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Most steelhead fisheries on the upper Columbia River will close Jan. 2 from Rock Island Dam to Chief Joseph Dam, as will steelhead fisheries on the Wenatchee, Icicle, Entiat and Methow rivers.
Whitefish angling also will close Jan. 2 on the Wenatchee, Methow and Entiat rivers. However, steelhead and whitefish seasons will remain open until further notice on the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers, under previously published rules.
Jeff Korth, the regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the closures are necessary to keep impacts on wild steelhead within limits established under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
"This year's run is smaller than in recent years and contains a relatively high proportion of wild steelhead," Korth said. "Those factors, combined with steady angler effort, increased the rate of encounters with natural-origin fish this year."
The federal permit authorizing the steelhead fisheries sets a maximum allowable mortality of natural-origin steelhead to accommodate variation in run strength and angling effort on specific waters. WDFW closely monitors the fisheries and enforces fishing rules to protect wild steelhead.
Although anglers must release any wild, unmarked steelhead they intercept in area fisheries, some of those fish do not survive and are counted toward ESA impact limits.
The primary reason the upper Columbia steelhead fisheries are permitted is to remove excess hatchery fish from spawning grounds, Korth said. In addition, those fisheries provide recreational opportunities and economic benefits for rural communities throughout the region.
A portion of the hatchery steelhead that have not been harvested will over-winter in the Columbia River and return to tributaries in the spring, when they may again be targeted for harvest.
WDFW fisheries managers are analyzing fishery impacts to date, and will produce a steelhead run update next month, Korth said. Some areas could be reopened at a later date for additional fishing opportunities, and anglers should keep a close eye on the WDFW website for these possibilities.
Details on waters that will close to fishing for steelhead Jan. 2 until further notice include:
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