Seasons Soon For Wenatchee, Met Steelies

With somewhere around 38,000 mostly hatchery steelhead headed back to the upper Columbia Basin, Washington managers hope to open fishing up soon.

“We’re shooting for the 8th,” says regional fisheries manager Jeff Korth in Ephrata. “We just need to get the blessing of NOAA.”

CHAD HURST HAD A LOT OF FUN DURING LAST YEAR'S STEELHEADING ON THE WENATCHEE, WHICH SHOULD OPEN TWO WEEKS EARLIER THIS YEAR. (PHOTO COURTESY CHAD HURST)

He says the Columbia up to Chief Joseph Dam as well as Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow and Okanogan Rivers would be open, though not the Okanogan until Oct. 1 to allow it to cool down.

“We’re shooting for a four-fish limit and a mandatory retention of hatchery steelhead — same as last year,” Korth says.

The idea is to keep as many of the clipped fish off the spawning grounds of the natural-origin steelhead as possible. The fisheries need to be permitted by the federal agency because steelhead here are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Last year, nearly 40,000 steelhead went over Priest Rapids Dam, the first dam above the Snake-Columbia cutoff.

Like 2009, this year the Methow will see the largest jag, some 15,000 steelies, while 4,000 to 5,000 are predicted to the Wenatchee and 4,000 to the Okanogan.

“It’s going to be nice to be open in September. Fishing should be good. Usually we’re always struggling to get it open by early October,” says Korth.

A large, early run with at least 8,000 wild fish is helping with the early opener this year, he says.

“We’ve got plenty of fish, so it should go through NOAA without a hitch,” Korth predicts.

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