Fishing Begins on Expectedby CBB Staff
The turning of the calendar page means that sport boats will be bobbing at the Columbia River mouth's Buoy 10 in pursuit of coho and fall chinook salmon and that gill nets will soon be deployed in the lower mainstem with a fresh harvest allotment to fill. Beginning Aug. 1, the Buoy 10 and Columbia mainstem sport fishing seasons open on what is expected to be the fifth largest Columbia River fall chinook return since 1948. The anticipated adult return to the river is 634,900 fall chinook. Last year's return was the best since 1948, 893,200.
The Columbia River Compact on Thursday approved the first set of fishing dates for the non-tribal commercial fishing fleet. Gill-netters will fish the waters from the mouth to Bonneville Dam from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Aug. 3-4, 5-6, 8-9, 10-11 and 12-13. The anticipated early August catch is as many as 12,000 fall chinook and an estimated 100 coho. The fishers are also allowed to keep and sell as many as five sturgeon per week.
The early August harvest is expected to have "minimal impacts to upriver brights," Cindy LeFleur of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife told the Compact. The two member panel was composed Wednesday of Neal Coenen and Bill Tweit, respectively representatives of the directors of the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife. The Compact sets mainstem commercial fishing seasons.
The "upriver brights" are the primary limiting factor on the late summer/fall mainstem fisheries. The states and treaty fishing tribes have agreed to limit harvest of the brights to 31.29 percent. That measure is intended to protect the wild Snake River portion of the run, which is listed as threatened under the endangered Species Act.
The impacts are split with tribal fisheries allowed 23.04 percent and non-Indian fisheries allowed 8.25 percent. The non-Indian impacts on the upriver bright run are further split with sport fishers allowed 52 percent and the commercial fishers allowed 48 percent.
The estimated upriver bright return is 287,000, which would be the third largest since 1988. The vast majority are wild fish are bound for the mid-Columbia's Hanford Reach with smaller components headed for the Deschutes, Snake and Yakima rivers. The listed "wild" Snake River return is expected to be about 6,100, similar to the recent five-year average.
The preseason forecast put together by the Technical Advisory Committee predicts that the Mid-Columbia bright return will number 88,800, smaller than last year's 150,200 count but the fourth largest since 1980.
The first to return to the river normally are so-called tule fall chinook. The anticipated tule return is 229,000 fish -- 150,000 Bonneville pool hatchery and 79,000 lower river hatchery fall chinook.
Most of the early August fishery will be tules, "which should be more marketable early on," LeFleur said. The tules condition deteriorates rapidly later in the season.
The predicted coho return to the Columbia is not as rosy at 257,500. That's less than half of 2003's return of 694,800 and only 40 percent of the recent five-year average.
The upriver summer steelhead return is expected to total 388,100, the third largest since 1984.
The upriver run chinook run hit an apparent low ebb Tuesday with a count of only 150 fish passing Bonneville. Wednesday's and Thursday's counts climbed to 255 and 477. The summer chinook run peaked with a couple daily counts of more than 8,000 during the third week of June. As the "fall" chinook arrive in-river the counts should begin to build. Chinook are officially counted as "summer" chinook through July 31.
ODFW and WDFW staff predict that the non-Indian fall chinook catch in the mainstem this year could number as many as 83,00 -- 37,000 by the sport fishers and 46,700 by gill-netters. The allowable catch could fluctuate up or down as the run forecasts are updated in-season.
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