HOOK AND FUR By Bob Brown Effective Jan. 1, barbless hooks are required when fishing for salmon, steelhead and cutthroat in the Columbia River from it's mouth (including the north jetty) upstream to the state border with Oregon, 17 miles upstream from McNary Dam. Under the new rules, anglers may use single-point, double-point, or treble hooks in those waters, so long as any barbs have been filed off or pinched down. Fish managers said the immediate need for the rule is to make Washington's fish regulations consistent with those in Oregon, where it's fish and wildlife commission recently approved a broad-based measure that prohibits Oregonian license holders from using barbed hooks on the Columbia River starting Jan. 1. "Fisheries can be difficult to manage under two different sets of rules", said Guy Norman, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) southwest region director. "The two states have worked together for nearly a hundred years to maintain regulatory consistency on the river that serves as a common boundary." For the past couple of months, both states have been discussing a ban on barbed hooks as part of a broad-based policy to restructure Columbia River fisheries to promote the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead. As a conservation tool, barbless hooks are easier to remove than barbed hooks, reducing the likelihood of killing or injuring fish, Norman said. Sport sturgeon retention season opened Jan. 1, seven days a week in the Columbia River and its tributaries from Bonneville Pool upstream to The Dalles Dam (Bonneville Reservoir). The season will close Feb. 11. Fishery managers determined closing the winter-period white sturgeon retention season Feb. 11 will reserve about 850 fish for a summer retention season. The spawning sanctuaries from the Highway 395/I-82 Bridge upstream to McNary Dam and from the Rufus grain elevator upstream to John Day Dam will be closed to all sturgeon fishing May 1 through July 31. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to take action on a new draft policy during a public meeting Jan. 12 in Olympia that phases out the use of gillnets by non-tribal fishers in the main stem Columbia River by 2017. Review of the draft policy is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission. Hatchery winter steelhead returns to the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers to date are not as good as they were compared to the same time last year. Returns are better in the Kalama River. Here's how they fared the past two years: Cowlitz 490 in 2011, 1,067 in 2012; Kalama 124 and 30, respectively; and Lewis 241 and 557. A final note: State fishery managers have announced a tentative schedule for razor clam digs in January and February if marine toxin tests confirm the clams are safe to eat. In January clam digs are scheduled 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 25, 26 and 27. In February, digs are scheduled 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 23 and 24. Ocean beaches open for digging on those dates can be found on the WDFW's website.