OLYMPIA – Effective Saturday (Sept. 29), anglers will again be allowed to catch and retain chinook salmon from Buoy 10 at the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to the Hood River Bridge under a new regulation approved today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.
The new regulation allows anglers to retain chinook salmon as part of their daily limit seven days per week through Dec. 31. Downstream from Bonneville Dam, the new rule also increases the overall limit to four adult salmon per day – only one of which may be a chinook – to maximize the catch of abundant hatchery-reared coho salmon now moving into the Columbia River.
With regard to chinook salmon, today’s action effectively reverses a non-retention rule adopted by fishery managers for the same area last week, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy advisor for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Another section of the Columbia River from the Hood River Bridge to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco was reopened under a separate rule late last week, she said.
“During the past week, we had a late surge of chinook past Bonneville Dam that changed our outlook for the run,” LeFleur said. “Those late returns were the key to reopening chinook retention to the recreational fishery.”
As part of that equation, the late surge in chinook returns prompted fishery managers to increase the estimated run size of fall “upriver bright” chinook to 118,500 fish from the previous projection of 105,000 fish, LeFleur said.
That change not only boosted the estimated number of salmon that will reach the spawning grounds, but also increased the number of fish available for harvest by recreational and commercial fisheries, LeFleur said. Under a preseason agreement, 51 percent of the upriver bright chinook available for harvest were allocated to the recreational fishery, she said.
“At the lower run size, the commercial fishery still had some chinook salmon available under its allocation, but the recreational fishery had already taken its share, prompting the closures last week,” LeFleur said. “But with more fish coming in, both sectors will be able to keep fishing for chinook.”
Today’s action does not affect a rule requiring anglers to release chinook salmon they encounter on nine tributaries to the lower Columbia River, include the Cowlitz, Lewis, North Fork Lewis, Elochoman, Toutle, North Fork Toutle, Green (in Cowlitz County), Kalama and Washougal rivers, including Camas Slough.
LeFleur said that rule, adopted Sept. 21, is designed to protect wild “tule” stocks, which are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Those fish have generally moved into the tributaries and will not be vulnerable to fisheries in the mainstem Columbia River, she said.