OLYMPIA – Effective Wednesday (Sept. 19), Columbia River anglers will be required to release any chinook salmon they encounter below Bonneville Dam for the remainder of the season. The same rule will also take effect Thursday (Sept. 20) upriver to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco.
The new regulations, approved today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon, do not affect coho fisheries in the Columbia River or salmon fisheries in any of its tributaries.
Agreement to end chinook retention on the mainstem Columbia River was due primarily to the low number of upriver bright chinook salmon counted at Bonneville Dam through Sept. 16, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy advisor for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Based on those counts and catch totals to date, the preseason run forecast of 185,200 upriver chinook has been reduced to 105,000 fish, a reduction of more than 40 percent, LeFleur said.
“In-season data indicates the upriver bright return will be even lower than expected this year,” she said. “Given what we know, we couldn’t allow the retention fishery to continue any longer this season.”
Under the new rule, the salmon fishery downstream from Bonneville Dam to the Lewis River will close to chinook retention at the end of the day Tuesday (Sept. 18). Chinook retention will end Wednesday (Sept. 19) between Bonneville Dam and the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco.
In addition, Columbia River chinook fisheries scheduled to reopen Oct. 1 – including those at Buoy 10 and downstream from the Lewis River – will remain closed to chinook retention.
As of Sept. 16, anglers had caught approximately 12,000 chinook salmon in the sport fishery LeFleur said. Even after accounting for closures to conserve tule chinook in the lower Columbia River, that number is short of the 15,500-fish catch estimated prior to the season, she said.
“Whether we look at dam counts or catch rates, it’s clear that we aren’t getting as many upriver chinook as we had expected this year,” LeFleur said. “The closures announced today are designed to keep those fish coming back in future years.”