If you’re a Northwest state fish and wildlife agency that, oh, say, decided to pimp the summer steelhead fishery on the Lower Columbia this year, you hit a home run.
The month is only half over, but there’s already a new record “handle” on the big creek.
So far in August, Oregon and Washington anglers have caught 11,639.
And that comes on the back of a possible record-tying July fishery.
It tops the previous high mark for August set in 2009, The Year Of The Monster Run, by 590 fish.
Not all 11,000-plus fish have been retained, of course. The stats include hatchery steelhead kept as well as unclipped ones anglers are required to release.
Fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver reports that last week sport fishermen caught 6,295 summer-runs, keeping 3,826 and releasing 2,469.
July’s handle was also estimated to be pretty high and creeping towards the record of 16,000, but final numbers have not come in yet, he says.
Earlier this year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife set up a Web site targeting the fishery, with maps of hot beaches and expert tips. Northwest Sportsman has also been running articles in our magazine and blog on the scene.
Hymer says it’s probable that higher, cooler flows this year may be keeping steelies within range of bank anglers in the lower river. Typically by this time of year, warmer water pushes them deeper.
“In addition, I think anglers are getting it dialed in with the dyed prawns,” he adds.
Since July 1, a total of 195,231 steelhead have gone over Bonneville Dam. The run forecast is for 390,000 A- and B-runs destined for the upper Columbia, Eastern Oregon and Snake system.
However, the Columbia’s flows appear to be slowing fisheries further upstream.
“I spent the day in the (Columbia) Gorge last Thursday, checking out three fisheries — Drano (Lake), White Salmon (River) and Herman Creek. None of them has the anywhere near the numbers of fish that there should be, and the steelhead that are being caught are being taken at the mouths, and not up in the streams,” reported Northwest Sportsman contributor Terry Otto today.
Hymer says that overall last week Lower Columbia anglers made 14,213 fishing trips, landing 498 Chinook and releasing eight silvers.
“In general, boat angler effort is increasing and steelhead bank angler effort downstream of Longview is decreasing: however, steelhead catches increased last week overall,” he told fishheads in an email blast this afternoon.