The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is working to maximize recreational fishing opportunity on a large adult hatchery coho return to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery, as well as providing fish to Northwest food banks.
An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 adult coho are expected to return to the hatchery this fall, and similarly large returns are anticipated at other southwest Washington hatcheries. The large return is due primarily to new recreational and commercial fishing constraints implemented for the first time in the lower Columbia River to protect naturally spawning coho newly listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The large numbers of coho making their way back into the Cowlitz River present WDFW with a unique opportunity to maximize angler opportunity on returning fish. Thus far WDFW has:
- Increased the daily bag limit on adult coho from two to four fish per day for anglers fishing from the Cowlitz River mouth to Mayfield Dam. That increase, which took effect today, will remain in place until Dec. 31.
- Arranged with Tacoma Power to recycle some coho presently in hatchery ponds to Riffe Lake to provide additional recreational fishing opportunity. The transport began yesterday.
- Today revised fishing rules to allow angling up to 100 feet below the hatchery barrier dam. Previously, fishing was prohibited within 400 feet of the barrier dam.
"While fishing closer to the dam is an unexpected opportunity, it’s one that will only continue if anglers demonstrate good fishing ethics and courteous conduct toward one another," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings.
WDFW fish managers also are working to identify other ways to provide additional fishing opportunity on adult coho returning to the hatchery. The hatchery operates under a management plan developed as part of the federal licensing requirements for Tacoma Power’s hydroelectric projects.
Meanwhile, the hatchery last week provided 1,800 adult coho to food banks.
"Food-bank representatives have told us how much their users appreciate this high-quality protein," said Koenings. "While our first obligation is to provide maximum recreational fishing opportunity, it’s good to know we can help our less-fortunate neighbors with fish that anglers couldn’t reach."
Although WDFW will take all steps possible to maximize recreational coho fishing opportunity, additional coho may be provided to food banks in the future because of the large expected number of returning fish.