1995 only minor regulation changes were adopted for Columbia River commercial
and sport smelt fishing seasons. During 1960-1977 commercial smelt fisheries
were open year-round 3½ days per week, except for 1965 and 1966
when the season was expanded to 4½ days per week. Beginning in
1978 the commercial season was expanded to seven days per week. Prior
to 1986 the season was open the entire year but beginning in 1986 the
season was reduced to the December-March time frame to better reflect
the run timing of Columbia River smelt. Prior to 1997 the sport fishery
was open seven days per week the entire year.
River smelt abundance began to decline during the early 1990’s,
fishery managers recognized the need to restrict fisheries to increase
escapement to spawning areas. Lower Columbia River mainstem and tributary
commercial fisheries were greatly reduced beginning in 1995. During 1995
and 1996, commercial fisheries were restricted to fewer fishing days per
week, but the season extended through the end of March. During 1997-2000,
commercial fisheries were further reduced to test fisheries, which ended
in mid to late February. These test fisheries were intended to allow minimal
smelt catch to provide fishery managers with data necessary to assess
the annual run strength and provide an opportunity to sample catch for
biological data. Seasons during these test fisheries were severely restricted
in both days per week fished and duration of the fishing season. Sport
fisheries in Washington tributaries were closed early during 1997-1999
in response to continued poor smelt returns to the Columbia River.
and Washington Joint State's smelt management and stock assessment activities
had included commercial landings accounting, on-board monitoring of commercial
fisheries, sampling of catch for biological data and age structure, and
indexing larval production. The commercial fishery monitoring program
was initiated in 1997 and focused primarily on the lower Columbia River
commercial fishery. Data gathered during catch sampling and fishery monitoring
included daily landings, CPUE, length, weight, sex, and otolith collection
and allowed for analysis of trends in catch by time and area, run timing,
and sex and age composition through time. Otoliths were collected annually
from 1987-1999 with aging data providing a better understanding of the
population dynamics of Columbia River smelt and possible development of
parent/recruit relationships. These data work in conjunction to provide
managers with tools to monitor annual abundance and stock status.
in 1999 the Washington and Oregon Departments of Fish and Wildlife began
work on a Joint State Eulachon Management Plan to guide all aspects of
smelt management for future years. During 1999, WDFW and ODFW developed
an interim Eulachon Management Plan to guide fishery
Click to enlarge.
in the year 2000 because a draft plan had not been completed prior to
adoption of sport and commercial fishing seasons for that year. Fisheries
adopted during 2000 were consistent with the interim Eulachon Management
the WDFW, with input from ODFW, completed a eulachon management plan,
which contains recommended policies concerning smelt fishery management.
These policies are considered wise-use management precepts that are consistent
with the need to maintain an ecosystem approach to resource decisions.
The ecological importance of eulachon is underscored in much of the body
of research in the Northeast Pacific ecosystem and should be the fundamental
consideration when making fishery management decisions affecting the health
of this resource.
Recommendations for Eulachon Conservation and Fishery Management From
the Joint State Eulachon Management Plan
healthy populations of eulachon while assuring the integrity of the
ecosystem and habitat upon which they depend.
actions will consider the role of eulachon in both the marine and
freshwater ecosystems and the need to maintain sufficient populations
of eulachon for proper ecosystem functioning.
- A precautionary
approach to resource management shall be utilized.
the best scientific information available and strive to improve the
information base for eulachon.
commercial and recreational fishing opportunity in the lower Columbia
River, to include opportunities in both mainstem and tributaries for
egg (left) and larvae (right).