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Buoy 10 Chinook Fishing to Close Monday

by Cassandra Profita
The Daily Astorian, August 22, 2008

Fishing for fin-clipped coho and steelhead to remain open

Starting Monday, anglers will have to release any chinook salmon they catch in the Buoy 10 fishery near the mouth of the Columbia River.

The Columbia River Compact agencies of Oregon and Washington voted Thursday to close the popular sport fishery to chinook retention a week earlier than planned.

The decision came in response to high catch rates in the fishery last weekend, when one in every two anglers caught a chinook and the catch totaled about 1,000 chinook per day. The high catch rates put the fishery at risk of exceeding the 6,500 season limit for chinook retention before Sept. 2.

"We really haven't seen catch rates like these at Buoy 10 since the late 1980s," said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, noting that some chinook caught in recent weeks have weighed nearly 50 pounds. "We have to make sure we leave enough harvestable chinook for sport fisheries further upriver."

The Buoy 10 fishery will remain open to fin-clipped, or hatchery-reared, coho and steelhead with a retention limit of two fish.

The early chinook closure will deal a blow to anglers who had planned on fishing Buoy 10 over Labor Day weekend, often the busiest weekend of the fishery. Chinook salmon are highly prized by anglers because they tend to be bigger than coho salmon and fight harder when caught.

Every year, sportfishing boats fill the Columbia River estuary for the Buoy 10 fishery, which is timed around the fall salmon runs. The fishery is open for 16 miles from Buoy 10 near the mouth of the Columbia River to Tongue Point.

This year isn't the first time the chinook portion of the Buoy 10 fishery has been abbreviated. To protect several wild runs of chinook salmon that are protected under the Endangered Species Act and to allow enough hatchery chinook for other fisheries upriver, Buoy 10 has strict limits on chinook catch. Managers aim to keep chinook fishing open from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1, but some years there's not enough fish to go around. Last year, Buoy 10 anglers only had 12 days to catch chinook.

By Monday, fishery managers estimate that anglers will have caught approximately 5,900 chinook salmon in that area - somewhat short of the total chinook allocation of 6,500 fish for the season. But managers decided to close the fishery Monday because they expect the catch of protected upriver bright chinook will meet or exceed the 1,250-fish target for that stock, LeFleur said.

"Data from coded-wire tags indicates the concentration of upriver bright chinook in the catch is much higher than expected," she said. "That's significant, because a portion of that stock is made up of federally protected chinook bound for the Snake River, and we need to minimize interception of those fish."

Anglers will have another chance to catch chinook salmon on the mainstem Columbia starting Sept. 1, when waters upriver from Tongue Point (Rocky Point on the Washington side) to Bonneville Dam open for chinook retention.

"If the Buoy 10 fishery is any indication, fishing should be great," LeFleur said. "With this rain we've been having, we should see a lot more fish move into the river between now and then."

Anglers planning to fish waters opening Sept. 1 on the Columbia River should be aware of an eight-mile area near the mouth of the Lewis River that will remain closed to chinook retention this year, LeFleur said.

* Information about that closure and other fishing rules is included in WDFW's Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet, available online.

Cassandra Profita
Buoy 10 Chinook Fishing to Close Monday
The Daily Astorian, August 22, 2008

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