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Reduced Catch Allows Sport Fishery Extended to Mid-May

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - May 9, 2003

A thinning stream of migrating upriver fall chinook salmon, and resulting reduced catch rate, has allowed Oregon and Washington officials to extend the lower Columbia River mainstem sport fishery to a hoped for mid-May date.

The fishery for hatchery spring chinook in the Columbia River from Buoy 10 to the Interstate 5 Bridge at Portland resumed this past Wednesday and runs through Saturday, then reopens for a May 14 and 15 finale. The hatchery chinook fishery in the Dalles and John Day Pools and in the upper end of Bonneville Pool is on the same schedule.

Beginning May 16 at 12:01 a.m., these areas will close to spring chinook fishing as previously scheduled. The area from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to the Interstate 5 Bridge will be open daily for hatchery steelhead beginning May 16. Hatchery chinook jacks (less than 24 inches) may also be retained in this area but no other salmon. All other mainstem areas will be closed to the taking of all salmon and steelhead. Shad fishing from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream will also open daily beginning May 16.

Recreational fishing opportunity for adult summer chinook in the lower Columbia River is expected to begin sometime in June, and will be announced at a later date.

Sport fishing for returning fin-clipped, hatchery spring chinook opened in the lower river -- from the I-5 bridge at Portland to the mouth, on Jan. 1 and in the mainstem above I-5 on Feb. 15. But fishing did not really heat up until March.

Due to large catches during late March, Oregon and Washington fishery officials were forced to reduce the season, beginning April 6, from seven to four days per week. Those early catches included far too many "upriver" spring chinook bound for hatcheries and spawning grounds above Bonneville Dam. Impacts on the upriver run are limited because they include Snake River and Upper Columbia stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act.

A management agreement allows non-tribal fisher a 2 percent impact on the upriver run that is split with commercial fishers allowed a 0.59 percent impact and sport fishers allowed a 1.11 percent impact. The balance. 0.30 is intended to allow a management buffer, as well as mete out a sliver of the impacts to sport fisheries above Bonneville (one ongoing on the lower Snake River) and to commercial "select area" fisheries near the Columbia's mouth.

As of Monday more than 152,000 angler trips have resulted in a catch of 17,000 hatchery spring chinook in the Columbia mainstem fishery. Of those 16,000 had been caught below Bonneville. Fisheries officials expect about 900 more adult spring chinook to be caught during the final six days of mainstem fishing, bringing their upriver impact to 0.94 percent or 85 percent of the sport allocation.

The sport anglers caught a total of 24,760 chinook and released more than 8,000 mostly unmarked fish. The catch was comprised of 63 percent upriver fish with the balance from Oregon's Willamette River and such other locales as the Lewis and Kalama rivers in southeast Washington.

The effort remained high during the first three days in May with 7,400 angler trips to the lower mainstem but the catch rate had slowed. The anglers caught 1,190 chinook during the period. Or 6.3 trips per fish. The April catch (which includes both kept and released fish) was 14,348 chinook during 68,800 trips or 4.8 trips per fish.

The mainstem commercial season started and ended quickly with only three days of fishing before impact limits forced closure. The gill net fleet fished Feb. 17 and 19 and again on March 21, netting 5,667 chinook. But since 74 percent of those fish -- 3,173 -- were upriver fish the impact limit was breached. The catch amounts to an upriver impact of 0.668 percent of the overall estimated upriver run -- 193,000 adults entering the Columbia River's mouth. That impact is 114 percent of the commercial fleet's mainstem allocation.

The commercial fleet had hoped to catch as many as 17,000 hatchery fish from the Willamette River but an unanticipated early run arrival of the upriver run foiled those plans and forced the mainstem closure.

The 0.30 impacts allowed as a management buffer are also expected to be absorbed, largely by the select areas fisheries. It is expected that the select area gill netting will produce a 0.21 percent upriver impact. The anticipated catch is nearly 12,000 spring chinook in the select areas by June 13 -- the vast majority of which are hatchery produced fish that were released as juveniles from net pens at Deep River, Youngs Bay, Tongue Point and Blind Slough.

Fishery officials estimate that the total non-Indian impacts will total 1.82 percent.

The lower Columbia River treaty tribes are allowed a 9 percent upriver impact this year under the terms of the management agreement. The allowed impacts and allocations shift somewhat depending on the anticipated run size.

That means the tribes could catch as many as 17,400 adult spring chinook, Cindy LeFleur of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife told the Columbia River Compact Monday. The Compact is made up of Bill Tweit and Steve King, delegates of the WDFW and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife directors, respectively. The Compact sets mainstem commercial season.

The tribes has issued ceremonial permits to tribal members that total 6,000 fish and caught 5,900 chinook during a recent 2 -day commercial fishery. About 1,750 salmon have also been caught in tribal platform and hook and line fisheries and another 850 were netted during winter fisheries.

"They are pretty far along in their allocation," LeFleur said.

The spring chinook run, which normally peaks in late April or early May, also appears to be quite far along. The count through Wednesday at Bonneville Dam included 154,382 adult chinook. The most recent forecast predicts that 180,000 chinook will reach Bonneville out of the 193,000 that enter the river. Passing fish are counted at Bonneville as spring chinook through May 31. After that they are categorized as summer chinook.

Daily counts were all less than 2,000 fish this Monday through Wednesday. The peak daily count this year was 7,996 on April 15. So far 35,395 spring chinook have reached Lower Granite Dam, they eighth and final hydrosystem hurdle they pass before reaching Idaho hatcheries and tributaries to the Snake River. The count through Wednesday was 12,818 at the mid-Columbia's Priest Rapids Dam.

Related Sites:

Reduced Catch Allows Sport Fishery Extended to Mid-May
Columbia Basin Bulletin, May 9, 2003

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