SALEM — Due to low returns, daily bag limits for hatchery summer steelhead will be reduced to two fish per day for the Snake River and tributaries when the season opened on Tuesday, Sept. 1, according to a press release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Fishery managers in the Snake River basin estimate about 32,000 hatchery steelhead are bound for the Snake River and its tributaries. While this is still well below the 10-year average of about 90,000 fish, it’s an improvement over the previous year’s run of about 23,000. Additionally, preseason forecasts indicate about 18,000 wild steelhead will cross Lower Granite Dam, nearly twice last year’s return and about 70% of the 10-year average.
The intent of reducing the bag limit to two fish per day is to ensure enough hatchery fish return to hatchery facilities to meet production objectives.
“While we expect to meet broodstock collection goal, we’re dealing with small margins for error. Managing conservatively ensures we can overcome any unforeseen circumstances if they arise,” said Kyle Bratcher, ODFW District fish biologist in Enterprise. “Luckily, the uptick in this year’s run allows us a little more wiggle room to avoid a situation like last year when we had a one-fish limit.”
Steelhead are currently making their way through the mainstem Columbia and Snake Rivers. While the steelhead season opened on Sept. 1, Bratcher doesn’t expect catch rates to pick up until the later end of the month. The best fishing is typically in October and November in the Grande Ronde River and during late winter and early spring in the Wallowa and Imnaha rivers.