OLYMPIA - When fall salmon fishing gets under way Aug. 1 in the lower Columbia River, anglers below Bonneville Dam will face a tighter chinook bag limit intended to keep the season running through December without interruption.
This year only one adult chinook may be kept as part of each angler's two adult salmon daily limit in the mainstem Columbia from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam. The two-chinook limit of past years has been halved in an effort to meet federal Endangered Species Act guidelines without enacting an early closure of the fishery. The Buoy 10 area also has a one-chinook limit, which was put in place last year.
"We worked closely with sport fishers in crafting this fall's season, and when it came down to a choice between a shorter season with a larger limit, or shooting for an uninterrupted season with a one-chinook limit, they let us know they'd rather see the season run longer," explained Cindy LeFleur, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator.
The fall chinook season is scheduled to continue through the end of the year, but will be curtailed before then if fish managers determine that allowable impacts on protected upriver fish have been reached.
This year's pre-season forecast predicts 635,000 fall chinook and 257,500 coho will return to the mouth of the Columbia. That chinook forecast is less than 2003's actual return of 885,000 fish.
The Buoy 10 fishery is expected to produce catches of 12,000 chinook and 16,000 coho. Last year 16,300 chinook were caught, the second-highest number since 1988. Another 54,400 hatchery (fin-clipped) coho also were landed.
The popular Buoy 10 fishery last year prompted 88,800 angler trips. With each angler trip generating an estimated $130 in spending, the fishery contributes some $11.5 million to the area economy, LeFleur said.
This year's lower Columbia fishery, which extends from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam, is expected to produce catches of 15,000 chinook and 3,000 hatchery coho.
Fall chinook sport catches on the lower mainstem Columbia below Bonneville Dam have been climbing in recent years. Last year, over 110,000 angler trips there produced a record-high sport catch of 26,000 adult fall chinook. In 2002, the catch of 21,200 fall chinook was more than double the previous record set the year before.
Columbia River anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream can keep chinook with or without clipped adipose fins, but only adipose-fin-clipped coho may be retained. In both Oregon and Washington, Buoy 10 boat fishers can keep their gear in the water until the daily limits for all licensed and juvenile anglers on board have been reached.
When the Buoy 10 fishery or the Marine Area 1 fishery is open, bank anglers may also fish for salmon seven days a week at the Columbia River North Jetty. Daily-limit and minimum-size requirements follow the most liberal regulations of either area. Salmon anglers may use barbed hooks at Buoy 10 and on the North Jetty.
Fall salmon seasons also begin Aug. 1 on several Columbia River tributaries, including the Cowlitz, Toutle, Green, Kalama, Lewis, Washougal, Wind and Klickitat rivers and Drano Lake. The daily limits on those waters remain six salmon, no more than two of which may be adults. Up to two adult chinook may be retained. Any chinook, fin clipped or not, may be kept. Wild coho must be released in tributaries below Bonneville Dam.
More information on regulations is available in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Fishing In Washington rules pamphlet or on the department's website on the Internet.