Lower Chehalis to open for fishing today (Aug. 1)

Extended closure was meant to protect spring chinook.

The lower Chehalis River will open for fishing Aug. 1 from the U.S. Highway 101 Bridge in Aberdeen to the South Elma Bridge at Wakefield Road, according to a statement from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The entire river has been closed to fishing as an emergency measure to protect the run of spring chinook salmon.

Upriver from the South Elma Bridge, staggered openings on the mainstem Chehalis and the Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers will be implemented.

“Staggered openings are necessary to protect spring Chinook returning to the Chehalis system,” read the Fish and Wildlife statement. “The abundance of spring Chinook is far below the escapement goal of 1,400 fish. As returning fish move farther upstream, it is possible to begin opening lower sections to angling while upstream and tributary closures achieve conservation objectives by protecting staging spring Chinook from fishing pressure.”

The statement notes currently closed sections of the upper Chehalis and tributaries will reopen under permanent rules as described in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet on the following dates:

Chehalis River, from South Elma Bridge (Wakefield Road) to Black River, including all channels, sloughs, and interconnected waterways, Sept. 16.

Chehalis River, from Black River upstream, Oct. 1.

Chehalis River, South Fork, Oct. 1.

Newaukum River, including South Fork and North Fork, Oct. 16.

Skookumchuck River, Oct. 16.

The Chehalis River was closed to all fishing in May via a Fish and Wildlife emergency rule change to protect the low numbers of spring chinook expected this year. The initial emergency closure was to run through the end of June but was extended July 2 “until further notice” due to low stream flows, which the state said increased the vulnerability of spring chinook staging in the river system.

Anglers should frequently check for emergency rule changes prior to fishing. Rule changes can be found online at fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/, or by calling the fishing hotline at 360-902-2500.