Anglers Will be Taking Home Few
by Annette Cary
Bag limits have been reduced to one fish per day for hatchery
summer steelhead on the Grande Ronde and Imnaha rivers.
Anglers must release steelhead caught on the Snake River because of low numbers of the fish this year.
The restriction is in place from the mouth of the Snake River near Burbank upriver to the Idaho and Oregon state line.
“We knew we had to protect both wild and hatchery steelhead moving up the Snake bound for Idaho,” said Chris Donley, a Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife regional fish biologist. “It’s a first in my recollection.”
For several other rivers in Eastern Washington and Oregon, including Snake River tributaries, the daily limit has been reduced to one hatchery steelhead.
Those fish are not bound for Idaho. Allowing one hatchery fish to be retained daily per angler in the tributaries will leave enough for Washington hatchery broodstock needs and adequately protect weaker stocks of wild steelhead, said Jeremy Trump, regional fish biologist for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.
New limits for the Snake and its tributaries took effect Friday.
As of Monday, only 70,000 hatchery and 25,000 wild steelhead had passed Bonneville Dam. That is 30 percent of the most recent 10-year average.
Fishery managers recently downgraded the forecast of early-run — also called A-run— steelhead returning to the mainstem Snake River to 54,000 from 112,100 fish.
It is the lowest run seen in decades, said Jeff Yanke, an Oregon State Department of Fish and Wildlife district fish biologist.
Officials will continue to monitor the steelhead run and see if rules can be adjusted in the coming months to allow more steelhead to be retained without negatively affecting wild steelhead or hatchery broodstock, according to Washington Fish and Wildlife officials.
The daily limit of one hatchery steelhead applies to the Touchet, Tucannon, Imnaha and Grand Ronde rivers, plus the Walla Walla River, which is a tributary of the Columbia River.
Don’t give up on fishing this year, Yanke said.
“Coupled with the right river conditions, even in a low-run year, we can still have a worthwhile steelhead fishery,” he said. “Folks will just need to have a little more patience, and that is one quality steelhead anglers always bring to the river.”
The East Oregonian reports that the dim outlook is affecting some businesses.
“With all the bad reports this spring, we’re definitely seeing a lower rate of bookings for this fall,” said Grant Richie, who leads guided trips down the Wallowa and Grande Ronde rivers.
Fisheries Managers Forecast 'Unprecedentedly Low' Summer Steelhead by George Plaven, East Oregonian, 5/22/17
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