Low returns of steelhead will mean no fishing season for them this year on the upper Columbia River.
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife also is closing the Columbia River up to the blue bridge in the Tri-Cities to salmon and steelhead fishing effective Oct. 22.
The returns of steelhead to the upper Columbia are at the levels that led to them being listed as a federal endangered species in 1997, a designation later revised to “threatened” as runs improved.
The steelhead run is only 33 percent of the 10-year average for counts at Priest Rapids Dam, said Jeff Korth of the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
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The latest forecast predicts just 6,300 steelhead at Priest Rapids Dam. A minimum of 9,550 are required under federal rules to allow a fishing season on the upper Columbia and its tributaries.
Low numbers do not appear to be because the run is late. The timing of the steelhead run looks to be normal, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The weakest component of the steelhead run is for fish that stay in the ocean just one year. Usually, those fish make up 50 percent to 60 percent of the run at Priest Rapids Dam, but this year they make up 36.5 percent of the run.
The only steelhead fishery remaining on the Columbia River above the blue bridge will be in the Ringold area.
Fish and Wildlife describes it as a “bubble” fishery for hatchery steelhead specially marked with both a clipped adipose and left ventral fin.
“Those steelhead are not federally listed, but that run, too, will be a shadow of the usual number of fish,” Korth said in a statement.
The limit for steelhead already had been reduced to one hatchery steelhead from the blue bridge to the mouth of the Columbia, before the announcement this week that fishing for salmon and steelhead was closing there.
The preseason forecast for the 2016 fall chinook run to the Columbia River was 960,200 fish, including an estimated 579,600 upriver bright chinooks.
The forecast has been reduced several times. On Oct. 17, the upriver bright forecast was reduced to 412,700.
Fishery managers estimate that the nontribal harvest of upriver bright chinooks has already exceeded the allowed limit, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.