OLYMPIA – Columbia River anglers will be able to catch chinook salmon throughout August - plus Labor Day - during this year’s “Buoy 10” fishery, but will be required to release any chinook they intercept upriver from Tongue Point to Bonneville Dam until Sept. 1.
Also, for the first time, mark-selective fishing rules will be in effect for chinook jacks on eight Columbia River tributaries, requiring anglers to release chinook salmon less than 24 inches long that are not hatchery fish marked with a clipped adipose fin.
Those are just a few of the new fishing rules that will take effect Aug. 1 on the Columbia River and its tributaries, where anglers can expect some changes from last year, said Pat Frazier, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
“Anglers should make sure to review the current fishing rules pamphlet before they head out,” Frazier said. “Run forecasts and other circumstances are different this year, and the fall salmon regulations reflect those changes.”
The 2008-09 Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet is posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.
One bright spot is the Buoy 10 fishery near the mouth of the Columbia River, where anglers will have 31 days to catch chinook salmon, compared to just 12 days last year.
This year’s fishery should benefit from an estimated return of 86,200 chinook – up from 14,600 last year – bound for the Spring Creek Hatchery above Bonneville Dam, said Cindy LeFleur, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator.
“The goal is to target those healthy upriver hatchery stocks, which tend to bite well when they first enter the river,” LeFleur said. “We’re also expecting a strong return of chinook reared in net pens in select areas throughout the lower river.”
In all, 376,800 adult fall chinook are expected to return to the Columbia River this year, compared to 219,600 last year, LeFleur said. But to protect weak runs, including those listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), fishery managers adopted several new conservation measures during the annual North of Falcon season-setting process. New rules taking effect Aug. 1 will affect fishing in a number of rivers:
- Columbia River from Rocky Point/Tongue Point to Bonneville Dam: Anglers must release all chinook except during September 1-16. This rule is designed primarily to conserve ESA-listed chinook salmon bound for the Snake River, while focusing the fishery on abundant upriver bright stock returning to hatcheries above Bonneville and wild fish to the Hanford Reach.
- Lewis River and fall chinook sanctuary: Anglers will be required to release all chinook salmon intercepted on the Lewis River, where wild chinook returns are expected to reach only about half of the 5,700-fish escapement goal. The requirement to release chinook will be in effect in the Lewis River, the North Fork Lewis River and in an eight-mile area of the Columbia River near the mouth of the river that is defined in the fishing rule pamphlet. Fishing for hatchery coho and hatchery steelhead will remain open, but fishing from boats will be prohibited on the North Fork Lewis from Johnson Creek upstream to Merwin Dam to minimize chinook handling.
- Cowlitz and Toutle Rivers: Anglers must continue to release all chinook – except marked, hatchery-reared jacks – because hatchery returns are not expected to meet management goals. Anglers may still retain hatchery steelhead and hatchery coho caught in both rivers.
- Kalama, Washougal, Wind and White Salmon rivers, plus Drano Lake: Anglers may retain any adult chinook salmon, but must release any wild, unmarked chinook jacks they encounter.
The mark-selective fisheries for chinook jacks reflect the fact that – for the first time – all chinook jacks returning to hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin are marked with a clipped adipose fin, Frazier said.
“The immediate benefit is that anglers will have a opportunity to catch and retain marked chinook jacks on a number of rivers and benefit wild runs,” he said. “In fact, we want anglers to catch those hatchery jacks, because we want them off the spawning grounds.”
Within a few years, all hatchery-reared chinook salmon – including adults – returning to the Columbia River will be identifiable through mass marking, Frazier said.
“That should be good news for anglers and salmon-recovery efforts alike,” he said. “Once we can distinguish between hatchery and wild fish on the fishing grounds, we’ll have a lot more options in structuring fisheries that are consistent with recovery efforts.”