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January 24, 1997
Contact: Ed Isenson, 360-902-2408

Oregon, Washington cut back Columbia River fishing

PORTLAND -- Washington and Oregon fish managers today responded to forecasts of severely reduced runs of key species by setting conservative seasons on sport and non-Indian commercial fishing for the Columbia River.

At a meeting of the Washington and Oregon departments of Fish and Wildlife, which comprise the Columbia River Compact agencies, officials adopted regulations based upon forecasts of record low returns to the Willamette and the Washington tributaries that practically eliminate salmon fishing this spring.

The sport season, which opened last autumn, will close at midnight on March 10 on the Columbia River, about three weeks earlier than normal.

While no commercial salmon season was set, the compact fish managers set an early commercial sturgeon fishery that offers fishing opportunity before chinook reach the river. This early fishery is expected to have minimum impacts on the depressed salmon runs.

The commercial sturgeon season opens Jan. 27 for two and a half days a week until Feb. 14 with a harvest expectation of 3,000 sturgeon. The compact will meet on Feb. 14 to review the season's incidental catch of spring chinook and consider a fourth week of fishing.

The expected very poor 1997 smelt returns caused the compact managers to greatly reduce the number of commercial fishing days. The Columbia River will be closed to commercial smelt fishing except between 6 a.m. Thursdays and 6 p.m. Fridays from Jan. 28 to Feb.14. This commercial net fishery will close Feb. 14.

The year-around sport fishery will close 12:01 a.m. Feb. 16. It will reopen again Dec. 1.

At a Feb. 14 meeting, the compact will review information from the commercial fishery and consider additional openings.

In Washington tributaries, the recreational smelt fishery also will close on Feb. 16 at 12:01 a.m.

The commercial smelt dipnet fishery in Washington tributaries will be closed except between 6 a.m. Tuesdays to 6 p.m. Wednesdays from Jan. 28 to Feb. 12. The fishery closes on Feb. 12 until further notice.

Fish managers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that they would consider further commercial smelt fishing opportunities in Washington tributaries, including the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers, after evaluating run data from the Feb. 14 compact meeting.