Early Opener For North-Central Washington Steelhead?

According to a story in the Wenatchee World today, WFDW is considering opening the upper Columbia River and some of its tribs for steelheading as early as “sometime late next week.”

SCOTT FLETCHER WITH A WENATCHEE RIVER STEELHEAD FROM LAST FALL'S SEASON. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Another large return of the sea-run rainbows is making its way to streams in the basin, as well as Idaho and Eastern Oregon rivers. Since April 1, 307,000 steelhead, including 126,000 wild fish, have gone over Bonneville, the first dam on the Columbia. Just under 16,000 have gone over Priest Rapids, the first dam above the Snake-Columbia confluence.

Wild steelhead on the upper Columbia are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and are not allowed to be kept, but WDFW is allowed to hold fisheries through a special permit from NOAA. In an interesting twist last fall, the state agency required anglers to keep all hatchery steelhead to keep them from spawning with natural-origin fish.

Last year WDFW announced the Wenatchee, Methow, Entiat, Okanogan and upper Columbia itself would open Sept. 29; the previous year, the agency opened the Methow, Okanogan and upper Columbia on Oct. 4.

It would be the fourth year in a row that the Wenatchee has been open for steelheading after a 10-year closure.

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