Columbia River alternative gear

Planning for implementing a Fall season Emerging Commercial Fishery in the lower Columbia River is underway.

Work on developing alternative commercial fishing gears has been underway for about the last 20 years, but current WDFW efforts are directed by Policy C-3630, adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in September 2020. Alternative gear implementation could provide more tools to harvest hatchery fish while assisting with achievement of conservation objectives.

Current work

Work on planning for implementing a Fall season Emerging Commercial Fishery in the lower Columbia River is underway. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife expects, along with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, to conduct an emerging commercial fishery season for beach seines, purse seines, and pound nets on the lower Columbia River in fall 2024. 

A study with Tangle nets in the fall of 2022 targeting coho salmon was also conducted and more information can be found on our Research and Monitoring page. 

Alternative commercial fishing gears

Tangle nets

Tangle nets are small-mesh nets that entangle the target fish to minimize injury instead of catching them by their gills. Tangle nets have low encounters of non-target steelhead due to the specific times and areas they are fished, along with the method of entangling fish. Because of this, it works well for spring Chinook and coho.

Tangle net illustration
Photo by WDFW

Seine nets

A deep line of small-mesh net is circled around a school of fish and the fish are corralled in the water so they can be sorted. Beach and purse seines generally have low mortality rates when fish that are accidentally caught are released yet catch a large proportion of the fish in a fishing area.

Combined illustration of a beach seine and purse seine
Photo by WDFW

Pound nets

A pound net consists of net attached to several pilings driven into the river bottom in a line perpendicular to the river flow. Fish swim along the net to a trap midstream, where they can be sorted and either released or harvested. This gear is still being tested for its potential commercial use.

A side view and top-down view of a pound net
Photo by WDFW

Additional Resources

Columbia River test fishing - data on pound net test fisheries conducted each fall from 2018 to 2020

 Presentation to the Oregon and Washington Policy Review Committee on Columbia River fishing gear selectivity and mortality rates, July 28, 2021

Columbia River Commercial Pound Net presentation to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, April 7, 2022

Relevant RCWs and WACs