Tribal Gill-Netters Get More Fishing Daysby CBB Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - October 15, 2004
Tribal gill-netters on Wednesday began 3 ½ days of fishing on the Columbia River mainstem above Bonneville Dam to cap what has been one of the more prolonged fall seasons in recent memories.
Their chief target of the fishery that ends Saturday evening is fall chinook salmon, though coho salmon, steelhead, shad, walleye and carp can also be caught and marketed. The Columbia River Compact approved the fishery Tuesday. The Compact, made up of Oregon and Washington department of fish and wildlife representatives, sets mainstem commercial fisheries.
The season is coming to a close because that fall chinook run is dwindling and because this week's harvest is expected to nudge the tribes up against an agreed-upon harvest limit on so-called wild "B" steelhead.
The generally larger wild and hatchery B steelhead are bound for Clearwater and Salmon river drainages in Idaho. Snake River, Upper, Middle and Lower Columbia steelhead stocks are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A management agreement forged between Northwest states and four treaty tribes and endorsed by NOAA Fisheries allows the tribes a 15 percent impact on the B run.
Through fisheries that ended Oct. 8 it was estimated tribal fisheries will have exacted a 13.5 percent toll on the wild B steelhead run, as well as a 12.9 percent impact on the upriver bright fall chinook run. Tribes are allowed a 23.04 percent impact on the URBs, a limit intended to protect the ESA-listed Snake River bright stock that is a part of that run.
In the most recent tribal fishery, tribal fishers deployed 199 nets and caught 5,967 chinook and 1,221 total steelhead. The latter catch represented a 1.2 percent impact on the B steelhead.
Both the tribal effort and catch is down as the fall chinook run begins to fade. Daily counts at Bonneville Dam for the week ending Oct. 12 fluctuated but generally decreased from 2,479 to 1,253 on Tuesday. The count slipped to 1,162 Wednesday and 762 on Thursday.
The peak count this year of 34,164 chinook occurred on Sept. 14. Tribal effort peaked during the week ending Sept. 10 with 297 nets. Their peak weekly catches were 26,419 and 36,866 during the weeks ending Sept. 10 and Sept. 17.
Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission biologist Stuart Ellis estimated that the tribal efforts, and impacts on steelhead, would likely be less than those of the previous week. He said that the tribes had not fished this late in the season in recent years but a long-lasting run and relatively strong prices have provided the motivation for one more week of fishing.
The tribes had caught an estimated 123,737 chinook and 13,126 salmon through Oct. 8.
The fall chinook count at Bonneville, including "tules" and Mid-Columbia brights, numbered 571,952 through Tuesday, according to Corps of Engineers counts posted on the Fish Passage Center's web page. The total coho count at Bonneville was 99,016 and the steelhead count was 307,539 through Tuesday.
Chinook, coho and steelhead can be purchased from tribal fishers at points along the Columbia River banks in areas including Marine Park in Cascade Locks; Lone Pine in The Dalles; North Bonneville, a mile east of Bonneville Dam; and Columbia Point in Washington's Tri-Cities area. Limited amounts of walleye and carp also may be available.
Fish will be sold through the weekend.
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