PENDLETON (AP) — Opening day won't be an abundant day when summer steelhead season arrives Friday on the Grande Ronde and Imnaha rivers.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced this week it's lowering the bag limit to one fish per day on both tributaries. Meanwhile, there will be no harvest in the mainstem Snake River, but catch-and-release fishing will be allowed.
Oregon officials expect the reduced bag limit for hatchery steelhead will be temporary, but it marks a conservative beginning to a season that's expected to be hampered by low returns. As of Monday, only 70,000 hatchery and 25,000 wild steelhead have passed Bonneville Dam. That is 30 percent of the most recent 10-year average.
“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,” said Jeff Yanke, an ODFW fish biologist based in Enterprise.
“Folks will just need to have a little more patience,” he added, “and that is one quality steelhead anglers always bring to the river.”
The East Oregonian reports that the dim outlook is affecting some businesses.
"With all the bad reports this spring, we're definitely seeing a lower rate of bookings for this fall,” said Grant Richie, who leads guided trips down the Wallowa and Grande Ronde rivers.”
He said one customer who booked a year in advance recently called out of concern that the entire river would be shut down. Richie assures customers that though the run is down, there are fish to be caught.