first dam they reach on the Columbia River, and all eyes are upstream.

As you can see from the charts, the fish are making their way upstream and good things are about to happen in the Lewiston-Clarkston area.

If Clearwater-Snake water temperatures cool a bit  more, the  number of steelhead climbing over Lower Granite should spike any day. Lower Granite is the last dam on the Snake before the fish reach Idaho waters. 

Are you ready? 

Learn basics of fly fishing and steelheading

FISHING — Silver Bow Fly Shop is offering two classes this month at 13210 E Indiana Ave. in Spokane Valley:

  • Beginner Fly Fishing, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sept. 7. $30.
  • Fly Fishing for Steelhead, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. on Sept. 16. $20.

Preregister: 924-9998.

New steelheading rule for Tucannon River

FISHING — Starting toaday, Sept. 1, a new fishing rule designed to protect critically low levels of wild steelhead and reduce the number of hatchery fish on the spawning grounds will take effect on the Tucannon River.

An emergency rule approved today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will:

  • Close the river to steelhead fishing upstream from Marengo at Turner Road Bridge and define the downstream boundary of the fishery where the Tucannon flows into the Snake River.
  • Reduce the daily catch limit from three to two hatchery steelhead in the area open to fishing.
  • Require anglers to keep any hatchery steelhead they intercept, and stop fishing once they catch their daily limit of two hatchery steelhead or two trout.

Glen Mendel, WDFW southeast district fish biologist, said returns of natural origin steelhead to the Tucannon River are falling short of meeting conservation goals, which could potentially affect the department's ability to open future recreational fisheries. Anglers can help by retaining every hatchery steelhead they catch, he said.

“Stray hatchery steelhead that primarily enter the Tucannon in late summer and fall need to be removed to prevent them from spawning naturally,” Mendel said. “At the same time, we need to provide a refuge area above Marengo for early returning wild steelhead, and close the fishery before March when most of the wild steelhead return to the Tucannon River.”

In addition, barbless hooks are required when fishing for steelhead. Anglers must release any steelhead not marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar at the location of the missing fin.

Anglers cannot remove any steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily catch limit. Chinook and coho salmon, as well as bull trout, are also present in the Tucannon River during the steelhead fishery and must be released immediately if caught, Mendel said. 

The new fishing rule defines the mouth of the Tucannon River as waters “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 the highway rest area turn off), running southeast across to the eastern, un-submerged shoreline of the 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, Mendel said.

Anglers fishing for salmon or steelhead on the Tucannon River and all other tributaries and mainstem of the Snake River are required to have the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement, which helps pay for monitoring the fisheries. Anglers should check the fishing regulation pamphlet for all details.