OLYMPIA – Anglers will be required to release any chinook salmon they catch during the rest of this season on two major sections of the Columbia River under new rules approved today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.
One rule, effective Friday (Sept. 15) at 12:01 a.m., prohibits retention of chinook salmon between the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line and Bonneville Dam.
A second rule expands that prohibition upriver from Bonneville Dam to the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco as of Saturday (Sept. 16) at 12:01 a.m.
Those actions do not affect chinook retention in the Buoy 10 fishery downriver from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line, nor do they affect ongoing fisheries for hatchery coho salmon or steelhead anywhere on the Columbia River.
“We want to be clear that fishing for hatchery coho and steelhead remains open,” said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
LeFleur said fishery managers for Washington and Oregon agreed to end chinook retention in the lower Columbia after reducing their estimate of returning “upriver bright” chinook from 249,100 fish to 198,700.
The chinook harvest is directly linked to estimates of returning upriver brights, because a small portion of that run that returns to the Snake River is listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
“Given the new run-size estimate, we had no choice but to end chinook retention by the sport fishery in these areas of the mainstem Columbia,” LeFleur said. “Anglers caught a lot of chinook in the lower Columbia early in the season, so that also took a big bite out of the recreational catch allocation.”
By Friday, this year’s sport catch of fall chinook salmon between the mouth of the river and Pasco is expected to reach nearly 15,000 fish. Although fishing was poor in the Buoy 10 fishery near the mouth of the Columbia, catch rates from Cathlamet to Bonneville Dam were among the highest in recent years, LeFleur said.
“It was kind of an odd year but, overall, anglers caught a lot of fish from the day the season started,” she said.
The new catch-and-release requirement is limited to chinook fisheries from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line to the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco. Until further notice, fishing regulations for other species and other areas of the Columbia River will remain as listed in WDFW’s Fishing in Washington pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations).
Apart from the new rules approved today, LeFleur reminds anglers that they are required to release any wild coho they catch from the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to the Hood River bridge. This requirement also extends to all Washington tributaries in the lower Columbia River as well as the Wind River, White Salmon River and Drano Lake at the mouth of the Little White Salmon River.
Wild coho can be identified by an intact adipose fin on the back of the fish, just ahead of the tail. Only hatchery coho, whose adipose fins are clipped for identification, may be retained.