Washington Proposes Fishery
by Bill Rudolph
Increasing returns of hatchery fall chinook to the lower Snake River have led the state of Washington to propose a recreational fishery on salmon raised at Lyons Ferry hatchery, where some fish are grown and transported to Idaho to supplement the wild stock listed under the Endangered Species Act.
"The numbers have increased pretty dramatically," said WDFW biologist Glen Mendel, " Our agency has put together a proposal for a jack-retention fishery for fall chinook on the Snake as a supplement to the steelhead fishery that already exists... and we are trying to promote an adult fall chinook fishery in 2004 or 2005 in the Snake River."
Jacks are sexually precocious males that return to their home waters only one year after release, a year earlier than most of the run. Since some fall chinook at the Lyons Ferry hatchery are held at the facility over the winter before release to increase survival rates, they are much larger than wild juveniles that migrate to sea just a few months after they emerge from eggs. These larger juveniles sometimes return in the same year they are released (they're called mini-jacks), never even reaching the ocean. Others over-winter in reservoirs before they go to sea.
The proposal would allow recreational fishers to keep hatchery marked jacks 12 inches to 24 inches long. Mendel said the proposed fishery would catch a few more wild fall chinook, which would have to be released. The estimated mortality from releasing the fish is either 5 or 10 percent, depending on the month.
Mendel said the proposal has made waves up the coast to Alaska , where harvesters have had their catch reduced because of impacts on ESA-listed Snake River fall chinook.
Mendel said the fish returns [including jacks] have averaged about 5,000 a year "for the last couple of decades" to over 20,000 fish since 2000. He thought the numbers would keep increasing unless there was a dramatic change in ocean conditions or reductions in juvenile fish survival to the ocean.
Changes in ocean and Columbia River fisheries and river management have helped boost the hatchery returns as well, Mendel said.
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