Low steelhead returns could mean summer fishing restrictions
PENDLETON — Very low summer returns of steelhead to the Columbia and Snake rivers have state officials planning out the restrictions they will have to impose on anglers.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is predicting a total summer run of 131,000 steelhead, said Tucker Jones, the agency's Columbia River program manager. This number is partially due to the 2015 drought and warm water "blob" over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of North America, he said.
The low returns mean restrictions are probably coming for fishing in the Northwest, The East Oregonian reported.
"Things don't look great for steelhead this year," Jones said.
The reason restrictions will be necessary is because the state must meet federal guidelines, he said. One plan fisheries managers are considering to combat the low returns is restricting where anglers can fish during each month.
A plan that would close steelhead retention downstream of The Dalles Dam during the entire month of August; between The Dalles and John Day dams during the month of September; and from John Day Dam to the Oregon-Washington border during October and November is in the works.
"I think we are taking a logical and hopefully measured approach," Jones said. "The response so far has been fairly positive for the proposal."
Last year's run had 183,000 fish, which was about 83,000 fewer fish than the agency expected.
Bob Rees, executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, said this year's forecast is nothing short of a crisis.
"We're just having to roll with the punches," Rees said. "These fish are pretty vulnerable to those environmental conditions that humans have had a hand in."
The Department of Fish and Wildlife will meet Wednesday in Clackamas to hear public input on what the low returns should mean for summer fishing.