As of March 15, steelheading has made a brief reappearance in the Wenatchee, Icicle and Methow rivers in north central Washington.
Sufficient room remains under the cap (maximum allowable impact to wild fish) for this resumption of fishing though WDFW managers warn that any one or all of these streams plus several others that are now open could close before the scheduled shut down date of March 31.
Managers say the reopening of several streams for a 16-day period also is designed to remove a few more hatchery steelhead from the wild fish domain.
Anglers intent on hitting these streams are urged to check the department’s fishing hotline 360 902-2500 or the emergency regulation posting Web pages at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ the night before or the day of their trip.
Okanogan and Chelan county river reaches currently legal to fish are the:
- Wenatchee from its mouth upstream to the Icicle River bridge.
- Icicle from its mouth upstream to a point 500 feet below the federal fish hatchery dam.
- Methow from its mouth upstream to the Chewuch River.
- Okanogan from its mouth upstream to the Highway 97 bridge at Oroville, excluding closed sections at the towns of Omak and Tonasket to protect holding wild adult spawners waiting to migrate up Omak and Tonasket creeks.
- Similkameen from its mouth upstream to a point 400 feet below Enloe Dam
The Methow River (from Gold Creek to the falls above Brush Creek) and Wenatchee River (from the Columbia to the Highway 2 bridge at Leavenworth) also will be open for the taking of whitefish concurrent to the steelhead openings.
While these streams are open, anglers must abide by these noteworthy rules:
- Release all wild steelhead as well as other gamefish (includes trout but not whitefish where legal) immediately and unharmed.
- Don’t lift wild fish out of the water for any reason.
- Keep the first two hatchery-origin (fin-clipped and longer that 20 inches) steelhead they bring to hand (close control).
- End their fishing for the day when they have landed their second marked steelhead.
- Stop fishing at one-half hour after designated sunset and do not resume until one-half hour before designated sunrise.
- Use only terminal tackle and a knotless net in accordance with the Selective Gear Rule, which also bans the use of baits and scents when it’s applied.
- On the Methow River refrain from fishing afloat between the second power-line crossing and the first Highway 153 bridge.
Region 2 Fish Program Manager Jeff Korth urges all would-be late North Central steelhead fishers as well as those anglers fishing many other streams in the greater Columbia River Basin to buy a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement.
It’s required to legally fish those waters but more importantly this voluntary $8.75 add-on to the cost a basic fish license reaps the funding to pay for the mandatory in-season monitoring of steelhead and salmon fisheries which in turn enables them to take place.
Federal authorities would deny the state a permit to conduct this fishery without the catch data collected and analysis derived weekly concerning angler encounters with wild fish.
Steelhead fisheries underway elsewhere in Washington include opportunities targeting summer-runs (catch and release) in the Grande Ronde and winter-run stocks in several southwest Washington streams including the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis as well as in those selected streams on the northwest side of the Olympic Peninsula where a catch and keep fishery on wild steelhead is allowed.