While steelhead and chinook salmon fisheries remain a question mark across the Columbia River Basin, a bronzeback boon will keep anglers in the hunt during this raging high-water season. And an extra cooler, along with some eggs and flour, should feature prominently in your kit.
In an effort to reduce predation on vulnerable salmon and steelhead smolts, Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) lifted catch limits on bass, walleye, and catfish last year—the latest tool being used to help federally listed, threatened salmonids. The current maze of concrete on the river creates a predator-friendly scenario by inhibiting natural downstream migration. And for almost three decades the state has put a bounty on smolt gobbling, native northern pikeminnow. The bass and walleye—non-native, finned vacuums—have taken up the slack, at different places in the water column, making for a wall of death for out-migrating smolts.
Predator fish are just one piece of a complicated problem but this is an issue the public can help with and benefit from in the process. WDFW biologist Paul Hoffarth says, “As an agency, we welcome a balance with warm water and salmon species. But we’re also focused on survival of native species. Taking the catch limits off bass, walleye, and catfish was the easiest thing we could do. These fish are a terrific food source, so we hope more anglers will harvest them.”
Stock up on gummy minnows—it’s gonna be a long spring.
Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.