Steelhead runs to the Inland Northwest are in the tank this year, so along with reducing bag limits and fishing hours, state fishery managers are now urging anglers to use “best handling practices.”
In a press release asking fishermen to give the fish “a helping hand,” ODFW’s pointing to page 13 of its regs for tips on fishing, fighting and releasing summer-runs — as well as suggesting maybe just go out for something else instead.
Walleye continue to fish well in the John Day Pool, according to the agency’s latest stats.
It’s all another reminder of the wreckage of The Blob, which overheated the Columbia and the Northwest in 2015, and poor ocean conditions last year.
This year’s forecast for A- and B-run steelhead is just 119,000, or about 50 and 37 percent of the five- and 10-year averages.
But daily counts at Bonneville have been even more abysmal, just 10 to 17 percent of the decadelong average for July 1-13 so far.
Worst of all is the extremely low prediction for ESA-listed wild Bs bound for Idaho, just 1,100.
That’s left only 22 allowable B-run mortalities available, which is what’s led to the fishery restrictions, including August’s pending retention closure on all steelhead below The Dalles on the Columbia and in sections of cool-water tribs.
“Positive voluntary efforts may reduce the necessity for future mandatory regulations,” said Tucker Jones, ODFW’s Columbia River manager in a press release. “If a person happens to intercept a wild steelhead, or any steelhead during a retention closure period for that matter, it is imperative that they do their utmost to ensure its survival by using best handling practices.”
ODFW’s best handling practices include:
- Use barbless hooks (even where not required)
- Use tackle strong enough to bring your fish in quickly
- Land fish as quickly and carefully as possible
- Avoid removing the fish from the water
- If taking a photo, cradle the fish at water level and quickly take the picture
- Remove hooks quickly and gently while keeping the fish under water
- Use long-nosed pliers or hemostats to back out a hook
- If a fish is hooked deeply, cut the line near the hook
- Revive fish (point them into slow current or move them back and forth until gills are working)
- When possible, let the fish swim out of your hands
- Fish when it’s cool out – likely early in the morning or late in the afternoon – fishing is better and stress on fish is less.
The last time many of these were seen, per se, was about this time in 2015, when water temperatures in drought-stricken streams were spiking, leading ODFW as well as WDFW to restrict fishing.
This go around, Oregon’s providing the above advice, as well as an alternative:
“With returns of steelhead so low, another strategy is to not target them and focus on other species, including warmwater species such as bass, walleye, and pikeminnow. These species are not only fun to catch but they also prey on juvenile steelhead and salmon,” ODFW’s press release states.