Bonneville Dam Springer Count Better But Still Low,
Sport fishing on the lower Columbia River remains closed as Oregon and Washington fishery managers await a swell of upriver spring chinook salmon that would at least give hope that the preseason forecast return of 141,400 adult fish to the mouth of the river can be achieved.
Meanwhile, pursuit of those same prized fish has begun as of today on one stretch of the lower Snake River in southeast Washington, and another two sections of that river open Sunday
With counts at Bonneville Dam fish ladders lagging, the recreational spring chinook fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam was shut down at the end of the day April 12. Harvest allocations are based on the estimated size of the upriver spring chinook run, which is made up of stocks that are headed for hatcheries and spawning grounds upstream of the hydro project in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Harvests are limited to hold down impacts on wild upper Columbia and Snake river fish that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Generally, the bigger the run the bigger the allowed harvest.
The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee, made up of federal, state and tribal fishery officials, met Monday to review the status of the upriver spring chinook run and determined it was too early to update the upriver run-size and will meet again Monday April 29. State agency staffs will continue to monitor the status of the upriver spring chinook run as it progresses and request hearings as warranted.
The upriver run did take a turn for the better this week with the first three counts of more than 1,000 at Bonneville -- 1,027 on Tuesday, 2,227 on Wednesday and 2,541 on Thursday.
That brings the year's total to 10,205, which is the third lowest through April 25 in the past 11 years.
What that means is hard to judge. The season with the second lowest count (4,845) through April 25 ended with an adult upriver spring chinook count of 167,146. In 2006, only 1,174 fish had passed the dam by April 25, but the final count was 96,458, according to data posted on the Fish Passage Center's web site.
The estimated sport catch in the lower Columbia (downstream of Bonneville) through April 12 is 5,123 kept adult fish (1,203 released). Of that kept chinook catch, 67 percent were of upriver origin with the balance from the Willamette River and other lower Columbia tributaries. The total kept and release mortalities of upriver fish are estimated at 3,539 fish, or 72 percent of the 4,934 available prior to a TAC run update.
The recreational fishery from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Oregon/Washington border opened March 16 and is currently scheduled to close effective May 6. Through April 21, kept and release mortalities of upriver fish are estimated at 65 fish, or 10 percent of the 658 available prior to a run update.
A section of the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam near Pasco, Wash., will open to fishing for spring chinook salmon today, while two other sections of the river near Little Goose Dam and Clarkston, Wash., will open Sunday.
Upriver counts so far are low, with only 741 adult chinook tallied through Thursday at McNary Dam, the fourth dam up the Columbia and the first the fish encounter after the river turns north off the border into Washington. The count at Ice Harbor Dam through Thursday was 477. Ice Harbor is the first dam upstream of the Snake River's confluence with the Columbia.
Each section of the river is scheduled to be open two days per week. The section of the river below Ice Harbor Dam will be open Friday and Saturday each week, while the sections of the river near Little Goose Dam and Clarkston are scheduled to be open Sunday and Monday each week.
All three sections are open until further notice, but the fishery is not expected to remain open for more than a few weeks, said Glen Mendel, district fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The fishery will close when the Snake River harvest allocation is met or allowable impacts on wild stocks reach federal limits, he said.
"With a lower run-size forecast this year for Columbia River spring chinook, we will likely approach those limits sooner rather than later," said Mendel. The pre-season allocation for Snake River and Upper Columbia River fisheries is 363 spring chinook, according to a "fishery update" issued Tuesday by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.
A total of 58,200 spring chinook salmon are expected to enter the Columbia this year on their way to the Snake River basin this year, including 39,300 hatchery fish. Last year's forecast anticipated a return of 168,000 spring chinook, with 129,000 hatchery fish.
The daily catch limit for most of the open areas is one hatchery adult chinook -- marked with a clipped adipose fin - and four hatchery jacks measuring less than 24 inches.
The exception is the area along the south shoreline of the Little Goose Dam (including "the wall") upstream to the juvenile-bypass return pipe, where anglers may retain only one adult hatchery chinook salmon and one hatchery jack per day.
In all areas, anglers are required to use barbless hooks, and must stop fishing for the day when they reach their daily limit of adult chinook salmon. All chinook with an adipose fin, and all steelhead, must immediately be released unharmed.
"Our ability to closely monitor this fishery, as required by federal permit, is due in large part to funds from the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement," said Mendel. "Without the monitoring, we wouldn't be able to open this fishery."
The endorsement, required of all anglers fishing for salmon or steelhead in the Columbia River system (which includes the Snake River), costs $8.75; seniors and youth pay $7.10.
The section of the Snake River scheduled to open April 26 is:
General fishing regulations for the Snake River effective through April 30 are available in the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ ). The new sport fishing rules pamphlet for 2013-14 also is available on that webpage.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission was scheduled to meet Monday to consider proposed recreational fishing seasons for spring chinook salmon on the Clearwater, Salmon and Snake rivers, but that meeting was postponed.
Based on low counts of spring chinook salmon at Bonneville Dam, Idaho Fish and Game biologists lack sufficient information to project the size of the salmon run to Idaho, according to an agency press release. The meeting will be rescheduled when manager have more information about his year's runs size.
If fish counts at Bonneville improve, and it appears that the run is returning late, Fish and Game biologists say that salmon returns to Idaho may be enough to allow at least a limited fishing season.
Sufficient information may be available late next week to make a better assessment of the timing and numbers of salmon returning to Idaho, the press release says.
Idaho Postpones Spring Chinook Season Setting by Staff, Spokesman-Review, April 22, 2013
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