With Low Steelhead Returns To Snake River Basin Continuing, Oregon Extends Reduced Bag Limits To April; Hatchery Fish 38 Percent Of Average

Oregon fishery managers have extended reduced daily bag limits for hatchery steelhead in the Snake River and tributaries, including the Grande Ronde, Wallowa and Imnaha Rivers. The bag limit of two hatchery steelhead per day remains in effect from January 1 to April 30, 2021.

Managers implemented the reduced bag limits at the start of the Fall steelhead season after early return estimates suggested another low return of steelhead to the Snake River Basin. The intent of the measures is to ensure hatchery broodstock goals are met and reduce angling pressure on wild steelhead stocks, which are also returning well below average. 

“We had hoped to reinstate the standard bag limit for the spring fishery after most of the returning steelhead have been counted at Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River,” said Jeff Yanke, Wallowa District Fish Biologist. “Unfortunately, the current return estimates suggest not enough steelhead returned to justify that.”

Snake River fishery managers estimate just over 35,000 hatchery steelhead returned to the basin this year, which is 38% of the 10-year average.  Both Idaho and Washington have also implemented similar measures to reduce hatchery steelhead harvest. 

In Oregon, the daily bag limit may not include more than two hatchery steelhead in the following locations:

(a) Grande Ronde River downstream of Meadow Creek;

(b) Catherine Creek from the mouth upstream to the Hwy. 203 bridge above Catherine Creek State Park;

(c) Imnaha River downstream of Big Sheep Creek;

(d) Wallowa River downstream of Trout Creek;

(e) Big Sheep Creek downstream of Little Sheep Creek; and

(f) Wenaha River downstream of Crooked Creek.

Anglers must cease fishing for all steelhead once they have retained two adult hatchery steelhead. In addition, Yanke strongly emphasized that anglers handle wild fish with care when caught and released.

“Relatively speaking, wild steelhead are returning better than hatchery steelhead this year,” said Yanke.  Estimates suggest around 19,000 wild steelhead have returned to the Snake Basin, which is 70% of the 10-year average. 

Barbless hooks and a Columbia Basin Endorsement are required when angling for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon in the Snake River. All other 2021 sport fishing regulations apply.

Last week Oregon and Washington fishery managers decided to continue the one adult hatchery steelhead bag limit through March 31, 2021 for the ongoing fishery in the mainstem Columbia River from The Dalles Dam upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge near Pasco, WA. 

The low pre-season forecast prompted fishery managers to take a conservative approach when setting regulations for the 2020-2021 summer steelhead run.  Although the B-Index summer steelhead run is currently projected at 32,300 fish compared to the preseason expectation of 9,600 fish, fishery managers want to maintain a conservative approach.

Anglers are reminded that permanent regulations will be in effect beginning Jan. 1 for the mainstem Columbia River from the mouth upstream to The Dalles Dam and in the John Day River downstream of Tumwater Falls. See permanent regulations at http://www.eregulations.com/oregon/fishing/

For the latest in-season changes on Columbia River regulations, visit https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/columbia-zone

Also see:

— CBB, Aug. 27, 2020, IDAHO REDUCES HATCHERY STEELHEAD BAG LIMIT DUE TO LOW EXPECTED RETURNS (40 PERCENT OF AVERAGE); SO FAR AT LOWER GRANITE 60 PERCENT OF RUN WILD FISH  https://www.cbbulletin.com/idaho-reduces-hatchery-steelhead-bag-limit-due-to-low-expected-returns-40-percent-of-average-so-far-at-lower-granite-60-percent-of-run-wild-fish/

— CBB, Nov. 21, 2019, TOUGH YEAR FOR IDAHO STEELHEAD BUT IDFG SAYS WILL LIKELY MEET BROODSTOCK GOALS; TO DATE LOWER GRANITE PASSAGE FAR BELOW NORMAL  https://www.cbbulletin.com/tough-year-for-idaho-steelhead-but-idfg-says-will-likely-meet-broodstock-goals-to-date-lower-granite-passage-far-below-normal/

— CBB, July 30, 2020, IDAHO ASKS FOR ANGLERS HELP IN SECOND YEAR OF WILD STEELHEAD STUDY, PROVIDES DATA ON HOW WELL FISH SURVIVE AFTER RELEASE https://www.cbbulletin.com/idaho-asks-for-anglers-help-in-second-year-of-wild-steelhead-study-provides-data-on-how-well-fish-survive-after-release/

— CBB, Dec. 12, 2019, EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: WILD SNAKE RIVER STEELHEAD STILL STRUGGLING SINCE LISTING, RETURNS FAR OFF REGIONAL GOALS https://www.cbbulletin.com/editors-notebook-wild-snake-river-steelhead-still-struggling-since-listing-returns-far-off-regional-goals/

More news from CBB: