Bag Limit Increased
by George Plaven
The steelhead bag limit has been increased to two hatchery fish for several northeast Oregon rivers after being reduced earlier this year.
Steelhead runs are coming in stronger than expected up the Grande Ronde and Imnaha rivers, prompting fisheries managers to increase the number of hatchery-born steelhead available for anglers to retain in northeast Oregon.
The bag limit for steelhead was increased to two hatchery fish per day on the rivers beginning Saturday, Oct. 21, about two months after the limit was lowered to one fish amid reports of historically low summer steelhead returns.
Based on fish counts at Bonneville Dam, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife now expects more than 3,000 hatchery fish in the Grande Ronde Basin and nearly 2,000 in the Imnaha Basin. The increased bag limit also applies to the Snake, Wenaha and Wallowa rivers, as well as Big Sheep Creek.
"We've got more fish left over for fishermen than we thought we did," said Jeff Yanke, ODFW district fish biologist in Enterprise.
According to the most recent estimates, Yanke said there are twice as many Imnaha steelhead past Lower Granite Dam compared to this time last year, and about as many Grande Ronde steelhead. However, those totals are still just half of steelhead returns from two years ago.
"It's still a really low run," Yanke said.
Yanke said the one-fish limit was based on preseason forecasts, though it is better to manage conservatively off the bat than it is to manage liberally and regret it later. At the time, ODFW counted 70,000 hatchery and 25,000 wild steelhead past Bonneville Dam, which was just 30 percent of the most recent 10-year average.
The increased bag limit brings Oregon into alignment with Washington and Idaho fishing regulations.
"We definitely think there are plenty of hatchery fish to harvest out there," Yanke said.
Idaho Taking Public Comment on Opening Weak Steelhead Run to Harvest by Rich Landers, Spokesman-Review, 10/3/17
Fisheries Managers Forecast 'Unprecedentedly Low' Summer Steelhead by George Plaven, East Oregonian, 5/22/17
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