A precipitous drop in the abundance of the upper Columbia River steelhead run means there will be no fishing season for them this year in north central Washington, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) said in a press release.
Jeff Korth, WDFW north central regional fish program manager, said the run is only 33 percent of the 10-year average of counts at Priest Rapids Dam.
The latest forecast anticipates count of 6,300 steelhead at Priest Rapids Dam, far short of the minimum 9,550 fish NOAA-Fisheries requires to allow a fishing season on the mainstem or tributaries of the upper Columbia River.
Korth said the overall run timing appears to be tracking the 10-year average, so it is not likely that the missing fish are just late.
“Every fish will count to make sure enough reach the spawning grounds,” Korth said in the release. “All wild fish and those produced from wild parents in the hatchery are already being allowed on the spawning grounds. All steelhead produced from hatchery parents as a backup will probably be needed to reach escapement goals, too.”
The last time upper Columbia River steelhead runs were this low was in the 1990s, resulting in a federal “endangered” species listing in 1997, according to the release. The run was later classified as “threatened” as returns improved.
Limits for lower river fisheries, from the mouth to Highway 395 south of the Tri-Cities, have already been reduced to one hatchery steelhead.