OLYMPIA – After a month of red-hot catch rates, sport fishing for adult summer chinook and sockeye salmon will close Monday (July 18) on various sections of the Columbia River to hold harvest levels within allowable limits.
The summer chinook fishery will close just after midnight Sunday from Bonneville Dam downstream, under an agreement reached today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon. Sockeye fishing will close at the same time downstream from the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco.
Anglers can, however, still retain hatchery steelhead and jack chinook salmon, measuring 12-24 inches, in those sections of the river.
Fishery managers agreed to close fishing for adult summer chinook and sockeye in those areas two weeks earlier than expected after reviewing catch numbers to date.
“This is some of the best fishing we’ve seen in recent years for both summer chinook and sockeye,” said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “This year’s catch has exceeded expectations, and is pushing up against our harvest guidelines.”
Through July 14, anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam had caught and kept 5,285 summer chinook salmon – twice as many as last year – and released 2,553 others. They also caught 1,564 sockeye and released 390 others, the highest number of sockeye taken by anglers since at least 1980.
LeFleur said the closure was necessary to keep the catch within allowable harvest limits.
“For summer chinook salmon, we have to make sure we meet our conservation goals and leave enough fish for fisheries further upstream,” she said. “Sockeye salmon bound for the Snake River are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and have catch limits of their own.”
Ongoing summer chinook fisheries above Bonneville Dam and sockeye fishing above the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco will not be affected by the closures scheduled further downstream.
According to current projections, 80,000 summer chinook and 181,500 sockeye are expected to return to the Columbia River. The summer chinook run will be the second largest since 1980.
Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist, noted that hatchery-reared steelhead are still providing good fishing on the lower Columbia River and that fishing for fall chinook will open Aug. 1.
“The fall chinook run is also looking very strong,” Hymer said. “Salmon fisheries are far from over on the Columbia River this year.”