Until further notice from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, anglers can still fish for steelhead on the Methow River – like this one being held by Sara Lane of Bellingham. Lane was fishing with Leaf Seaburg, a fishing guide with Globetrouters Guide Service LLC. Photo courtesy of Leaf Seaburg

Until further notice from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, anglers can still fish for steelhead on the Methow River – like this one being held by Sara Lane of Bellingham. Lane was fishing with Leaf Seaburg, a fishing guide with Globetrouters Guide Service LLC. Photo courtesy of Leaf Seaburg

By Mike Maltais

Fisheries biologists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) concur that the fishery for hatchery steelhead in the Methow River can continue for the time being, but with caveats.

“About 14,000 adult steelhead are expected to return to the upper Columbia system this year, enough to allow a fishery but with caution,” said WDFW regional fish manager Jeff Korth. “Fishing is more tightly regulated this year because protected wild-stock fish are expected to make up a higher percentage of the run.”

“These fisheries traditionally remain open through the winter, but we may have to close early due to the higher number of encounters with wild steelhead expected this year,” Korth said.

WDFW District Fish Biologist Travis Maitland says that although the run of steelhead in the upper Columbia River is smaller this year, anglers are doing well on the river from Rock Island Dam up to Chief Joseph Dam. That includes steelheading on the Icicle, Methow, Okanogan and Wenatchee rivers.

“The Methow has probably been the hottest ticket, and about half the fish caught are harvestable adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead,” Maitland said. “The Wenatchee has also been good, but with fewer clipped hatchery fish. The Okanogan has been slow and the Columbia River sections are producing spotty success, but that should improve into the fall and winter, depending on how long the fishery lasts.”

Anglers are required to keep the first two hatchery-raised, fin-clipped steelhead they catch, and with the exception of the Columbia proper, where bait may be used, selective-gear rules apply. Anglers must stop fishing for hatchery steelhead after they have retained two.

These special rule fisheries (not listed in the 2013 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet) are for mandatory retention of adipose-fin-clipped steelhead. See fishing rule changes at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=1237 for all details.

Anglers are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license when fishing any of these tributaries of the Columbia.