Tag Archives: snake river

High Waters Make For Slow Start To Pikeminnow Reward Fishery

The big spring runoff that’s flooding valleys and alfalfa fields in the upper Inland Northwest has also affected the start of the pikeminnow sport reward fishery downstream on the Lower and Mid-Columbia and Snake Rivers, but catches are expected to improve in the coming weeks.

THE PIKEMINNOW SPORT REWARD FISHERY PAYS ANGLERS TO REMOVE THE NATIVE SPECIES THAT PREYS ON SALMON AND STEELHEAD SMOLTS THAT HAVE BECOME EASIER FOR THE PISCOVORES TO CHASE DOWN IN THE COLUMBIA AND SNAKE HYDROPOWER SYSTEM’S RESERVOIRS. (WDFW)

Through June 3, anglers have caught 34,725, less than half of 2016’s start and the fewest of the past five springs to this point of the season.

“High water really hurts our catch rates, although eventually our experienced pikeminnow anglers kind of figure it out and then catch rates pick up,” notes WDFW’s Eric Winther.

He heads up the program that pays participating fishermen on the Columbia between Cathlamet and Tri-Cities, as well as the Snake below Clarkston for removing the native species that preys on salmon and steelhead smolts migrating through the hydropower system.

“The high water really messes with newer anglers trying to learn how to target pikeminnow,” he notes. “It’s hard enough to learn when conditions are good, but when you have nearly twice the flows, it can be downright discouraging.”

Flows at Bonneville Dam have ranged from 350,000 to nearly 500,000 cubic feet per second since the fishery began May 1. Average over the past 10 years is 250,000 to 325,000 cfs.

At this same point in 2017, anglers had caught 47,250 pikeminnow; in 2016, 70,691; in 2015, 63,787; and 2014, 38,745.

Still, the tally is higher than 2013 (29,970) and 2012 (26,882).

Most notably down is catch turned in at The Dalles, which last year yielded 44,667 overall but so far has only given up 9,337 through its traditionally most productive weeks of season.

“The Dalles catch is definitely off from last year,” confirms Winther. “What happened was that lots of anglers went there at the start of the season, conditions were tough, so they spread out and started looking in other areas.”

Catches at Cathlamet, Willow Grove, Rainier Kalama and Ridgefield were all up this May compared to last spring.

“Just when some people are giving up on The Dalles, the water finally starts dropping and catch rates have jumped up. Should she increasing catches for the next three to four weeks as we move into their peak spawn time and river conditions improve,” he says.

The sport reward program pays anglers from $5 to $8 per pikeminnow, with tagged ones worth $500.

So far this season, the top angler has earned $9,617 from 1,057 fish turned in.

The season runs through Sept. 30.

For more details, including fishing maps and info on three free fishing clinics coming up — including one tomorrow in Longview — check out pikeminnow.org.

Idaho Angler Sets New High Mark For C&R Rainbows With 30-plus-incher

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Would you release a 30.5-inch rainbow trout if you caught it? David Raisch of Pocatello did, and he’s now a state-record holder.

FLY FISHING GUIDE DAVID RAISCH AND HIS 30.5-INCH SNAKE RIVER RAINBOW TROUT. (DAVID RAISCH VIA IDFG)

Raisch caught his record fish in late March and recently submitted it into Idaho Fish and Game’s catch and release records, which allows anglers to claim a state record while letting the fish live. The program started in 2016, and it complements the traditional “certified weight” records that require anglers to weigh the fish on a certified scale, which means the fish is typically killed.

Raisch was fly fishing in the Snake River when he landed the record rainbow, which coincidentally is where the previous record of 29.3 inches was caught.

If you catch a big fish and want to enter it in the catch and release records, here are the general guidelines:

  • Fish must be released alive.
  • All fish must be measured and photographed in the water.
  • Catch-and-Release Records are based only on the total length from snout to tip of tail. Measure the total length from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail, with lobes of tail squeezed together.
  • Fish must be photographed directly next to a ruler/tape or an object of known verifiable length (such as the fishing rules booklet).
  • At least one photo of the angler with the fish.
  • At least one witness to the measurement and release.
  • White Sturgeon records must be broken by a minimum of 2 inches.
  • Records for all other species must be broken by a minimum of ½ inch.
  • All applications must be submitted within 30 days of the catch date.

Here are more details on all of Idaho’s record fish and how to submit fish into the record books.

U.S. House Vote Against Spill ‘A Hard Pill For Businesses To Swallow’: NSIA

“Unfathomable.” That’s what the head of a regional pro-fishing group is calling yesterday’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives that in part blocks spill through the Columbia Basin to help young salmon.

All of Oregon’s and Washington’s Congressmen representing the immense watershed voted for HR 3144, which passed 225-189 and would put off a federal judge’s spill order till 2022.

It also leaves it up to lawmakers whether to remove the lower four Snake River dams.

WATER SURGES THROUGH BONNEVILLE DAM IN THIS JUNE 2014 CORPS OF ENGINEERS PHOTO. (ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS)

But Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association in Portland says blocking spill will “accelerate salmon’s demise, affecting every single species that has to travel down this industrial river.”

Just three weeks ago she’d heralded U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon’s ruling that because the Columbia’s numerous Endangered Species Act-listed stocks “remain in a ‘precarious’ state,” and that with decades worth of studies showing “spill volumes higher than those proposed in the 2014 BiOp will lead to higher survival rates” for young Chinook, coho, steelhead, this year’s program would go ahead starting April 2.

The bill must still pass the Senate and be signed by President Trump, but Hamilton said the House’s action was a direct shot at those benefits.

She called it a “hard pill for businesses to swallow, on the heels of the 2015 drought, the 2016 blob, a bad ocean, and the occasional flood.”

“Climate change, with the frequent, intense environmental changes it brings is hammering the fish and our industry. It is unfathomable that Congress would choose to do less at the exact moment in history when hydropower is needed less than ever. Particularly during the spring when there are over 200 major dams cranking out energy. There’s just no excuse,” Hamilton says.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Spokane Republican who consponsored the legislation, billed it as a way to “protect” the Columbia hydropower system’s dams.

She said the facilities and fish could coexist.

“When the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, our dams provide critical baseload energy to power homes and businesses all across Eastern Washington and the Pacific Northwest,” McMorris Rodgers said in a press release. “Not only that, they provide transportation and irrigation benefits for our farmers, flood control for our communities, and recreational opportunities that fuel our economy. This isn’t about the merits of protecting salmon, we all agree on that. This is about providing certainty and letting experts and scientists in the region, who know the river best, work collaboratively to meet that goal. I’m proud to usher this legislation through the House.”

Joining her in voting for the bill were fellow Washington Reps. Dan Newhouse, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dave Reichert, all Republicans, Oregon’s Kurt Schrader (D) and Greg Walden (R), and Idaho’s Mike Simpson (R). The Gem State’s Raul Labrador (R) did not cast a vote as he was reportedly campaigning for governor.

Hamilton says she watched a hearing on the bill and came away “appalled” at what she’d heard bandied about from the other side of the issue.

She adds that walking away from even looking at removing Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite Dams “could mean extinction for many Snake River stocks in the future.”

According to the Idaho Statesman, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate due to opposition from Washington Senator Patty Murray (D).

“There is an ongoing legal process intended to account for all uses of our critical river system and a court-mandated comprehensive review that everyone can participate in, so I oppose this legislation that would cut off and politicize what should be a robust and transparent process,” Murray said in a statement.

 

Editor’s note: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s first name was misspelled in the initial version of this story. Our apologies.

Portions Of Snake River Opening For Spring Chinook

THE FOLLOWING IS A WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICE

Action: Spring chinook salmon fishing opens two days per week on sections of the Snake River.

Species affected: Spring chinook

LITTLE GOOSE DAM IN THE BACKGROUND, JEFF MAIN OF SPOKANE HOLDS A 25-POUND SPRING CHINOOK CAUGHT OUT OF THE SNAKE RIVER A FEW SEASONS BACK. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Locations and dates:

A) Below Ice Harbor Dam: Snake River from the South Bound Highway 12 Bridge near Pasco upstream about 7 miles to the fishing restriction boundary below Ice Harbor Dam. Opens Friday, April 20, and will be open only Fridays and Saturdays until further notice.

B) Below Little Goose Dam: Snake River from Texas Rapids boat launch (south side of the river upstream of the mouth of Tucannon River) to the fishing restriction boundary below Little Goose Dam.  This zone includes the rock and concrete area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility (includes the walkway area locally known as “the Wall” in front of the juvenile collection facility). Opens Sunday, April 22, and will be open only Sundays and Mondays until further notice. 

C) Clarkston: Snake River from the downstream edge of the large power lines crossing the Snake River (just upstream from West Evans Road on the south shore) upstream about 3.5 miles to the Washington state line (from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch in Clarkston northwest across the Snake River to the Washington-Idaho boundary waters marker on the Whitman County shore). Opens Sunday, April 22, and will be open only Sundays and Mondays until further notice.  

Daily Limits: Six hatchery chinook (marked by a clipped adipose fin), of which no more than one may be an adult.  Anglers must cease fishing for salmon when the hatchery adult limit has been retained for the day.

Reason for action: A relatively good forecast of spring chinook combined with limited weekly openings in each zone should allow for a prolonged season, which was requested by anglers. The restrictions on the fishery should also help ensure sharing of fishing opportunities with upriver fishery zones and compliance with Endangered Species Act (ESA) restrictions and harvest allocations available for the Snake River.

Other Information:  Anglers may retain chinook that are 12 inches or larger. Adult chinook are 24 inches or larger. Anglers can retain only hatchery chinook, marked with a clipped adipose fin (chinook must have a healed scar at the location of the missing fin).  Any chinook salmon with an intact adipose fin, as well as all bull trout and steelhead must be immediately released unharmed.

In addition:  Anglers fishing for chinook salmon must use barbless hooks. A night closure is in effect or salmon fishing. Anglers cannot remove any chinook salmon or steelhead from the water unless it is to be retained as part of the daily bag limit.

Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2017-2018 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations. 

Idaho Salmon Managers Set Spring Chinook Seasons

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Fish and Game Commission on Thursday, March 22 approved spring Chinook fishing on the Clearwater, Snake, Salmon and Little Salmon rivers to start April 28 and run until closed by the Fish and Game director.

SALMON MANAGERS EXPECT TWICE AS MANY SPRING CHINOOK BACK TO IDAHO RIVERS, LIKE THE CLEARWATER WHERE GARRETT GRUBBS CAUGHT THIS ONE SEVERAL SEASONS AGO, THAN LAST YEAR, THOUGH ONLY JUST SLIGHTLY MORE THAN THE AVERAGE OVER THE PAST DECADE. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Fisheries managers are forecasting a run of 66,000 spring Chinook, roughly double last year’s return and slightly above the 10-year average of 62,000.

Included in the forecast are 53,000 hatchery Chinook and 13,000 wild Chinook. The 2017 return was 30,000 and 4,000.

The actual run has just started with only six spring Chinook crossing Bonneville Dam as of March 22.

Rules will include open fishing four days per week, Thursdays through Sundays, in the Clearwater drainage and seven days per week in the Salmon, Little Salmon and Snake rivers.

Daily bag limits will be four per day with no more than one being an adult (24-inches or longer) in the Clearwater River system and four per day with no more than two being adults in the Salmon, Little Salmon and Snake rivers.

Sections of the Clearwater River open for fishing will include:

  • Mainstem Clearwater from Camas Prairie Bridge upstream to the mouth of the South Fork of the Clearwater River.
  • North Fork Clearwater from mouth upstream to Dworshak Dam.
  • South Fork Clearwater from mouth upstream to the confluence of American and Red rivers
  • Middle Fork Clearwater from South Fork Clearwater upstream to the confluence of the Lochsa and Selway rivers.
  • Salmon River will be open from Rice Creek Bridge upstream to the uppermost boat ramp at Vinegar Creek.
  • Little Salmon River will be open from the mouth upstream to the U.S. Highway 95 bridge near Smokey Boulder Road.
  • Snake River will be open from Dug Bar boat ramp to Hells Canyon Dam.

Full rules will be posted on Fish and Game’s website in late March or early April.  Printed rules will be available prior to the season opener.

WDFW Bumping Steelie Limits On SE WA Rivers Back To 3, Extending Tucannon Season

THE FOLLOWING ARE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

WDFW announces steelhead fishery changes on some Snake River tributaries

Action: WDFW is rescinding emergency rule changes on the Grande Ronde, Walla Walla, and Touchet rivers that limited steelhead retention to two hatchery fish. Beginning Feb. 1, the daily limit for hatchery steelhead in those rivers will increase to three fish, as listed in the 2017/2018 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

WASHINGTON ANGLERS WILL BE ABLE TO RETAIN THREE HATCHERY STEELHEAD A DAY STARTING FEB. 1  ON THE WALLA WALLA, TOUCHET, GRANDE RONDE AND TUCANNON RIVERS. (BRIAN LULL)

Locations:

Walla Walla River from the mouth to the Oregon state line.

Touchet River from the mouth to the confluence of the North and South Fork Touchet Rivers and all tributaries.

Grande Ronde River from the County Road Bridge (approximately 2.5 miles upstream from the mouth) to the Oregon state line and all tributaries.

Dates: Feb. 1, 2018

Species affected:  Steelhead

Reason for action:  Lagging steelhead returns during the summer of 2017 led fishery managers to close, or reduce bag limits, for steelhead fisheries in most of the Columbia River and its tributaries. Increases in the abundance of migrating steelhead over Bonneville Dam and the Snake River Dams allowed fishery managers to provide for some increases in harvest opportunities during the Fall 2017 and Winter 2018 in the Snake River and select tributaries to the Snake River. Fishery managers now feel it is appropriate to further increase limits within tributaries to remove excess hatchery steelhead.

Other Information:  Anglers should refer to the 2017/2018 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for regulations.

Emergency rules remain in effect on the Snake River. More information is available at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=2073.

WDFW did not put emergency rules in place on the lower 2.5 miles of the Grande Ronde River, so anglers should continue to refer to the 2017/2018 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for regulations.

 

WDFW makes changes to Tucannon River steelhead and other gamefish fisheries

Actions and locations:

Tucannon River, downstream of the Tucannon Hatchery Bridge

Extend the fishery for gamefish, including steelhead, through April 15. The fishery previously was scheduled to close Feb. 28.
Increase the daily limit on hatchery steelhead to three (from two) fish.

Mandatory hatchery steelhead retention is required.
Barbless hooks are required while fishing for steelhead and gamefish.

Release all other species.

Tucannon River, from the Tucannon Hatchery Bridge upstream Is closed to fishing.

Dates: Feb. 1 through April 15, 2018.

Species affected: Hatchery steelhead (with clipped adipose fin) and all other gamefish.

Reason for action: Lagging steelhead returns during the summer of 2017 led fishery managers to close or reduce bag limits for steelhead fisheries in most of the Columbia River and its tributaries. Increases in the abundance of migrating steelhead over Bonneville Dam and the Snake River Dams allowed for some increases in harvest opportunities during the Fall 2017 and Winter 2018 in the Snake River and select tributaries to the Snake River. Fishery managers now feel it is appropriate to increase limits within tributaries to remove excess hatchery steelhead.

Other Information: Anglers must stop fishing for steelhead for the day once they have retained three hatchery steelhead. Hatchery fish, marked with a clipped adipose fin, must have a healed scar at the location of the missing fin.

All wild steelhead, those with unclipped adipose fins, must be immediately released unharmed.

In addition, anglers cannot remove any steelhead from the water unless they plan to retain the fish as part of the daily bag limit.

Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2017/2018 Fishing in Washington sport fishing rules pamphlet for other regulations, including possession limits, safety closures, etc.

Hatchery Steelhead Retention Opening For A-runs In Lower Snake

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Hatchery steelhead retention to open in lower Snake River

Action: Opens lower Snake River to retention of hatchery steelhead measuring under 28 inches in length.

SNAKE RIVER ANGLERS BELOW CLARKSTON WILL BE ABLE TO RETAIN HATCHERY STEELHEAD AS OF SATURDAY, NOV. 18, BUT ONLY THOSE LESS THAN 28 INCHES. SOPHIA WITHROW CAUGHT THIS ONE IN 2012 OFF WAWAWAI. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Location:

  • Snake River from the mouth of the river (Burbank to Pasco railroad bridge at Snake River mile 1.25) to the Washington/Idaho state line, at Clarkston Wash.: Daily limit of 2 hatchery steelhead; release all steelhead 28 inches or greater in length.

Areas already open to steelhead retention:

  • Snake River from the Idaho/Washington state line (at Clarkston, Wash.) upstream to the Couse Creek Boat Ramp: Daily limit of 2 hatchery steelhead; release all steelhead 28 inches or greater in length.
  • Snake River from Couse Creek Boat Ramp upstream to the Idaho/Oregon state line: Daily limit of 2 hatchery steelhead; no size restrictions.

Dates:   Nov. 18, 2017, until further notice.

Species affected:  Steelhead.

Reason for action: Lagging steelhead returns during the summer of 2017 led fisheries managers to initially close or reduce daily limits for steelhead fisheries 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 steelhead retention, including the lower portion of the river.

Allowing retention of fish measuring less than 28 inches in length will give anglers the opportunity to harvest excess hatchery A-run steelhead, while still providing protection to the remaining B-run steelhead within this reach. WDFW will 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. Anglers fishing in this area should continue to check emergency rules for any updates.

Other Information: Anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for chinook or steelhead in the Snake River.  Anglers cannot remove any chinook or steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of their daily bag limit. Anglers should be sure to identify their catch because unmarked chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead are also in the Snake River during this fishery.

Anglers are reminded to check the 2017/2018 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including possession limits, safety closures, and a definition of a hatchery steelhead.  Anglers should continue to check emergency regulations for new and changing seasons.

 

Washington Easing Hatchery Steelhead Limit Restrictions On Southeast Waters

Washington fishery managers are partially scaling back steelhead bag limit restrictions on waters in the southeast corner of the state.

As of Sunday, Oct. 15, daily limits will increase from one to two hatchery fish on the Walla Walla, Touchet, Tucannon and Grande Ronde Rivers.

GRANDE RONDE AND SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON ANGLERS WILL SOON BE ABLE TO RETAIN TWO HATCHERY STEELHEAD A DAY AS DAM COUNTS INDICATE MORE ARE RETURNING THAN FEARED JUST TWO MONTHS AGO. (GREG OLENIK)

However, the Snake will remain catch-and-release only from the mouth up to Clarkston. But between there and the Couse Creek boat ramp, near the mouth of of Hells Canyon, the river will also offer a two-hatchery-steelhead limit, though any longer than 28 inches must be released.

That’s to protect expected low returns of B-runs headed back to Idaho rivers.

Above Couse Creek, any hatchery steelhead can be retained, daily limit two.

Idaho managers are also mulling easing restrictions.

Going into this year’s season, Washignton’s fishing regs pamphlet listed a three-hatchery-steelhead limit on most of the rivers, except the Snake where fall season was yet to be determined.

Though this year’s A-run of steelhead is still well below average, it’s not looking as critically poor as it was in midsummer, when dam counts suggested we might only see 54,000 back.

That led Washington, Oregon and Idaho managers to chop bag limits or switch to catch-and-release-only fishing in the Snake and its tributaries.

But since then more have been counted at Bonneville Dam, and the preseason forecast of 112,100 has just about been met and will probably be exceeded.

“These measures will help ensure that sufficient numbers of wild and hatchery fish return to their natal streams,” said Chris Donley, WDFW regional fisheries manager. “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.”

Along with bag limit tweaks, the mandatory steelhead retention rule will be waived on Washington waters, but anglers will need to quit for the day after keeping two.

Idaho Mulls Clearwater, Snake Keeper Steelhead Season

Inland Northwest steelheaders may get a keeper season after all.

With enough A-run hatchery fish now expected back to Idaho to meet broodstock goals, managers there are asking for feedback on a proposal to open a season though with a reduced bag limit and maximum size restriction on prime waters.

IDFG says that there will be a surplus of 22,000 of the smaller summer-runs and is taking comment on a plan to open the Clearwater system and lower Snake for the harvest of up to just two a day, neither of which could be longer than 28 inches.

A PROPOSAL FROM IDAHO BIOLOGISTS WOULD OPEN RETENTION ON A-RUN STEELHEAD, BUT REDUCED THE USUAL LIMIT FROM THREE TO TWO. (BRIAN LULL)

That’s an attempt to prevent overharvesting as well as get as many of the bigger B-runs — both hatchery and wild — back as possible.

Idaho’s upper Snake and rivers further up Hells Canyon may be opened too with the same bag, but the size restriction would be shed from the Couse Creek ramp on the Washington side, upstream.

In a normal year, the daily limit is three hatchery steelhead and no size restriction.

Washington steelhead managers are also watching developments.

“We’re waiting to follow Idaho’s lead,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Madonna Luers, who added it may be a couple weeks before a decision is made, per a report by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

This year’s worst-in-40-years Inland Northwest steelhead forecast of 112,000 initially sparked fishery restrictions all the way down to the mouth of the Columbia, inside cool-water refuges in the lower river and gorge, as well as the Snake and its tributaries.

With July dam counts just fractions of average and a dire mid-August inseason update of just roughly 60,000, those looked more than warranted. IDFG closed retention before any fish got anywhere near the Gem State.

State biologists now say that 113,000 steelhead are expected to return past Bonneville Dam this year — still very low, relatively speaking, but they took the fishery proposal to the Fish and Game Commission yesterday.

The panel wanted to consider public comment. To see their pitch, and to comment, go here.

Public input is being taken through Oct. 10.

Meanwhile, the commission went ahead and approved a coho season on the Clearwater and its North and South Forks, daily limit two and a season limit of 10. IDFG says there are enough of the Nez Perce-reintroduced salmon to meet hatchery needs and provide a “modest” fishery.

ODFW Also Reducing NE OR Steelhead Limits, Optimistically Calls It ‘Temporary’

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Bag limits for hatchery summer steelhead will be reduced to one fish per day for the Grande Ronde and Imnaha Rivers when the season opens on Friday, Sept. 1. In addition, there will be no harvest allowed in the mainstem Snake River but catch-and-release will be allowed.

AS INLAND NORTHWEST STEELHEAD MANAGERS ELSEWHERE ARE DOING, ODFW IS LOWERING LIMITS ON THE IMNAHA RIVER AS WELL AS GRANDE RONDE, AND INSTITUTING CATCH-AND-RELEASE-ONLY REGS ON THE SNAKE AS PART OF A “TEMPORARY” MEASURE DUE TO LOW RETURNS. (ROGER PETERSON, USFS)

Fishery managers decided to reduce the bag limit to correspond with the historically low Columbia River steelhead counts observed in 2017. As of Aug. 28, only 70,000 hatchery and 25,000 wild steelhead had passed Bonneville Dam, which is only 30 percent of the most recent 10-year average. The catch-and-release regulations in the Snake River mirror those implemented by the state of Idaho on Aug. 17, which restricted steelhead fishing to catch-and-release statewide.

Oregon officials expect the reduced bag limits to be temporary, but support a conservative start to the season when facing a hatchery and wild steelhead run this low. “Despite the poor outlook, our current estimates suggest enough fish will return to sustain hatchery programs and provide fish for recreational harvest,” said Jeff Yanke, ODFW District Fish Biologist in Enterprise. “A one-fish limit allows for a small level of harvest, but also prevents a situation where anglers are forced to put back an injured hatchery fish.”

Managers will hold off on further changes until more of the steelhead run arrives closer to home. So far, only 5 percent of Grande Ronde and Imnaha steelhead have moved upstream of the Columbia River. Yanke expects to have a much clearer picture by late October.

“This is the lowest run we’ve seen in decades, but I’d encourage anglers not to panic and give up on fishing this year. Coupled with the right river conditions, even in a low run year, we can still have a worthwhile steelhead fishery,” Yanke added. “Folks will just need to have a little more patience, and that is one quality steelhead anglers always bring to the river.”