Washington steelheaders will have fewer options this fall, as the Upper Columbia River tributaries will remain closed. In recent fall seasons bombers and muddlers motored through classic steelhead streams like the Methow and Wenatchee. This year only about 6,300 steelhead are expected to make it upstream of Priest Rapids Dam on the Columbia. That paltry sum is only 33 percent of the 10 year average. 

Typically, the Methow run alone exceeds that total, and the entire 2016 Upper Columbia run is well below the minimum run of 9,550 fish to even consider opening the fishery.

“This closure creates a profound sadness for those of us who respect and pursue these amazing creatures. Life without a fall steelhead fishery is a void but also a wake-up call that we need to continue to help save these fish,” says Puget Sound-based steelheader, Tyler Sadowski.

Upper Columbia steelhead are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. After closure of traditional steelhead seasons the National Marine Fisheries Service allowed limited seasons specifically targeted to eliminate excess hatchery fish in years with strong returns. This is the worst return since the crash in the ’90s.

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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.

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