Harvest Managers Await Run Updateby Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, April 19, 2013
2,256 Spring Chinook Cross Bonneville, 31 At Lower Granite
Lower Columbia River spring harvest impacts on protected "upriver" spring chinook salmon are fewer than initially calculated, though not quite enough to allow sport or commercial fishers back on the water until at least next week.
A fishery "update" released Tuesday by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife says that both sport and commercial fisheries are well below early-season catch limits -- 72 percent and 56 percent, respectively -- for upriver spring chinook, but will remain closed.
"Staff is not proposing any hearings at this time; however, test fishing will be conducted on Sunday April 21 and TAC will meet Monday April 22," the update says. "Staff will review new information and provide another update or request a hearing early next week."
". . . both angler catch rates and the proportion of upriver fish in the catcher were less than modeled in preseason," the update says. Likewise the commercial fleet caught fewer fish overall than projected, as well as fewer upriver fish.
The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee plans its first meeting Monday to review status of the upriver spring chinook run and will continue to meet on a weekly basis. Those federal, state and tribal fishery officials estimate salmon return run sizes, including those for upriver chinook, in preseason and produce updates as each return progresses. Typically the upriver spring run-size is first updated when 50 percent of the return is estimated to have passed Bonneville, usually in late April or early May.
The early-season harvest allocations allow a catch of up to 70 percent of the overall allowable catch for the spring season, which runs to June 15. That 30 percent buffer is meant to assure the early catch is kept in check until officials have more certainty about the year's upriver spring chinook run size.
The fish now in-hand from lower river non-tribal sport and commercial fisheries is 4,276 upriver fish, which would represent the full quota on a run-size of 61,100 but is only 43 percent of the 141,400 preseason forecast.
The jury is still out as regards the actual run size. The overall chinook count at Bonneville through Wednesday was 1,994 adult fish, which is more than double last year's count through April 17, and 500 more than the 2011 count through that date. The final spring chinook counts (calculated through May 31) for the past two years were 158,089 and 167,146, according to data posted on the Fish Passage Center's web page. The smallest count through April 17 in the past 10 years was 215 in 2010. The final count that year was 96,458.
A total of 262 adult salmon, which is the biggest daily count so far this year, passed over Bonneville on Thursday to bring 2013 count to 2,256.
A joint state hearing would be needed to reopen the spring chinook fishing season on the lower Columbia, which had been open from Bonneville Dam down to Buoy 10 near the river mouth at the Pacific Ocean. That season was closed at the end of the day March 12 with an estimated catch for the season of 5,123 kept adult chinook (1,203 released) from 75,736 angler trips.
Unmarked fish must be released back into the river. Most hatchery fish are marked with a clipped adipose fin. A large share of the unmarked fish are presumed to be of natural origin and protected under the Endangered Species Act. The upriver spring chinook run, fish bound for hatcheries and spawning grounds upstream of Bonneville, includes Snake River and Upper Columbia stocks that are ESA listed.
Of the chinook kept by anglers, 67 percent were of upriver origin. The season toll on upriver spring chinook (kept catch and release mortalities) is estimated to be 3,539 fish, or 72 percent of the 4,934 available for sport harvest prior to a run update.
A meeting of the Columbia River Compact would be needed to consider any future commercial fisheries.
The only commercial effort this spring on the lower Columbia maistem was a nine-hour period on April 9 that featured a limit of nine adult chinook per vessel. Landings included 982 adult chinook and 6 white sturgeon from 128 deliveries, according to the joint staff update. Of the kept chinook, 67 percent were of upriver origin. Total upriver mortalities (kept plus release) is estimated at 690 fish, or 56 percent of the 1,222 fish available to the commercial fleet prior to a run update.
Winter season Select Area fisheries concluded April 2. Combined landings totaled 638 chinook and 17 white sturgeon during those off-channel fisheries. The catch included an estimated 26 upriver fish (4 percent of the catch). Most Select Area sites were scheduled to re-open for the spring season Thursday.
The recreational fishery from Bonneville Dam to the upstream end of the shared Oregon/Washington border opened March 16 and is currently scheduled to close effective May 6. Kept and released mortalities as of early this week were estimated at 21 adult chinook. Staff will continue to monitor that fishery and may request a joint state hearing in early May if warranted.
Snake River recreational fisheries (Washington waters) do not open until late April. The pre-season allocation for Snake River and Upper Columbia River fisheries is 363 chinook.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is scheduled to meet Monday to consider proposed recreational fishing seasons for spring chinook salmon on the Clearwater, Salmon and Snake rivers. The Clearwater and Salmon feed into the lower Snake, which flows into the Columbia.
The steelhead return to Idaho this year has been below the five-year average, and that may be an indication of what's in store with the chinook run, which is expected to be lower than in recent years, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game says.
The run has started, but until about 30 percent of the run has crossed Bonneville Dam, fishery managers don't have enough information to estimate the return to Idaho and recommend a season. The average time for 30 percent of Idaho's returning hatchery stocks to cross Bonneville is April 19.
Through Thursday, only 31 chinook had made it as far as the lower Snake's Lower Granite Dam. Bonneville is the first hydro project the fish must climb over on their way to Idaho; Lower Granite is the eighth.
This year's preseason forecast was for about 16,800 hatchery chinook to return to Idaho. If they show up as forecast, and after the broodstock for the state's hatcheries is subtracted, that leaves a small number of harvestable fish -- an estimated 7,200 fish to be split between the tribes and recreational anglers.
Managers expect to have enough information by the third week of April to propose spring chinook seasons in the Clearwater, Little Salmon and lower Salmon rivers. By May, they expect to propose season framework for fisheries in the South Fork Salmon and upper Salmon rivers.
According to Idaho fishery managers, there is still a good chance that this year's run will be larger than forecasted. Over the last 30 years, forecasts for smaller runs have shown a tendency to underestimate the actual run size.
Idaho Postpones Spring Chinook Season Setting by Rich Landers, Columbia Basin Bulletin, April 22, 2013
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