Tribes get Another Shot at Big Chinook Runby Jonathan Brinckman
The Oregonian, April 24, 2001
The commercial gill-netting season will reopen Thursday
after the largest tribal catch of the prized salmon in 29 years
The Columbia River tribal commercial gill-net fishing season will reopen Thursday because returns of upriver spring chinook are exceeding already high expectations.
A decision to reopen the gill-net fishery was made Friday after tribal fishers had pulled 17,000 spring chinook from the Columbia River during a 60-hour commercial season that ended Thursday. Altogether, 25,510 spring chinook had been caught by Friday in the tribal commercial, sustenance and ceremonial fisheries, the largest tribal harvest of the river's most-prized salmon in 29 years.
"It's overwhelming," said Charles Hudson, a spokesman for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, which represents four Columbia River tribes with treaty rights to salmon. "People have been waiting a long time for this." In 1972, the tribes caught about 60,000 spring chinook.
State, federal and tribal biologists have raised their official forecast for the upriver spring chinook run from 364,600 fish to 417,000 fish. That would be the biggest run since record-keeping began, in 1938, though most now are hatchery-born rather than wild.
Last year, 178,600 upriver spring chinook -- spring chinook that spawn east of Bonneville Dam -- entered the Columbia River, and tribes had their first commercial spring chinook season in 23 years. Fewer than 2,000 fish were caught, however, and one tribe, the Nez Perce, did not participate.
The Columbia River Compact, an agency of Oregon and Washington officials, also voted Friday to allow tribal fishers to sell salmon and steelhead caught by hook and line or hoop net through the end of next month.
The compact voted to reopen the Columbia River sport fishery from Wednesday through Sunday. The sport fishery had closed last week. Sport fishers are allowed to keep a total of two hatchery-born chinook and steelhead a day, identified by a missing adipose fin.
About half of the tribal harvest is being sold to wholesale buyers. Tribal members will continue to sell salmon directly to the public all week and over the weekend, Hudson said. Salmon caught during open seasons can be sold at any time.
Tribal members sell salmon at boat landings on the Oregon and Washington sides of the Columbia from Bonneville Dam to Boardman. Prices are $2 to $3 a pound. A map of sales sites is on the tribal fishery commission's home page: www.critfc.org/text/00marketinfo.html.
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