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Washington OKs steelhead harvest; Idaho to decide Friday

Wild steelhead. (RICK HEDDING / Courtesy of Rick Hedding)
Wild steelhead. (RICK HEDDING / Courtesy of Rick Hedding)

FISHING -- Washington fish managers have decided to allow catch-and-keep steelhead fishing starting Sunday for a weak run of Snake River fish. 

Idaho will decide on Friday whether to allow some harvest this season on the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon rivers. Currently anglers are limited to catch and release.

Following is the announcement posted this morning by the Washington Department of Fish and  Wildlife:

Beginning Oct. 15, anglers can keep two hatchery steelhead daily in sections of the Snake River and some streams in southeast Washington, state fish managers said today. 

The fishing rule changes announced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) affect the following areas:

  • Snake River from the Washington-Idaho state line at Clarkston upstream to the Couse Creek boat ramp will open Oct. 15 for daily retention of two hatchery steelhead (marked with a clipped adipose fin) of less than 28 inches in length.
  • Snake River from Couse Creek to the Idaho-Oregon state line will open Oct. 15 for daily retention of two hatchery steelhead of any size.
  • On the Grand Ronde and Tucannon rivers (Snake River tributaries) and on the Walla Walla and Touchet rivers (Columbia River tributaries), the daily catch limit will increase on Oct. 15 from one hatchery steelhead to two.

Anglers should be aware that the section of the Snake River from the mouth near the Tri-Cities to the Washington-Idaho state line at Clarkston will not open for steelhead retention. Steelhead fishing in this section will remain open only for catch-and-release fishing, said Chris Donley, WDFW eastern region fish program manager. 

Anglers fishing for steelhead in the Snake and Columbia rivers have been allowed to retain only one steelhead or limited to catch-and-release fishing due to low returns of adult steelhead. These restrictions were designed to protect both A-run steelhead (fish smaller than 28 inches) and B-run steelhead (those 28 inches and larger) destined for the Columbia and Snake River basins.

However, A-run steelhead, both wild and hatchery-origin adults, have returned in adequate numbers to allow opening portions of the Snake River to harvest and increasing catch limits on some tributaries, Donley said.

As forecasted, the B-run steelhead are returning at exceptionally low rates, which is why other sections of the Columbia and Snake rivers will remain closed to harvest of steelhead in the coming months, Donley said. WDFW is requiring anglers to release steelhead that are 28-inches or larger in some areas to protect B-run fish. 

“These measures will help ensure that sufficient numbers of wild and hatchery fish return to their natal streams,” Donley said. “But we’ll continue to monitor the steelhead run over the coming months, and either curtail the harvest of steelhead if needed, or provide more harvest opportunity if possible.”

Additional details of these fisheries are available on WDFW’s website at

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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