With summer-run steelhead now moving into the Kalama River
in increasing numbers, fishery managers are taking action to reduce the number
of hatchery steelhead that reach upriver spawning grounds this summer, said
John Weinheimer, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish biologist.
"Studies have shown that hatchery fish make up half to
three-quarters of all summer steelhead found upriver from the Kalama Falls
Hatchery in recent years," Weinheimer said. "We want to talk to
anglers about this situation, and the measures we plan to take to address
State fishery managers scheduled a public meeting Thursday
(June 25) in Vancouver to discuss changes in the way the WDFW is managing this
year's return of hatchery steelhead to the Kalama River.
In mid-May, WDFW raised the catch limit to three hatchery
steelhead a day to help reduce the number of hatchery fish moving upriver,
Weinheimer said. Other measures planned or already in effect include:
-- Requiring anglers, effective July 1, to retain all
hatchery steelhead they catch and stop fishing for steelhead once they reach
their three-fish daily limit.
-- Suspending WDFW's practice of transporting hatchery
steelhead above Kalama Falls, while encouraging anglers to catch hatchery fish
that move above the barrier on their own.
-- Suspending WDFW's practice of "recycling"
hatchery summer steelhead, a process that involves collecting the fish at
Kalama Falls Hatchery and trucking them back downstream to give anglers another
chance to catch them.
The main reason so many hatchery fish are reaching the upper
river is that the fish barrier at Kalama Falls is failing to stop them,
Weinheimer said. In recent years, significant numbers of fish have been
observed jumping over the aging concrete structure, which is supposed to
channel those fish back to the hatchery, he said.
The problem is exacerbated by recycling, which gives
hatchery steelhead multiple opportunities to clear the barrier, Weinheimer
"Studies have shown that anglers catch about 20 percent
of the hatchery steelhead recycled to the lower Kalama River," he said.
"That would be OK, except that the barrier at the hatchery does not
reliably stop the remaining fish from moving upriver."
Weinheimer said WDFW is seeking funding to improve the fish
barrier, but that completing the project could take a year or more.
"Once we bring down the number of hatchery fish in the
upper river, we can consider resuming the lower river recycling program,"
he said. "But that could take some time."
To help restore wild runs, WDFW's Hatchery and Fishery
Reform Policy includes provisions to control the number of hatchery fish on the
Wild steelhead populations on the Kalama River and in most
other major Washington tributaries to the lower Columbia River were listed as
"threatened" in 1998 under the federal Endangered Species Act.