By Mike Maltais
A special season for coho salmon on the Methow River opened Saturday (Oct. 4) and will continue through Nov. 30 on that portion of the river from its mouth upstream to its confluence with the Chewuch River at Winthrop.
A concurrent season for Chinook will also open on the Columbia River from Priest Rapids to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced Tuesday (Oct. 7) that a special steelhead season on the Methow river, the Columbia and selected tributaries opens Wednesday (Oct. 8) and will continue until further notice.
The WDFW approved the special coho opening on Oct. 1 after an expected return of 30,000 or more coho was predicted above Priest Rapids on the Columbia River south of Vantage.
Over 80,000 Chinook salmon, primarily from the Hanford Reach fall Chinook hatchery programs, have returned above Priest Rapids Dam, including over 18,000 above Rock Island Dam. The intent of the fishery is the removal of excess hatchery fall Chinook from the Upper Columbia River Basin.
A predicted excess of hatchery-origin steelhead are expected to return to the upper Columbia and the new season is aimed at reducing the numbers of hatchery fish in favor of native stock.
Lance Rider of The Outdoorsman sporting goods store in Winthrop said news of the coho opening — only the second since coho were introduced back into the Methow and the first since 2011 — has amped up the excitement of local guides and anglers.
Steelhead, however, rank at the top of the list for Methow River sport fishermen.
The daily coho limit is two fish over 12 inches and selective gear rules do apply. Fishermen are also required to release all floy (anchor) tagged coho.
Anglers can keep six Chinook, marked or unmarked and 12 inches or longer, of which only three may be adult fish.
The daily steelhead limit is two hatchery steelhead, with a mandatory rule that anglers must retain the hatchery catches identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar at the clipped fin’s location. All steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be released unharmed and while still in the water.
Anglers are also cautioned that fishing rules on the Methow are subject to change owing to the effects on natural origin steelhead.