Washington, Oregon Fish Commissioners To Talk Poor Columbia Steelhead Run

With the lowest count of summer steelhead at Bonneville since the Great Depression, members of the Washington and Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commissions will talk over fisheries for the stock during a virtual meeting this Friday morning.

Four members from the former state and three from the latter will be briefed by WDFW and ODFW staffers on this year’s already-restricted steelhead seasons and “discuss potential next steps for steelhead recovery,” per a press release out this morning.


Here’s a link to the agenda.

The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to noon via Zoom, or you can call in via (253) 215-8782 or (888) 475-4499 and enter webinar ID: 841-4722-0928.

WDFW says no public comment will be taken, nor will any decisions be made.

The meeting follows a technical advisory committee’s sharp runsize downgrade for A-run steelhead earlier this month, from the preseason forecast of 89,200 to just 35,000 through October 31.

Since July 1, when counting of the stock bound for Eastern Washington, Central Idaho and Northeast Oregon rivers began, a total of 26,443 steelhead have passed Bonneville Dam. The 10-year average through August 24 is 119,325.

Wild steelhead advocates have been pushing both commissions to direct the agencies they oversee to address the low run, with one guide saying he won’t be running any more trips on the Deschutes, where steelhead dip in to cool off on their run upstream, and one outdoor writer saying he won’t be fishing there either.

There’s also been concern over nontribal commercial gillnet openers occurring in the upper end of the Lower Columbia this month. State managers report total August landings of 1,012 Chinook, 32 coho and 87 sturgeon.

Measures to protect this year’s steelhead run include rolling sport retention closures up the mainstem Columbia; closure of steelhead fishing in thermal refuges in the lower river and gorge; one-hatchery-fish limits where fisheries are open before and after typical A-run passage peaks; night closures; and, new this week, switching upper Drano Lake to bank fishing/hand-cast-lines only to reduce impacts on the fish.

The poor return also has managers further upstream prepping fishermen for a dismal autumn and winter.

“Anglers up my way in the Snake Basin should expect very little opportunity this year for steelhead,” said WDFW’s Chris Donley in Spokane earlier this week.

Commissioners expected to attend include Washington Chair Larry Carpenter, Vice Chair Barbara Baker and members Don McIsaac and Jim Anderson, and Oregon Chair Mary Wahl and members Greg Wolley and Jill Zarnowitz.