Late Summer Sport Fishing Closure at Youngs Bay Mouth
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife last week announced the proposed boundaries and time period for a closure of the area at the mouth of the Youngs Bay at Astoria, Ore., to sport catch of salmon during the late summer 2014 salmon season.
The proposal is part of an effort to phase out the use of non-selective gill nets in non-tribal commercial fisheries in the mainstem Columbia River and transition gill net use to off-channel areas where the vast majority of the catch will be hatchery fish.
The proposed closure, along with several other changes to fisheries management, emerged during the 2012-2013 process to restructure sport and commercial fisheries on the Columbia River. The proposal is similar to one considered, but not approved, by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in December 2012.
While the Commission did not adopt the closure at that time, the 2013 Oregon Legislature included a closure in Senate Bill 830, which made statutory modifications necessary to implement the fishery changes.
The Oregon Legislature in SB 830 directs the Commission, as part of the rules related to Columbia River fisheries reform to "establish a zone at the mouth of Youngs Bay in which recreational fishing, including recreational fishing taking place with guide boats, is prohibited in order to reduce interception of hatchery fish returning to the off-channel commercial fishery in Youngs Bay."
ODFW staff met with the Columbia River Commercial Fishery Advisory Group and Columbia River Recreational Fishery Advisory Group in December to discuss the legislation and solicit input regarding establishment of the zone. The Commission will be asked to consider rules establishing the zone at its February 2014 meeting.
The closure is intended to increase the number of hatchery fish returning to the Youngs Bay off-channel area on the lower Columbia River by reducing the number of fish intercepted by sport anglers. The proposal would establish a no-sport-fishing zone outside the Highway 101 bridge, which is the outward boundary for commercial fishing during scheduled "select area" seasons in Youngs Bay.
The "control zone" proposed by ODFW staff would prohibit sport fishing from Aug. 1 through Sept. 15 in the area between the Highway 101 bridge and a new boundary line that stretches from the Warrenton Fiber dock east to the Astoria-Megler bridge, which spans the Columbia between Oregon and Washington. The new control zone would essentially push sport fishers out of the bay and into the mainstem Columbia.
A map of the area is on the ODFW website.
The area would be closed to angling during a period when mostly fall chinook and coho salmon are returning to Youngs Bay. The returns are for the most part hatchery fish that were reared for a few months in net pens in Youngs Bay before their release as juveniles. Most of those salmon that survive to maturity in the Pacific Ocean home in on Youngs Bay upon their return to the Columbia River system.
Typically most of the fish caught by gill-netters in Youngs Bay takes place in the late summer-early fall season. In 2013 a total of 14,075 chinook and 15,409 coho were caught in the Youngs Bay select area between July 1 and Oct. 31. The spring-summer harvest there was about 4,600 chinook.
Anglers have been protesting the proposal, but the law requires that something be done so more fish reach the commercial fishers' nets.
"There's a statute that says we have to do it," said Chris Kern, acting ODFW deputy director for Columbia and marine fisheries programs. Negotiable still is the size of the restricted area, and timing of the restrictions.
The closure area will be considered by the Commission at its Feb. 7 meeting in Salem. In the meantime, comment on the proposal can be sent to ODFW.Commission@state.or.us.
The new lower Columbia fishery management strategy adopted by the state for steelhead, salmon and sturgeon, prioritize recreational fisheries in the mainstem and commercial fisheries in off-channel areas, called select areas, in the estuary. A similar package of rules was adopted a year ago by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The idea, according to ODFW, is to:
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