Gill-net Season Today on the Columbia River
by Bill Monroe
The Oregonian, April 7, 2009
From 50 to 75 gill-net boats are expected on the Columbia River today upriver from the Hayden Island power lines (below Interstate 5) to Beacon Rock.
The season approved Monday by Oregon and Washington will last from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Biologists on a telephone conference call laced with bad language and bitterness among netters said they believe (and even hope for) 2,000 to 3,000 salmon will be caught by the net fleet.
The hope is warming water will draw the run upriver toward Bonneville Dam.
One netter who also crabs at the mouth of the Columbia said numerous sea lions are finding scores of salmon west of Astoria and sport catches have been much better in the Kalama area than upriver from I-5 to Portland International Airport.
Biologists said the run is shaping up to be late, probably held off by water temperatures hovering around 41 degrees. They believe, however, their preseason prediction of nearly 300,000 spring chinook entering the Columbia is still relatively accurate.
If the fish don't show up in today's net fishery and this week's sport catches, some serious eyebrow raising is almost certain.
Tribal fishermen above Bonneville, meanwhile, complained about sport catches in the lower river. They said the traditional ceremonial season is about to begin for treaty tribes, but only a dozen salmon have been caught.
Some of the commercial netters commiserated with the tribal concerns and said they could forgo this net fishery to allow more salmon to reach the Bonneville area and cross the dam. One offered to take tribal fishermen aboard his boat to keep the wild fish he might otherwise have to revive and return to the river.
Bad language and tempers flared during the conference telephone call, prompting state officials to consider an in-person Compact meeting Monday morning to discuss more commercial fishing.
The first commercial fishery, on Sunday, March 29, was very poor. Only 370 fish were landed and 302 kept in unseasonably cold water. The netters also ran into heavy weekend boating traffic, prompting officials to return to weekday commercial seasons.
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