As of Tuesday, December 24, 2013
OLYMPIA Steelhead fisheries closed Sunday on the upper Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to Wells Dam and on the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers.
The closures did not affect steelhead and whitefish fishing seasons on the Okanogan, Similkameen and Methow rivers and main stem Columbia River from Wells Dam upstream to Chief Joseph Dam.
Those fisheries will remain open until further notice under previously published rules.
Fishing for whitefish also closed on the Wenatchee River on Sunday.
Jeff Korth, regional fish manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the closures are necessary to keep impacts on wild steelhead within limits established under the federal Endangered Species Act.
“This year’s run is smaller than in recent years and contains a relatively high proportion of wild steelhead,” Korth said. “Because of that, we saw an increase in the rate of encounters with natural-origin fish in some fishing areas.”
Although anglers must release any wild, unmarked steelhead they intercept in area fisheries, some of those fish do not survive and are counted toward Endangered Species Act impact limits.
The federal permit authorizing the steelhead fisheries sets a maximum allowable mortality of natural-origin steelhead to accommodate variations in run strength and angling effort on specific waters.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife closely monitors the fisheries and enforces fishing rules to protect wild steelhead.