GRAYS RIVER - Rough weather over the Veterans Day holiday served as a reminder of coming winter weather conditions - and the winter steelhead fishery often associated with them. Although area anglers continue to reel in good numbers of sturgeon and hatchery coho, many have begun to gear up for the hatchery steelhead season that will run well into the winter months.

"We're getting more calls about the winter run steelhead fishery," said Joe Hymer, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish biologist. "The focus is definitely shifting in that direction."

Fishing for hatchery steelhead is already open on several tributaries to the Lower Columbia River. Grays River opened from the mouth to the Highway 4 Bridge on Nov. 15. While a few winter steelhead have returned to area hatcheries, the fishery doesn't usually get going until around now, Hymer said. Weekly escapement reports can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hat/escape/escape.htm.

"A lot depends on river conditions and the general timing and strength of the run," Hymer said. Most of this year's returning hatchery fish were planted on the Cowlitz, Lewis, Elochoman and Kalama rivers. For information on last year's smolt plants, see (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/harvest/06-07/smolts.htm) on WDFW's Web site. As in past years, anglers must release wild steelhead with an intact adipose fin.

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