VANCOUVER, Wash. – Anglers may continue fishing for hatchery spring chinook salmon in the lower Columbia River from the Interstate 5 bridge downstream to Buoy 10 through April 15 under an agreement reached today by Washington and Oregon fishery managers.
In addition, the two states approved a spring chinook season above Bonneville Dam from March 16 through April 30 between the Tower Island power lines upstream to McNary Dam. The power lines are located approximately six miles below The Dalles Dam.
Anglers participating in those chinook fisheries may also retain hatchery steelhead and shad within daily catch limits established by each state.
The fishery below the Interstate 5 bridge has been open seven days per week since Jan. 1, although the bulk of the spring chinook run generally does not arrive until March.
Seasons approved today are based on preliminary run projections that significantly fewer spring chinook will return to the Columbia River this year than in 2006.
Pre-season estimates indicate that approximately 164,000 fish will return to the Columbia River this year, compared to an actual return of 225,000 fish last year.
“Given current run-size estimates, we need to take a conservative approach in setting this year’s seasons,” said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “But we also need to be flexible as the run progresses and we receive updated information. Anyone who followed last year’s fishery knows that returns started out slow, but surpassed expectations later in the season.”
Last year, fishery managers reopened the season in mid-May and allowed anglers to fish for spring chinook for another month after actual returns of upriver fish exceeded earlier projections.
The fishing season approved today is designed to protect fish stocks listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) while providing for recreational and commercial fisheries on hatchery-reared chinook salmon, said Curt Melcher, assistant division administrator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“This fishery provides both recreational opportunities and significant economic benefits for communities on both sides of the Columbia River,” Melcher said. “Our goal is to support that fishery while protecting fish listed under the ESA.”
Rules in effect for spring chinook fisheries on the Columbia River require anglers and commercial fishers to release any wild salmon or steelhead they intercept. Based on current run projections, ESA guidelines prescribe that mortality rates for released wild chinook cannot exceed 1.5 percent of the wild run.
Of the 164,000 spring chinook salmon currently expected to return this year, 78,500 are upriver stocks – which include listed fish. Those salmon, bound for spawning grounds above Bonneville Dam, are the focus of conservation efforts by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon, LeFleur said.
Last year, the fish and wildlife directors for Washington and Oregon agreed that 57 percent of the allowable mortality of ESA-listed upriver spring chinook would be allocated to the sport fishery and 43 percent to the commercial fishery. The same allocation formula will remain in effect this year.