SALEM, Ore. — Bag limits for hatchery summer steelhead will be reduced to one fish per day for the Grande Ronde and Imnaha Rivers when the season opens on Friday, Sept. 1. In addition, there will be no harvest allowed in the mainstem Snake River but catch-and-release will be allowed.
Fishery managers decided to reduce the bag limit to correspond with the historically low Columbia River steelhead counts observed in 2017. As of Aug. 28, only 70,000 hatchery and 25,000 wild steelhead had passed Bonneville Dam, which is only 30 percent of the most recent 10-year average. The catch-and-release regulations in the Snake River mirror those implemented by the state of Idaho on Aug. 17, which restricted steelhead fishing to catch-and-release statewide.
Oregon officials expect the reduced bag limits to be temporary, but support a conservative start to the season when facing a hatchery and wild steelhead run this low. “Despite the poor outlook, our current estimates suggest enough fish will return to sustain hatchery programs and provide fish for recreational harvest,” said Jeff Yanke, ODFW District Fish Biologist in Enterprise. “A one-fish limit allows for a small level of harvest, but also prevents a situation where anglers are forced to put back an injured hatchery fish.”
Managers will hold off on further changes until more of the steelhead run arrives closer to home. So far, only 5 percent of Grande Ronde and Imnaha steelhead have moved upstream of the Columbia River. Yanke expects to have a much clearer picture by late October.
“This is the lowest run we’ve seen in decades, but I’d encourage anglers not to panic and give up on fishing this year. Coupled with the right river conditions, even in a low run year, we can still have a worthwhile steelhead fishery,” Yanke added. “Folks will just need to have a little more patience, and that is one quality steelhead anglers always bring to the river.”