With the unrelenting heat to start the summer and low water levels because of drought conditions, the state is asking anglers to help protect fish stocks. That’s in addition to steps the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has already taken.
The low snowpack after the warm, dry winter and hot weather have raised water temperatures and reduced flows in rivers and streams across the state to levels that can be lethal to fish, Teresa Scott, the agency’s drought coordinator, said in a news release.
“We’re seeing some really challenging conditions for fish in streams and rivers, especially for this early in the summer,” she added.
The agency has already restricted fishing in some locations, and managers expect there will be a need for additional restrictions.
Fishing on a section of the Sol Duc River was curtailed to protect returning chinook. The river was closed June 18 from 200 feet downstream of the Sol Duc Hatchery outfall creek upstream to the concrete pump station at the Sol Duc Hatchery.
The department also closed fishing for spring chinook on the Grande Ronde River due to low river flows.
Fishery managers also will likely release some hatchery fish early and transport salmon and steelhead that are unable to make it upstream to spawning grounds.
In the meantime, anglers are being asked to limit their fishing to the morning hours to reduce stress on fish. They also should land fish quickly and immediately return fish to be released back to the water, Craig Burley, fish program manager, said in the release.
The higher water temperatures and low stream flows also are creating problems at the department’s fish hatcheries. Warm water at hatcheries make fish more susceptible to disease and stress, meaning fewer fish will survive to be released.
Contingency plans to protect hatchery fish include pumping water from deep wells and trucking returning salmon to hatchery facilities.
The department is also responding to cases in which salmon migrating upstream have been stranded because of river conditions, Scott said.
The public is being asked to report sightings of stranded fish or other wildlife distressed by drought. File reports at wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/drought.