WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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February 13, 2001
Contact: Bill Tweit, (360) 902-2723
Cindy Le Fleur, (360) 906-6708
Virginia Painter, (360) 902-2256

Public meetings called to discuss Columbia River spring chinook fisheries

OLYMPIA Two public meetings have been scheduled to discuss possible recreational and commercial fishing options on adult spring chinook expected to return to the Columbia River this spring.

The meetings are:

  • Columbia River Compact and mainstem Columbia sport fisheries meeting. The Compact hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Feb. 20, at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Commission Room, 2501 Southwest First Ave., Portland. The sport fisheries meeting will follow the Compact hearing.

  • The Columbia tributaries sport fisheries meeting. 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 22, at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Region 5 Office Conference Room, 2108 Grand Blvd., Vancouver.

State and tribal fisheries biologists are expecting a record number of adult spring chinook salmon to return in coming weeks to the Columbia River. The forecast calls for an estimated 364,600 upriver spring chinook -- mostly hatchery-produced fish -- to return. That would be the largest number since fish counts began on the river in 1938. However, returns for most lower-river tributaries are predicted to be similar to last year, with the exception of the Cowlitz River, which has been experiencing a decline in returns over the past several years. Kalama River runs have been fluctuating, with 1,400 returning last year and 1,000 forecast for this year. The Lewis River had 2,200 returning last year and is forecast to have 2,800 back this year. Cowlitz River returns have been on a decline for several years, with 1,700 in the 2000 return and 1,000 predicted for the 2001 run. Scientists are continuing to investigate the causes and long-term solution for low returns to the Cowlitz.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists say fisheries will be structured with two goals in mind. The first and most important goal will be to advance efforts now underway to rebuild weak wild stocks. The second will be to create commercial and recreational harvest opportunities on hatchery fish that are over and above what is needed for rebuilding efforts. The states of Washington and Oregon will adopt selective fishing rules that respond to weak stock management needs while providing some fishery stability, the approach the states anticipate using frequently in the future.

Harvest decisions ultimately depend upon whether conservation goals for fish listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) can be met. Upper Columbia wild spring chinook are listed under the ESA as endangered, while Snake River wild spring and summer chinook and lower Columbia wild spring and fall chinook are listed as threatened under the ESA.

Fisheries for non-treaty fishers are determined by the states, using public input and following successful conclusion of negotiations with treaty tribes and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which administers the ESA.

Last week, the Northwest Power Planning Council recommended that Bonneville Power Administration fund a large-scale evaluation of two commercial selective fishing techniques for the Columbia spring chinook -- tangle nets and fish traps -- to improve selective fishing capabilities in the non-treaty commercial fishery. Almost all the recreational fisheries options being examined by the states include some selective fishing components, as well.

"We're extremely excited about the large return of adult spring chinook to the Columbia," said Bill Tweit. "With the use of selective fisheries options, we will meet our conservation goals and hope to offer the best fishing opportunities since the late 1970s."

Scientists believe there are two reasons why the upriver run of adult spring chinook could be so large this year. The first is favorable Columbia River flows in the springs of 1998 and 1999, when the young salmon that are returning this year were migrating downstream through the hydroelectric system to the ocean. The second is good ocean conditions, which provided ample cold water and food for the salmon during their ocean phase.

Fishing regulations for the tributaries will be announced in early March, and mainstem fisheries will be set shortly after the two public meetings. For details, call the WDFW hotline at (360) 902-2500, the hotline at the WDFW Southwest Washington Region Office in Vancouver at (360) 696-6211 *1010 or check the agency's web site for fishing regulation updates.

Following are estimates for spring chinook returning to the Columbia River and tributaries:

Columbia River forecast for spring chinook return 2000 run 2001 forecast
Forecasts are at Columbia River mouth for the following:
Upriver (above Bonneville Dam) 178,600 364,600
Snake River total 52,200 206,700
Snake River wild 12,400 39,300
Upper Columbia total (above Priest Rapids) 26,100 38,100
Upper Columbia wild (above Priest Rapids) 4,300 6,300
Forecasts are for tributary mouths at the following upper Columbia River tributaries.
(These forecasts are included in Upriver, Snake and Upper Columbia forecasts):
Klickitat River 2,500 1,900
Yakima River 17,200 26,100
Icicle River 9,300 9,300
Ringold Hatchery 870 1,500
Wind River 21,500 42,600
Drano Lake 11,900 11,100
White Salmon River 400 1,100
Forecasts are at tributary mouths for the following lower Columbia River tributaries:
Cowlitz River 1,700 1,000
Kalama River 1,400 1,000
Lewis River 2,200 2,800