While the details are still being worked on in Olympia, indications from the rest of the state suggest that as the drought and heat continue unabated, fishery restrictions for some Washington streams will be announced very soon.
Northwest Sportsman has gathered from various sources that it’s likely waters with conservation concerns for salmon, steelhead and trout will primarily be affected.
They may see reduced fishing hours — known as “hoot owl” restrictions in Montana — bait bans and/or outright closures to limit handling during these unprecedented conditions.
Even as stream gauges across the state showed that water temperatures dipped coming out of last week, they remain well into dangerous country for fish.
Sixty-eight-degree water can be lethal to salmonids, and this afternoon the USGS in Washington tweeted out that the Stillaguamish at its mouth and the Cedar River south of North Bend are 68.7, the Snake at the mouth of Hells Canyon is 71.1 and the Okanogan at Oroville is the hottest at way up at 77.2.
That doesn’t mean that entire rivers are that warm — pools can stay cooler — but it’s one benchmark of what sort of hot water our fish are dealing with this summer.
Meanwhile, flows continue to set record daily lows or run well below average, and hot weather is again back in the forecast.
WDFW has already acted to close fishing around the Sol Duc hatchery to protect wild Chinook and cancel the Grande Ronde springer fishery, both due to low flows.
And water temps appears to have led to the scrubbing of this Saturday’s Lake Wenatchee sockeye opener.
Scott Sandsberry at the Yakima Herald-Republic today reports that despite a huge forecast, not enough of the red salmon have made it out of the Wenatchee River to reach the escapement goal because flows into the mid-70s halted their upstream migration.
In two other stories out over the past day, Sandsberry spoke to regional fishery managers about potential restrictions to South-Central Washington streams.
Some are likely on their way for Westside rivers too, we’ve learned.
But it’s not just the state’s salmonids that may be affected.
Sturgeon are also a concern.
Early tomorrow afternoon, ODFW and WDFW will discuss the catch-and-release fishery on the Columbia above Bonneville. Nearly six dozen dead oversize fish have been counted in the John Day Pool alone, with others collected in the estuary, and at least 16 were reported dead in the Hanford Reach, according to the Tri-City Herald. Some sturgeon have been stuffed with sockeye, but otherwise apparently appeared OK, according to a report by Rich Landers. A sturgeon die-off on the Fraser under similar conditions still boggles scientists, it is being reported.
As it stands, Northwest Sportsman gathers that right now, managers at WDFW HQ are trying to figure out how to balance the needs of fish with stellar upcoming angling opportunities, as well as how wide the scope of the regs tweaks need to be, and more factors.
Early Monday we had heard a decision had been expected yesterday, but now it sounds like it will come Thursday.
Meanwhile, some anglers are hanging up their rods, sticking to cooler saltwaters to get their fishing fix, or closely monitoring water temps if they do hit the rivers.
“At no time do we throw a fly in the water once temperature hits 70 degrees,” guide Steve Joyce at Red’s Fly Shop at the north end of the Yakima River Canyon told Scott Sandsberry. “We are in this for the long term, and the success of our business is tied to the quality of the resources. So we certainly don’t want to jeopardize the future of the resource for a few weeks or a month of picking on stressed-out fish.”
But things may get interesting with 6-plus million pink salmon returning to those low, warm Pugetropolis rivers.
Earlier this week the Wild Fish Conservancy and others called on WDFW to close streams where temps were exceeding 64.4 degrees, but with all those humpies and low, warm flows, ESA-listed Chinook in Pugetropolis streams may be pushed into even worse spawning areas than they usually are in pink years.
Whether this is in response to the large run and/or an attempt to get fishermen to harvest as many pinks as possible and avoid that scenario, WDFW has come out with a pretty handy new webpage with all the hows and wheres for targeting them, including an interactive map.
Pretty good stuff there.
Meanwhile, stay tuned tomorrow and to the agency’s rule-change page for what’s about to go down.