OLYMPIA – Starting Saturday (Sept. 20), Columbia River anglers will again be allowed to retain chinook salmon they catch on a large section of the river below Bonneville Dam.
Encouraged by a new estimate of returning upriver bright chinook, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon agreed to reopen most of the area that closed to chinook retention earlier this week.
Under that agreement, anglers will be allowed to catch and keep an adult chinook salmon as part of their daily catch limit from the lower end of Bachelor Island, near the mouth of the Lewis River, upriver to Bonneville Dam.
The chinook fishery in that area will remain open until further notice, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
“We’re pleased that this run is coming in so much stronger than expected,” LeFleur said. “This season is turning out quite a bit better than we expected.”
Earlier this month, tens of thousands of anglers fishing from Rocky Point up to Bonneville Dam caught 9,200 chinook during 16 days of fishing. LeFleur noted that the downstream boundary for the chinook fishery that opens Saturday has been moved above the mouth of the Lewis River to protect a weak chinook run there this year.
But upriver brights, returning to the Hanford Reach area and to the Snake River, are putting in a strong showing, LeFleur said. A technical advisory committee increased the estimated size of the upriver bright run to 212,500 fish, compared to the pre-season forecast of 164,400 fish.
New allowable catch rates for those fish, established in a new 10-year U.S. v. Oregon agreement, also contributed to the decision to reopen the fishery, LeFleur said.
That agreement, approved by a federal judge last month, allows non-tribal fishers to harvest a total of 11 percent of the upriver bright run, compared to 8.25 percent under the previous accord. Parties to the U.S. v. Oregon agreement include the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho; federal resource agencies; and tribal governments.
“These runs have improved in recent years, and that fact is reflected in the new catch rates,” LeFleur said.
The combination of strong returns and new catch rates may allow the states to open a chinook fishery in the lower Snake River in the coming weeks, she said. “If that occurs, it would be the first fall chinook opening we’ve had there in several decades.”
Anglers can find updates on fisheries throughout the state on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov.