OLYMPIA -- With 1.1 million coho, predominantly of hatchery origin, forecast to return to the Columbia River and the fall chinook return expected to surpass last year's, Columbia River fisheries scheduled to open Aug. 1 should be good this year.
While the fall chinook run is expected to be slightly higher this year than last with 300,000 fish anticipated to return to the Columbia and its tributaries, the hatchery coho return is forecast to be the best since 1986. Scientists attribute the increased fall return in part to good ocean conditions, including cool temperatures and plenty of food, which both contribute to salmon survival during their ocean phase.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Jeff Koenings said the high return rate will allow the Department to not only meet its natural spawning and hatchery eggs needs, but substantially increase fishing opportunity.
"We're very pleased to see this large return to the Columbia," Koenings said. "After a number of years of enduring incredibly harsh restrictions on fisheries, the high number of fish returning this year will provide plenty of opportunities for families to once again enjoy being on the water fishing."
Because the fish are mostly of hatchery origin, WDFW is able to provide additional opportunity through increased bag limits in the selective fisheries on coho. Selective fishing refers to the rule that requires anglers to retain only those coho with a clipped adipose fin, indicating the fish came from a hatchery.
"Just like the fisheries underway on the ocean and in Puget Sound, it will be extremely important for fishers to abide by selective fishing rules and return any wild fish caught to the water unharmed," Koenings said.
"This year's unusually large returning run should provide an excellent opportunity for families to teach youngsters how to fish selectively to protect wild fish for the future."
More information about selective fishing methods is available on the WDFW website.
Last year's Columbia River fall salmon return resulted in 61,000 angler trips at Buoy 10 for the season. Above the Megler-Astoria bridge, the fall season had a record 80,700 angler trips.
The Buoy 10 fishery will extend from the mouth of the river, upstream to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line, just above the Megler-Astoria bridge. The season will begin with a daily limit of two salmon, only one of which may be a chinook. On Aug. 16, the daily bag limit will increase to three salmon, only one of which may be a chinook. Anglers must release all sockeye and chum, as well as coho under 16 inches and chinook under 24 inches. Only coho with the adipose fin clipped, indicating hatchery origin, may be kept.
The North Jetty fishery will be open seven days a week when Marine Area 1 or Buoy 10 fisheries are open and barbed hooks are allowed.
Meanwhile, the mainstem fishery will extend from above Rocky Point/Tongue Point line and will allow a daily bag limit of six salmon, no more than two of which may be adults. All sockeye and chum must be released. Only coho with a clipped adipose fin, indicating hatchery origin, may be kept below John Day Dam. In the mainstem Columbia, as well as the Buoy 10 fishery, both marked and unmarked chinook salmon also may be retained.