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Saturday, September 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Outdoors blog

Washington posts emergency steelhead fishing restrictions for Snake River system

Steelhead in the Grande Ronde, Snake and Clearwater rivers are prized by fly fishers. (Michael Visintainer / Silver Bow Fly Shop)
Steelhead in the Grande Ronde, Snake and Clearwater rivers are prized by fly fishers. (Michael Visintainer / Silver Bow Fly Shop)

FISHING -- Extremely low returns of steelhead this season have prompted Washington to restrict steelhead fishing to catch-and-release  on the main Snake River this season.

 In some Snake tributaries, such as the Grande Ronde, the emergency rules will allow a daily limit of one adipose fin-clipped hatchery steelhead.

The rules are posted on the agency's fishing regulations webpage. They go into effect on Friday, Sept. 1, and will continue until further notice.

Idaho already has enacted emergency catch-and-release rules for steelheading in state waters as the ocean-going rainbows are setting records or near records for low returns up the Columbia and Snake rivers. Recent drought years and poor ocean conditions are major factors.

On the Grande Ronde and Touchet rivers, Washington's new rules will:

  • Reduce the daily limit on steelhead to one hatchery fish.
  • Close fishing to steelhead in all tributaries.
  • Remove mandatory hatchery steelhead retention rule.

Tucannon and Walla Walla river emergency rules are similar except they don't have specific closures to steelheading in all tributaries.

Washington anglers must remember that even in a normal season they must use barbless hooks when fishing for steelhead and must stop fishing for steelhead once the daily limit has been retained. Anglers in Washington waters cannot remove any steelhead from the water if it is not retained as part of the daily bag limit.

Fish managers point out that steelhead are likely to rebound in a year or two to better river flows.

Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston, said he is confident the catch and release regulations are sufficient to get adequate returns of hatchery fish and protect wild fish that are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

“I can tell you we have had many catch-and-release fisheries across the state of Idaho where fish rebounded and flourished,” he said. “Catch and release fishing has proven to be a successful technique to help rebound fisheries that have declined for various reasons.”




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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