OLYMPIA – Anticipating the largest return of Columbia River summer-run chinook salmon in four decades, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in cooperation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, will open the mainstem Columbia River below Bonneville Dam to fishing for hatchery chinook beginning Friday, June 28.
The fishery is scheduled to run through July 31 from the Rocky Point / Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam. There is a six-salmon daily limit, with a minimum size of 12 inches, but no more than two adult fish. Retained chinook must have a missing adipose fin and a healed scar in its place to indicate it is a hatchery fish. All sockeye and chum salmon must be released unharmed.
Tim Flint, WDFW statewide salmon manager, said fisheries management agencies will have a strong enforcement and monitoring presence on the Columbia River during the recreational fishery to ensure regulations on adult hatchery chinook retention are followed.
The summer chinook run originates in the upper Columbia River and the Snake River, and is composed of both hatchery and wild stocks. The wild Snake River component is protected under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
"It is essential to our Snake River chinook rebuilding efforts that anglers stay within daily catch limits and carefully release all chinook with an adipose fin," Flint said, adding that there is a maximum 1 percent allowable impact to ESA-listed Snake River summer chinook during this fishery.
"The fishery will have to be closed early, if necessary, to stay within this extremely low allowable impact," he said.
Flint said adequate flows provided at the Columbia River dams when the juvenile chinook were migrating downstream, in addition to excellent ocean survival conditions, contributed to the exceptional run this year.
The preseason forecast for summer chinook in 2002 was for a return of 77,700 fish to the mouth of the Columbia River, but recent fish counts at Bonneville Dam indicate the actual return will be significantly higher, Flint said.
"The escapement goal at Bonneville Dam is 80,000 to 90,000 fish, and this year's return is expected to exceed that range," he said. "This will be the first time we have achieved the escapement goal since 1969."