COVID-19: Washington Closes Recreational Fishing Statewide, Oregon Shuts Down Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Fishing

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Wednesday temporarily closed recreational fishing and shellfishing statewide in the wake of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s order directing Washingtonians to stay home to limit the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19. A few hours later the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that it will close recreational angling for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River, effective Thursday, March 26 at 11:59 p.m.

Washington’s closures began at midnight Wednesday, March 25 and will last until at least 5 p.m. on April 8, 2020. WDFW will re-evaluate on April 6 whether the closure may need to be extended.

Oregon and Washington jointly manage fisheries in the mainstem Columbia River bordering both states and seek to have concurrent regulations. At this time, other ongoing fisheries in Oregon remain unchanged, and fishing for species other than salmon and steelhead will still be allowed in Oregon portions of the Columbia River. 

“This is not a decision we take lightly, but it’s the right thing to do for the health and well-being of Washington’s families,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “Monday’s extraordinary order for the residents of our state to stay home requires all of us to work together to ensure these measures have the intended effect.”

Fishery managers have reported that some anglers have been seen crowding banks as concerns over coronavirus have continued.

“We’ve seen an uptick in outdoor recreation at some locations in recent weeks as people have looked for ways to get outside,” said WDFW Fish Program Director Kelly Cunningham. “We’ve had reports of crowded boat ramps and busy fishing on some rivers, which runs counter to the governor’s direction to stay home and practice social distancing.”

In addition, many salmon and steelhead fisheries require regular monitoring under the Endangered Species Act, which includes conducting angler interviews at access sites surrounding the state’s marine waters. The on-site, face-to-face nature of angler interviews puts people at potential risk of transmitting the coronavirus. Without such monitoring, these recreational fisheries must close to ensure ESA protections.

WDFW and other state agencies previously closed all of their water access sites, including boat launches, and other public lands where people may gather. Local and tribal governments are taking similar actions across Washington.

WDFW enforcement officers remain on duty and will be enforcing these new closures.

The lowland lakes opening day for trout remains scheduled for April 25, but will be evaluated depending on whether the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order might be further extended.

For the latest updates on WDFW’s coronavirus response, please visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/covid-19-updates. Updates to openings and closures will be posted to that page. For the latest information on the statewide response to this pandemic, visit https://coronavirus.wa.gov

ODFW reminded anglers to follow the rules for social distancing and maintain at least 6 feet distance from other people and minimize non-essential travel, as directed in an executive order issued earlier this week by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.  ODFW also asks that anglers and the public help ensure the safety of ODFW employees they may encounter in the field who are doing their jobs by maintaining adequate social distance.

As with the Washington closure, ODFW anticipates the Columbia River salmon and steelhead fishing closure lasting at least until April 8, 2020. 

Also see:

— CBB, Feb. 20, 2020, STATES SET COLUMBIA RIVER SPRING CHINOOK SEASONS; URGED TO RESTRAIN EARLY-SEASON FISHING IN LOWER RIVER SO MORE FISH REACH IDAHO https://www.cbbulletin.com/states-set-columbia-river-spring-chinook-seasons-urged-to-restrain-early-season-fishing-in-lower-river-so-more-fish-reach-idaho/

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