by Allen Thomas, Columbian staff writer
Anglers must release fall chinook salmon in the lower Columbia River beginning Oct. 1, Washington and Oregon fishery managers decided Monday.
The ban on chinook retention will apply between Rocky Point in Washington and Tongue Point in Oregon upstream to Bonneville Dam. Anglers will be permitted to keep fin-clipped coho and fin-clipped steelhead after the chinook closure.
Chinook retention already is closed downstream of the Rocky Point-Tongue Point line. Chinook retention will not close upstream of Bonneville Dam, where the catch is very small.
Chinook retention was scheduled to close beginning Friday, but anglers got another week due to an upgrade in the forecast of upriver bright fall chinook by state and tribal biologists.
The overall fall chinook run now is projected to be 723,000, said Cindy LeFleur of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Of that total, 430,000 are the prized bright stocks heading for streams and hatcheries upstream of Bonneville Dam.
Fall salmon management is a complicated balancing act of splitting the harvest between tribal and non-Indian fishermen, then between non-Indian sport and commercial fishermen and even between sportsmen in different stretches of the Columbia.
Wild Snake River fall chinook salmon are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. An agreement between Washington, Oregon, the tribes and the federal government caps the harvest of the upriver bright stock of fall chinook at 31.29 percent to protect those wild Snake River fish.
That 31.29 percent is split 8.25 percent for non-Indians downstream of Bonneville Dam and 23.04 percent for the treaty tribes in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools.
The non-Indian share of 8.25 percent is split 52 percent for the sports fishery and 48 percent for the commercials.
Sportsmen are projected to have caught about 15,400 fall chinook through Thursday, with another 600 anticipated to be landed in the final week of sport fishing, said Curt Melcher of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Both the number of anglers and their success rate is dwindling in the lower Columbia as the peak of the run has passed Bonneville Dam on its way upstream.
Commercial fishermen netted Sunday night and landed an estimated 7,000 fall chinook. Additional gillnetting periods are scheduled today and Thursday.
Netting by treaty Indian fishermen in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools of the mid-Columbia River is scheduled through 6 p.m. Friday.
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