New steelhead fishing restrictions on Snake River, tributaries amid record low returns to Columbia River basin

Snake River


by WA Department of Fish & Wildlife Staff
9-2-2021
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OLYMPIA – Amid concern about record low numbers of steelhead moving up the Columbia River so far this year, state fishery managers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have announced new restrictions on steelhead fishing in the Snake River, as well as several Snake and Columbia River tributaries.

The preseason forecast for summer steelhead traveling up the Columbia River was 89,200 fish, but only 36,452 fish had passed Bonneville Dam on the lower Columbia River as of Aug. 31, a record low number and just over half the 5-year average of 68,974 fish for the same date.

“We understand the attention and share in the concerns about this year’s low steelhead run and the status of wild steelhead in the Columbia basin,” said Chris Donley, WDFW’s Eastern Region fishery manager.  “There are many factors impacting steelhead, and to do our part to conserve steelhead, these regulations are intended to support agency conservation goals, which include a limited harvest on surplus hatchery steelhead as part of hatchery reform efforts.” 

As a result of these low returns, fishery managers have reduced hatchery steelhead limits in part of the Snake River and Grande Ronde River, while closing steelhead fishing on other sections of the Snake River, as well as the Touchet, Tucannon, and Walla Walla rivers.

“The forecast for this year’s upriver steelhead return was already low, but these numbers are below what anyone expected,” said Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River fishery manager with WDFW. “These are necessary steps to further protect a fish run that’s already in trouble. We hope that anglers can understand how important these restrictions are for preserving future runs on these rivers.”

The new regulations join similar restrictions in Oregon and Idaho, as well as proactive steps WDFW and co-managers took prior to the start of the season. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday adopted reduced steelhead limits on the Snake and several other Snake River Basin tributaries. Fishery managers from WDFW and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recently implemented additional steelhead fishing closures and restrictions on several Columbia River tributaries. In Washington, this includes further restrictions in Drano Lake and closure of a section of the Wind River.

In addition, all areas of the mainstem Columbia River closed to steelhead fishing as of Sept. 1.

“Fishing restrictions are just one part of the equation when it comes to impacts on wild upriver summer steelhead,” Lothrop said. “These fish have one of the longest migrations for any stock in Washington, and face a wide array of obstacles on their way to the ocean and back to the spawning grounds. We’re working diligently with our partners and stakeholders to holistically address all the factors impacting these runs.”

The new restrictions on the Snake, Grande Ronde, Touchet, Tucannon, and Walla Walla rivers go into effect Sept. 3 at the following locations:

  • Snake River, from the mouth of the Snake River (Burbank to Pasco railroad bridge at Snake River mile 1.25) to the Lower Granite dam: Closed to steelhead fishing.
  • Snake River, From Lower Granite Dam upstream to the Idaho/Oregon state line: Daily limit 1 hatchery fish. Anglers may not continue to fish for steelhead after the steelhead daily limit has been retained.
  • Tucannon River, from the mouth to the Tucannon Hatchery Road Bridge: Closed to fishing for and retention of steelhead.
  • Grande Ronde River, from County Road Bridge (~2.5 miles above the mouth) to the Washington/Oregon state line: Daily limit 1 hatchery fish.
  • Walla Walla River, from the mouth to the Washington/Oregon state line: Closed to fishing for and retention of steelhead.
  • Touchet River, from the mouth to the confluence of the North and South Forks: Closed to fishing for and retention of steelhead.

Additional information on these and other emergency rules can be found on WDFW’s emergency rules website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/. Permanent rules can be found on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish, wildlife, and recreational and commercial opportunities.



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