Chinook fishery reopens on 3 Columbia tributaries; hatchery steelhead limit rises to 6 per day on 2 rivers

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Had a much tougher day today. You can't be hooking tons every tripVANCOUVER, Wash. – Starting today, anglers may once again keep hatchery-reared chinook salmon they catch while fishing on the Cowlitz, Kalama, and Lewis rivers in southwest Washington.

Also today, the catch limit for steelhead will increase to six hatchery steelhead per day on the Cowlitz and North Fork Lewis rivers.

Pat Frazier, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said fishing rules for those rivers can be liberalized now that it appears enough fish are returning to meet hatchery production goals.

“Spring chinook returns have been nip and tuck this year for some hatcheries,” Frazier said. “But after a late surge of fish, it now appears that the hatcheries will get the fish they need for broodstock.”

In recent weeks, anglers have been required to release any chinook salmon they caught on the Cowlitz, Kalama, and Lewis rivers in response to lagging returns.

Under the new rules, anglers will be able to retain six salmon – including two adults – per day on designated portions of those three rivers through July 31. On the Cowlitz River, however, only one of those two adult salmon may be a chinook.

All wild chinook and wild coho salmon, which can be identified by an intact adipose fin, must be released.

On the Cowlitz River, the new chinook-retention rules will be in effect from the boundary markers at the mouth to Mayfield Dam. On the Kalama River, anglers will be allowed to retain chinook salmon from the boundary markers at the mouth to the Kalama Falls Hatchery. In addition, chinook retention will be permitted from the mouth of the mainstem Lewis River to the mouth of the East Fork and from there to Merwin Dam on the North Fork Lewis River.

Frazier said hatcheries on the Cowlitz and North Fork Lewis rivers now have all the steelhead they need to meet egg-take goals, allowing fishery managers to increase daily catch limits for hatchery fish on those rivers. Through last week a thousand steelhead had returned each of the facilities on the Cowlitz and Lewis and more are on the way.

“Boat anglers are reportedly doing very well fishing for hatchery steelhead on both of those rivers, although bank angling is somewhat limited by high flows,” Frazier said. “Steelhead fishing on the Cowlitz has been best around Blue Creek.”

The new six-fish steelhead limit will be in effect on the lower Cowlitz River from the Highway 4 Bridge at Kelso upstream to Mayfield Dam. On the North Fork Lewis, it will be in effect from the Interstate 5 Bridge upstream to Merwin Dam.