OLYMPIA – Anglers fishing for spring chinook salmon in the Columbia and Snake river systems this season are asked to report fish with colored jaw tags to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Some 3,000 spring chinook returning to the Columbia River are being marked this spring with colored, numbered tags in a test to determine the relative survival of fish caught in two sizes of tangle nets and then released.
The tags are approximately one-inch across, colored red, yellow or white and bear four digit numbers.
Fishers who catch tagged fish are asked to record the color and number on the tag and report it by phone to Kyong Yi, WDFW technician, at (360) 902-2732.
Starting today (April 1), WDFW employees will take to gillnet boats on a 13-mile stretch of the Columbia River from the Clark-Skamania county line upstream to Bonneville Dam to catch and mark fish for the study. The biologists will catch and release wild and hatchery spring chinook and steelhead using tangle nets with 4.5-inch and 5.5-inch mesh sizes. Before the chinook are released, they will be marked with tags attached to the left side of their lower jaws.
Although the marking phase of the study will be over by the end of May, the tagged chinook will be in the water into fall as they migrate up the Columbia and Snake river systems, said Charmane Ashbook, the WDFW fish biologist who is coordinating the study.
"Anglers can expect to find these tagged fish for months," Ashbrook said. "Fishers' cooperation in reporting tagged catches will contribute a great deal of information that could eventually help improve the effectiveness of Columbia River selective fishing methods."
Tangle nets were tested by the department last year, and employed by commercial fishers this year in an effort to reduce the mortality of wild, protected fish caught as by-catch. Tangle net mesh is smaller than that of conventional gillnets, allowing non-targeted fish to be returned to the water unharmed. By contrast, gillnets smother caught fish, resulting in higher mortality of wild fish that are netted unintentionally.
More information on selective fisheries can be found on the WDFW website.