The steelhead season will end early this summer as fewer than expected steelhead return to the Columbia River.
Starting Monday, anglers must release any steelhead they catch from near the mouth of the Columbia to the blue bridge between Kennewick and Pasco.
The rule change is prompted by a sharp decline in projected returns of upriver summer steelhead.
Monitoring at the Bonneville Dam indicates that 110,300 upriver steelhead will return to the Columbia this year, down from 182,400 projected before the fishing season began, according to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.
“Many factors are clearly taking a toll on our steelhead populations right now, including difficult ocean conditions,” said Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River fishery coordinator for Fish & Wildlife.
The new projection is similar to how many steehead returned last year.
A ban on night fishing for salmon or steelhead in the same stretch of the Columbia River remains in effect.