I have just returned from three days fishing the Methow River with a group. We used guides for two days. There was a lot of talk, even among some of the guides, regarding seemingly conflicting rules for the upcoming steelhead season on the Methow. The Washington Fish and Game has said that it will be very important for anglers to keep hatchery steelhead caught on the Methow this year. It is likely they will increase the limit from 2 to 4 fish. Moreover they have said that if we anglers, as a group, do not keep hatchery steelhead the Methow will likely be closed to all steelhead fishing in future years. On their face, these policies seem to be inconsistent. So, when we got off the river yesterday a Fish and Game guy came by our group to check with the guides on how our fishing day went. When he has free I asked him about the seemingly confliction positions regarding hatchery steelhead. Here is what the Fish and Game guy said: • Wild Methow River steelhead are on the endangered species list • Control over management of the wild steelhead rests with NOAA • The state must apply to NOAA to get a permit to open the river to steelhead fishing. • There is ample scientific evidence that the release of hatchery fingerlings is a great benefit to the survival rate of wild fingerlings when the fish migrate together down the river to the ocean, because hatchery fish are more vulnerable than wild fish to various predators. In short, hatchery fish are sacrificed to protect wild fish on their run down the river. • But, it is not good policy to have a large return of mature hatchery fish. • NOAA could remove the returning hatchery fish at dams below the Methow and not allow a fishing season. • But the state has asked NOAA to open the river to a steelhead season -- but the permit request is based upon the responsibility of anglers to remove the unwanted excess hatchery steelhead population. • As a group, if we anglers do not remove enough hatchery fish this season, in future seasons NOAA will do it for us at the dams and they will deny the state a permit to open a steelhead season on the Methow. In my experience, most of us fly fishing anglers practice catch and release. At our core, we generally believe it is best to release what we catch. Fair warning. We will need to act contrary to our natural instincts on the Methow during the upcoming steelhead season. We need, in our own interest, to help the state remove hatchery steelhead to protect the wild run and to preserve our right to fish steelhead on the Methow in future years. I am no expert regarding these matters. I decided to make this post based upon the general confusion expressed by those in my group some of whom have a lot of experience in fishery management matters. Clearly the reasoning behind the policies of the Fish and Game were not clearly understood by most of those in my group. . I encourage those who know more than I to correct any errors I may have made and to expand this thread.