Some Snake River Anglers
by Eric Barker
Anglers fishing on the Snake River west of Clarkston will be able to keep some hatchery steelhead starting Saturday.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Thursday that anglers will be allowed to harvest steelhead that measure less than 28 inches from the section of river beginning at its mouth and extending upstream to the Idaho-Washington state line at Clarkston. The section has previously been open to catch-and-release steelhead fishing only.
The rule change will mean anglers fishing from the mouth of the river to Couse Creek will be under the same size restrictions and bag limits.
A news release from the agency said the size rule is being changed because "A-run steelhead, both wild and hatchery-origin adults, have returned in adequate numbers to allow opening portions of the Snake River to steelhead retention, including the lower portion of the river."
The rule change is designed to allow anglers to keep the more abundant A-run steelhead, while protecting B-run steelhead that are returning in much smaller numbers. Earlier this year, fisheries managers in Idaho, Washington and Oregon shut down all steelhead harvest on the Snake River and some of its tributaries. The move was made in response to low numbers of steelhead returning from the Pacific Ocean.
The fisheries agencies moved to relax those rules in October when A-run steelhead -- which tend to spend just one year in the ocean and generally are less than 28 inches -- made a late push.
Washington opened the river to steelhead harvest from the Washington-Idaho state line to the Washington-Oregon state line in the lower portion of Hells Canyon. But the state required anglers to release all hatchery steelhead that measure 28 inches and longer on the section between Clarkston and Couse Creek. Idaho adopted similar size restrictions between Lewiston and Couse Creek and on the entire Clearwater River and its north, south and middle forks. Idaho and Washington anglers fishing above Couse Creek can keep larger hatchery steelhead.
The size restrictions are designed to ensure enough B-run steelhead make it back to hatcheries to meet spawning goals. B-run fish tend to spend two years in the ocean and are larger than A-run fish.
The rule change will not affect the boundaries of the Rogers Dodge Steelhead Derby that opens one minute after midnight tonight. Blake Harrington of the Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce said it's both too late to change derby rules or to obtain a derby permit from Washington fisheries officials.
The derby is only open from the Idaho-Washington state line to Couse Creek.
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