Last Wednesday anglers got their first chance to catch summer chinook salmon in the tailrace of the hydroelectric powerhouse operated by the Chelan County Public Utility District in Chelan.
The new fishery, scheduled to run through Oct. 15, is restricted to the outfall area extending one-third of a mile downstream from the safety barrier near the powerhouse to the railroad bridge at the Columbia River.
No fishing will be allowed in the Chelan River between the tailrace and Lake Chelan, said Jeff Korth, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Signs will be posted there and in other areas off-limits to anglers.
"This opening will test whether we can conduct a fishery in such a small area," Korth said. "Starting this year, a lot of hatchery-reared fish will be moving through the tailrace, and we'd like to give anglers a chance to catch some."
This year's return of summer chinook to the tailrace area will be the second since the rearing operation was moved there from Turtle Rock on the Columbia River. Korth expects about 2,000 fish to move through to the tailrace area this year and up to 3,000 next year. Once Chelan PUD's new salmon hatchery is completed, the annual return could increase to 7,000 salmon per year, he said.
"Most of the summer chinook produced at the new hatchery will be caught in the Columbia River, but a fair number will make it back to the tailrace," Korth said. "This could be a great fishery if all goes well this year."
The daily catch limit will be six summer chinook salmon, including up to three adult fish -- of which only one may be a wild adult. The minimum size is 12 inches. Any chinook with an attached floy (anchor) tag and/or with one or more holes (round, approximately ¼ inch diameter) punched in the caudal (tail) fin must be released.
Because of the unique nature of the fishery several other rules will also be in effect:
-- No angling will be allowed from any floating devices, and a night closure and anti-snagging rule will be in effect, said Korth, noting that the fishable portion of the tailrace is relatively narrow and can be covered from the bank.
-- Fishing access along the southwest shoreline by the Chelan Powerhouse Park will be restricted to wading along the shoreline. This rule is designed to protect riparian vegetation along the shoreline, Korth said.
-- Anglers may not fish in the swimming area at the park, and must stay outside the buoy line around the net pen area to avoid hatchery construction activities along the shoreline.
-- Anglers seeking to reach the tailrace by wading across the Chelan River (where fishing is prohibited) must observe the signs limiting access to the upstream portions of the river.
To participate in the fishery, anglers must possess a valid Washington state fishing license and a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement. Revenue from the endorsement supports fisheries for salmon and steelhead on many rivers in the Columbia River system, including the new tailrace fishery below the powerhouse in Chelan.