WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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September 11, 1998
Contact: Jeff Weathersby, (360)902-2256

Columbia River sport fishing to continue indefinitely

PORTLAND -- Sportfishing for steelhead in the Columbia River will remain open for the remainder of the season and fishing for chinook will continue until further notice, Washington and Oregon announced today.

The states will reassess the chinook catch next Wednesday (Sept. 16) to determine if fishing for chinook can continue.

The announcement was made at today's Columbia River Compact meeting here following a technical analysis of run sizes as well as harvests by sport and Indian fishers this week. The compact met to ensure sport and tribal fisheries would not harm wild steelhead and chinook stocks that are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.

The following bodies of water remain open to fishing for steelhead and chinook:

  • The Columbia River from the mouth to Priest Rapids Dam (the Columbia is closed to steelhead fishing above the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco)
  • Drano Lake
  • The White Salmon and Klickitat rivers
  • Columbia tributaries in Oregon from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Walla Walla drainage

The states were forced to hold up fishing decisions until the National Marine Fisheries Service released a biological opinion indicating the level at which fisheries could occur without harming two ESA-protected species, wild steelhead from the Snake and Upper Columbia rivers. A biological opinion is a set of standards that must be followed by the states in order to avoid jeopardizing stocks protected by the federal law.

The biological opinion, which was released by the federal agency yesterday, stated that sport steelhead fisheries could continue so long as anglers incidently killed no more than 2 percent of the protected wild Snake River steelhead run while fishing for other stocks. The opinion also said tribal fisheries targeting chinook would not harm protected stocks as long as they remained within set limits for wild steelhead.

The fishing also would not jeopardize the protected wild Upper Columbia steelhead, NMFS said.

"We applaud the National Marine Fisheries Service's efforts to produce a biological opinion in a timely manner," said Guy Norman, Washington's representative to the compact. "Issuing the opinion this week enabled state regulators to provide some certainty to the fishing seasons."

Norman added, "It's unfortunate that the uncertainty about seasons last week may have disrupted vacation plans. However, we now have a clear understanding of what level of fishing will not harm protected stocks, and that the fisheries we regulate comply with federal law."

The Columbia River Compact is the forum through which Washington and Oregon regulate mainstem Columbia Basin fishing in joint state waters.