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Fish Seasons Set for Big Spring Run

by Bill Rudolph
NW Fishletter, February 26, 2004

Washington and Oregon fish managers have developed rules to allow sports and commercial fishermen a chance to harvest hatchery spring chinook on the Columbia River while protecting ESA-listed wild stocks in a total run that's expected to be around 500,000 fish, the second largest since 1938. Managers expect sporties and commercials to catch about 10 percent of the run.

But non-Indian fishers will only be allowed to keep chinook marked by a clipped adipose fin, which means it is of hatchery origin. About 70 percent to 80 percent of the hatchery fish are so marked. Sports fishing is open now below the I-5 bridge and managers say they will close it later in the spring after impacts are better understood. Fishing above the bridge all the way to McNary Dam will commence Mar. 16.

With commercial test fishing slated to begin Feb. 22, the fleet was expected get on the water by the 24th if fish show. The early season is designed to harvest more hatchery chinook heading for the Willamette River, to reduce impacts on wild steelhead and conflicts with sporties.

Mesh sizes for some nets have been boosted to between 9 and 9.75 inches to let more steelhead through the gear. Harvest managers have estimated that 40 percent of the wild chinook released from the large-mesh gear later die; the mortality rate for steelhead is pegged at 30 percent. That's why some netters will be using 4.25-inch maximum mesh tangle nets, which are estimated to be about half as lethal for released fish.

With non-Indians allowed just 2 percent of an upriver Columbia run that's expected at about 200,000 fish, sporties will be allocated just over half, at 1.2 percent of the catch, with commercial fishermen getting the rest.

Bill Rudolph
Fish Seasons Set for Big Spring Run
NW Fishletter, February 26, 2004

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