OREGON CITY – Anglers may fish for hatchery-reared Columbia River spring chinook salmon downstream of the Interstate 5 bridge at least through April 19 under an agreement reached today by Washington and Oregon fishery managers.
The season, which began Jan. 1, is open seven days per week.
“It’s important to recognize that staff expects the season will last significantly longer than April 19,” said Curt Melcher of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “This is a conservative approach.”
The decision provides for the greatest number of angler days, while protecting fish stocks listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and providing for a commercial fishing season, said Bill Tweit of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). That was the stated intent of both the Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions earlier this month.
With poor returns projected for the second straight year, both states agreed to discuss any additional spring chinook sport-fishing days and areas in mid-April.
Fishery managers can then use catch data and an updated forecast of the run size to determine the course of the fishing season, Tweit said. Biologists predict that 161,400 spring chinook will enter the Columbia River in 2006, with 88,400 destined for tributaries upstream of Bonneville. Last year, 195,400 actually entered the river after biologists predicted a run of more than 400,000 fish.
Concentrating this year’s recreational fishery in the lower river will help protect wild fish destined for rivers upstream of Bonneville Dam while helping to extend the fishing season, Tweit said.
“Handling mortality for wild upriver fish is the primary constraint on the spring chinook fishery,” he said. “By focusing the fishery on the lower river – where hatchery fish from several runs predominate – we can extend the fishing season.”
Rules in effect for spring chinook fisheries on the Columbia River require anglers and commercial fishers to release any wild salmon or steelhead they intercept. Mortality rates for released wild chinook – also known as “allowable impact” – cannot exceed 2 percent of the wild run, under federal ESA guidelines.
In recent years, actual mortality rates have been well below the ESA limit, said Tweit, noting that both states have been managing the sport and commercial fisheries early in the year as if the allowable impact were 1.5 percent. More fishing days will be added if the run size comes in as predicted, he said.
In addition to establishing rules for the spring chinook season, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon reconciled the two states’ policies establishing how the allowable incidental mortality rate will be apportioned between recreational and commercial fisheries.
Earlier this month, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to allocate 60 percent of the allowable mortality rate to the sport fishery and 40 percent to the commercial fishery – the policy in effect for the previous two years. A week earlier, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to allocate 55 percent of incidental wild chinook mortalities to the sport fishery and 45 percent to the commercial fleet, allowing a 5 percent shift in either direction.
Under the authority provided by both commissions, fish and wildlife directors for both states agreed to allocate 57 percent of the allowable mortality to the sport fishery and 43 percent to the commercial fishery. With the approved season structure, biologists predict that sport anglers will harvest at least 30,900 hatchery-reared spring chinook in the Columbia River and tributaries and commercial boats will harvest at least 6,700 hatchery chinook in the Columbia River and lower river bays (“select areas”). Commercial fishing seasons will not be established until late February.
The rules adopted Thursday allow anglers to fish for adipose fin-clipped chinook, adipose fin-clipped steelhead and shad from now through April 19 seven days a week from the Columbia River mouth upstream to the Interstate 5 bridge.
In addition, the area from the Tower Island power lines upstream to McNary Dam plus the Oregon bank between Bonneville Dam and the Tower Island power lines will be open March 16 – April 30. Washington anglers may retain two adult salmon and two adult steelhead per day. Oregon anglers may retain two adult salmon or steelhead per day.
In other action, the two states:
- Agreed to expand the sturgeon spawning sanctuary below Bonneville Dam from the current five miles to seven miles in length to give additional protection to the fish. As a result from May 1 to July 31 angling for sturgeon will be prohibited from Marker 85 to Bonneville Dam;
- Added fishing periods to a non-Indian commercial sturgeon fishery in the Columbia River;
- Adopted a non-Indian commercial salmon fishing plan and gear regulations;
- Adopted a commercial shad fishing season;
- Established a Treaty Indian gillnet fishery for sturgeon; and
- Established commercial fishing seasons for spring chinook in bays (“select areas”) located in the lower Columbia River.