Snake River steelheaders will see reduced bag limits again this fall following a significant downgrading of the run earlier this week.
Oregon fishery managers this morning announced that anglers will only be able to retain a single hatchery fish when seasons open tomorrow, Sept. 1, on that state’s portions of the Snake and Grande Ronde Rivers, as well as its Imnaha River.
WDFW followed in the afternoon with one-fish bags taking effect Sept. 4 on the Washington Grande Ronde, Walla Walla, Touchet, Tucannon and Snake, and closing steelhead retention and night fishing the lower White Salmon River.
“Making this change now will help us meet our conservation objectives for wild steelhead and still allow anglers some fishing opportunity,” Eastern Washington Fish Program Manager Chris Donley said in a press release. “However, we will continue to monitor the run of steelhead to the Snake River and adjust as necessary.”
Idaho announced similar restrictions on the Clearwater, Snake, Salmon and Little Salmon earlier in the week.
It’s the second year in a row that Northwest officials have had to reduce the limit in response to low returns and concerns about wild steelhead.
An ODFW press release said that downstream dam counts were at “historically low” levels, just 25 percent of the 10-year average.
Earlier this week the A- and B-run forecast was reduced from 116,000 to 96,500, just about half of the preseason prediction of 190,350.
The agency said lowering the limit is meant to “reduce fishing pressure on sensitive wild stocks of steelhead, in addition to ensuring enough hatchery fish return to facilities in the Snake River basin to meet production objectives.”
“We found that this approach was successful last year to increase survival and returns to wild spawning tributaries and hatchery facilities,” said Jeff Yanke, ODFW’s district fish biologist in Enterprise, in a press release.
ODFW and WDFW have already closed steelhead retention on the mainstem Columbia from Buoy 10 to Tri-Cities, as well as the lower Deschutes and John Day Rivers, and closed fishing at night on Washington’s Drano Lake and the Wind River.
However, hopefully this year’s run mimics 2017’s.
By midfall, numbers had picked up at Bonneville Dam and managers were able to ease the restrictions.
Indeed, ODFW’s press release on today’s announcement uses the word “temporary,” but also that the change will stay in place for the time being as they monitor the run’s progress to Oregon waters.