Columbia River's Spring Chinook
by Scott Learn
A weaker-than-expected run of spring chinook salmon on the Columbia River is prompting fish managers to postpone the opening of summer steelhead fishing to prevent incidental catch of chinook listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Fish managers originally predicted that the spring chinook run would hit nearly 300,000 on the Columbia, a near record return of hatchery and wild fish. But this week, they downgraded the estimate to 120,000 to 150,000 fish.
With the lower forecast, spring fisheries that have already taken place have exceeded ESA limits on the taking of wild spring chinook destined for the upper Columbia or Snake rivers, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said. Those runs are listed as threatened or endangered under the federal act.
Today, fishery managers from Oregon and Washington postponed the opening of summer steelhead and jack chinook season from Tongue Point upstream to the I-5 Bridge on the Columbia River, which typically opens May 16 under permanent rules.
The summer steelhead season will open no later than June 16, which marks the end of the spring management season for chinook salmon, ODFW said.
In the meantime, managers will continue to monitor passage of spring chinook at Bonneville Dam to determine whether they can safely open the fishery before June 16. When the steelhead fishery does open, angling for jack chinook and sockeye will also be allowed.
Fishery managers left in place the recreational shad fishing season that opens May 16 from Buoy 10 at the mouth of the Columbia to Bonneville Dam, because of the low incidental catch of chinook in this fishery.
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