Larger Cut of Chinook
by Bill Monroe, Staff Writer
SALEM -- After an eight-hour, lunch-less meeting Friday, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission decided to give more Columbia River spring chinook salmon to the commercial gill-net fleet.
Commission members voted 4-3 to split the harvestable number of hatchery salmon below Bonneville Dam this spring 55 percent to 45 percent between sport and commercial fishing. Last year, the split was 60 percent to 40 percent in favor of sportfishing.
The decision sets the stage for Oregon's portion of a Jan. 26 meeting in Oregon City involving the state and Washington that will decide spring seasons. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will decide that state's policy next Saturday in Olympia.
The two states are charged with setting joint-state fishing rules where they share borders along the Columbia. More than 200 sport and commercial fishermen and women overflowed the commission meeting room in the Department of Fish and Wildlife building as the spring chinook issue began at 9 a.m. Friday.
Commissioners listened to testimony until nearly 4 p.m. before taking a brief recess then debating their decision until 5.
More than half the crowd signed up to give testimony in three-minute presentations. Commissioners rose only to get snacks and take brief individual bathroom breaks.
Curt Melcher, harvest manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said this year's predicted upriver Columbia run of 88,000 salmon will allow the sides to split between 15,000 and 17,000 hatchery salmon, depending upon the prediction's accuracy. Last year's run was about half of the predicted amount.
"The commission wanted to give some stability to sportfishing," said Melcher, adding that, assuming the run meets predictions, combinations of partial-week closures and bag-limit adjustments should allow sportfishing in the Columbia through April.
Willamette River sportfishing will occur seven days a week for hatchery salmon and was not at issue Friday.
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