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WDFW closing selected streams due to drought and heat


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is working with the Washington Department of Ecology and other state agencies, the federal government, tribes and conservation groups to prepare for and respond to drought conditions and help minimize their effect on fish and wildlife.

This effort includes monitoring streams for low flows and increased water temperatures, both of which can inhibit the migration of juvenile and adult fish. In some cases, fish could be captured and moved to suitable habitat, where there are sufficient flows to continue migration.

State fishery managers are closing or restricting fishing on more than 30 rivers throughout Washington to help protect fish in areas where drought conditions have reduced flows and increased water temperatures.  

The closures and restrictions took effect Saturday, July 18, at 12:01 a.m. The changes will remain in effect until further notice.

Fishing will be closed in some waters, and limited in others each day to the hours between midnight and 2 p.m. These “hoot-owl” restrictions will go into effect on rivers where fishery managers want to reduce stress on fish during the hottest time of day.

High water temperatures can be deadly for fish, such as trout, while diminished stream flows can strand migrating salmon and steelhead, said Craig Burley, fish program manager for WDFW.

For details on the closures and restrictions, check the emergency regulations, which will be posted on WDFW’s webpage at dfw/erules/efishrules/.

WDFW advises:

• Always check WDFW’s emergency fishing rules webpage before heading out.

• Fish in the morning, when water temperatures are cooler.

• Use barbless hooks to release fish quickly.

• Use good judgement. If water conditions are unfavorable – hot temperatures, low water flow –fish elsewhere.  

• Land fish quickly and avoid extensive handling of fish.

• Keep fish fully submerged when releasing back to the water.

The following is a partial list of some of the waters now closed to fishing:

• East Fork Lewis River from Lewisville Park downstream.

• Washougal River from Mt. Norway Bridge downstream.

• Ahtanum Creek, including the north and middle forks Little Naches River.

• Teanaway River, including west, middle and north forks.

Some of those listed with Hoot-owl restrictions include:

• East Fork Lewis River from Lewisville Park upstream.

• Washougal River from Mt. Norway Bridge upstream.

• Naches River from Tieton River to Bumping River/Little Naches River.

• Rattlesnake Creek.

In addition, WDFW announced that sturgeon fishing is closed on portions of the Columbia and Snake rivers. The closure applies from Bonneville Dam upstream in the Columbia River, the lower Snake River, and adjacent tributaries. All sturgeon fishing, including catch-and-release, will be prohibited in those waters until further notice.

Guy Norman, WDFW southwest regional director, said department staff has observed more than 80 dead and dying sturgeon on the riverbanks upriver from Bonneville Dam in the past two weeks. Most were large fish, over five feet long, he said.

“Sturgeon are clearly under a lot of stress due to current drought conditions right now,” Norman said. “We can’t improve the water conditions, but we can remove fishing pressure on these fish.”

“The drought is causing real problems for fish throughout the state,” said Burley. “We expect to announce further restrictions on state fisheries within the next few days.”


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