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Chinook Fishing Likely Over Next Week

by Allen Thomas
The Columbian, September 8, 2006

Fall chinook salmon fishing in the lower Columbia River is likely to close next week.

Washington and Oregon officials will meet by telephone at 2:30 p.m. Monday with an eye toward ending chinook retention between Tongue Point, Ore., and Bonneville Dam.

Fishing probably will remain open for hatchery coho and hatchery steelhead in the lower Columbia and upstream of Bonneville Dam for chinook.

Sport-fishing effort has been huge in the lower Columbia, with 1,100 boats counted on flights Saturday and Wednesday, said Robin Ehlke of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The large number of anglers combined with good catch rates is eating the sport allocation more quickly than anticipated.

Sportsmen were anticipated to catch 13,800 chinook between Tongue Point and Bonneville. An additional 1,500 chinook not caught at Buoy 10 were transferred to the upriver allocation.

It's still not enough.

By next Friday, the catch is projected to be 15,500, Ehlke said.

Anglers caught 5,000 chinook -- a near record -- in August, and 3,400 in the first five days of September.

"The fishery is pretty hot right now,'' she said. "They are catching about 1,000 per day. The tides are good this weekend, and the effort is likely to hang on.''

John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said bad fishing at Buoy 10 resulted in more trips upstream.

"There was the feeling that Buoy 10 was not worth the trip,'' North said. "People fished in their own backyards instead.''

Sportsmen also are getting better at catching fall chinook by anchoring in deep water, he said.

If Bonneville Dam counts cause the chinook forecast to increase, or catch rates slow this weekend, a closure next week might be avoided.

Stuart Ellis of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission said pre-season forecasts for chinook appear on track.

Steve Watrous of the Columbia Pacific Anglers urged Washington to pressure Oregon to fix "the out-of-control guide problem.'' Oregon has more liberal rules for obtaining a guide license in the lower Columbia than Washington.

He also asked for future sampling to determine the share of the catch going to guided fishing trips.

Ironically, while fishing in the lower Columbia has been good, fishing at Buoy 10, the 16 miles of the Columbia between Tongue Point and the ocean, is terrible.

The catch at Buoy 10 has been only 27 percent of the expectation for fall chinook.

Frances Clark of the Northwest Gillnetters Association urged the states to be careful to avoid sportsmen catching into the commercial allocation.

Allen Thomas
Chinook Fishing Likely Over Next Week
The Columbian, September 8, 2006

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