Drought Conditions Prompt Fishing Closures & Restrictions on Numerous Washington Rivers


KENNEWICK, WA- You have probably seen the pictures by now, up to eight foot long sturgeon are turning up dead in the Columbia River.

Washington and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife met Thursday for what they call the Columbia River Compact, meetings between the states to have discussion and make decisions.

Today's discussion, all about sturgeon, and what to do about the drastic die-off.

"The sturgeon I've been catching have been anywhere from three feet long to seven feet long. They've been very healthy. I am trying to figure out what's going on, like everybody else," explained Ron Sharp, a fishing guide.

Sharp has caught 56 smaller sturgeon in the past few weeks, from Priest Rapids Dam to White Bluff's. Local fishing shops tell us, the selection around the Tri-Cities, is not as good as it used to be.

"A guy came in today and he said he's been going a lot and hasn't been catching anything around here. Upriver, where the water is a lot colder, we went there yesterday and caught our limit," said Austin Urlacher at Kennewick Ranch and Home.

Fish and wildlife is still working on figuring out why all these large sturgeon are dying off. On top of warm water, Sharp has his theory, "The stress of spawn probably, they didn't recover from that and that is what killed them. But who knows, you know we need to find the answer."

Late Thursday afternoon, the Vancouver, Washington office for fish and wildlife released to NBC Right Now the newest regulations.

Starting Saturday, no one is allowed to catch and release, or recreational fish for sturgeon from Bonneville Dam up into Washington, on the Columbia and our part of the Snake River.

"My passion is sturgeon fishing, but my concern about the fish is greater than my desire to catch them. If for some reason their population really starts to be threatened, I'm not opposed to shutting it down to make sure we are going to have a good healthy population," said Sharp.


The emergency regulation will last until further notice, fish and wildlife is pretty sure fishing is not the cause of these deaths, but wants to put anything in place, to reduce their stress.


Drought conditions prompt fishing

closures, restrictions on numerous rivers

OLYMPIA – 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 take 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 the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“With such extreme drought conditions in several areas of the state, we needed to take these steps to help protect vulnerable fish in waters where we have concerns,” Burley said. “We’ll continue monitoring stream conditions throughout Washington this summer and take additional actions if necessary.”

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

Fishing closures and restrictions are listed by region below. Today’s action does not include any rivers in Region 6 (South Sound/Olympic Peninsula). However, earlier this summer, the department closed fishing on a section of the Sol Duc River to protect returning chinook during drought conditions.

Region 1 – Eastern Washington

Closed to fishing:

  • North Fork Touchet River above Spangler Creek.
  • South Fork Touchet River from the mouth to Griffen Fork and above Griffen Fork.
  • Wolf Fork Touchet River from the mouth to Coates Creek and Robinson Fork.
  • Asotin Creek and tributaries (Asotin Co.) from the mouth to headwaters.
  • Kettle River and all tributaries (Ferry Co.) from the Barstow Bridge to the headwaters, all portions contained within Washington.

Hoot-owl restrictions:

  • Walla Walla River (Walla Walla Co.) from McDonald Road Bridge to the Oregon State Boundary.
  • Touchet River (Columbia/Walla Walla Co.) from the mouth to the confluence of the North and South forks.
  • North Fork Touchet River from the mouth to Spangler Creek.
  • Tucannon River (Columbia/Garfield Co.) From the Highway 12 Bridge to Cow Camp Bridge.
  • Spokane River (Spokane/Lincoln Co.) from upstream boundary at Plese Flats Day Use Area to the Idaho State Boundary.
  • Spokane River tributaries, including Little Spokane River and tributaries (Spokane/Pend Oreille/Stevens Counties) from the State Route 25 Bridge upstream to Monroe Street Dam.
  • Colville River and all tributaries (Stevens Co.) from the mouth to the headwaters.
  • Sullivan Creek and all tributaries (Pend Oreille Co.) from the mouth to the headwaters.

Region 2 – North Central Washington

Closed to fishing:

  • Wenatchee River (Chelan Co.) from the mouth to the Icicle River Road Bridge.
  • Icicle River (Chelan Co.) from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam.
  • Lake Wenatchee (Chelan Co.)
  • Okanogan River from the Hwy 97 bridge upstream to Zosel Dam, except open to game fish fishing.
  • Similkameen River from the mouth upstream to Enloe Dam.

Region 3 – South Central Washington

Closed to fishing:

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

Hoot-owl restrictions:

  • Naches River from Tieton River to Bumping River/Little Naches River
  • Rattlesnake Creek

Region 4 – North Puget Sound

Closed to fishing:

  • Raging River (King Co.) from the mouth upstream.
  • Skykomish River (Snohomish Co.) from the mouth upstream closed to all fishing, except the section around Reiter Ponds remains open from the Gold Bar/Big Eddy Access (Hwy. 2 Bridge) upstream to the confluence of the North and South forks.
  • Wallace River (Snohomish Co.). From the mouth upstream including all tributaries.
  • Stillaguamish River (Skagit/Snohomish Co.) From Marine Drive upstream including the North and South forks and all tributaries.
  • South Fork Nooksack (Whatcom Co.) From the mouth to Skookum Creek, and from Wanlick Creek to headwaters including Wanlick and all tributaries.
  • Suiattle River (Skagit Co.) Tributaries Buck, Downey and Sulpher Creeks.

Hoot-owl restrictions:

  • North Fork Skykomish River (Snohomish Co.) From the mouth upstream including all tributaries.
  • South Fork Skykomish River (Snohomish/King Co.) From Sunset Falls upstream and all tributaries, including the Beckler, Foss, Miller and Rapid rivers and their tributaries.
  • Sauk River (Skagit/Snohomish Co.) Above the Suiattle River including the North Fork to the falls and the South Fork to headwaters.
  • Samish River (Skagit Co.) From I-5 to headwaters, and Friday Creek upstream.

Region 5 – Southwest Washington

Closed to fishing:

  • East Fork Lewis River from Lewisville Park downstream.
  • Washougal River from Mt. Norway Bridge downstream.

Hoot-owl restrictions:

  • East Fork Lewis River from Lewisville Park upstream.
  • Washougal River from Mt. Norway Bridge upstream.

WDFW has also closed fishing for spring chinook on the Grande Ronde River in eastern Washington due to low river flows.

For more information about drought’s impact on fish and wildlife, visit WDFW’s drought webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/drought/.

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