Fish Program, 360-902-2700
OLYMPIA – Recreational fishing for spring Chinook salmon on the Columbia River has ended for this year as continued low returns raised concerns about meeting conservation objectives.
Fishery managers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) held a Columbia River Compact hearing to consider a five-day recreational fishery to open over the Memorial Day weekend, as well as a one-day mark-selective commercial tangle-net fishery. After hearing updates on the run and returns to hatcheries throughout the Columbia River basin, as well as testimony from a wide cross-section of stakeholders, the states decided not to proceed with those fisheries.
The estimated size of this year’s spring Chinook run was downgraded to just 72,000 fish, even lower than last year’s return of 73,100 fish, and the lowest since 1999.
“We would have liked to offer some additional opportunity for spring Chinook this year, but it was clear that the run wouldn’t support it,” said Bill Tweit, special assistant with WDFW. “Many of our stakeholders also made clear that conserving these fish and getting closer to our hatchery goals was more important than a few extra days of fishing. The testimony we heard yesterday really demonstrated how much both recreational and commercial fishers value this resource.”
Even without the additional fishing, some hatchery facilities in the Columbia River basin may fall short of broodstock goals due to the low numbers of returning fish.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to backfill some of those shortfalls from other hatcheries that do meet their goals,” said Tweit. “This is really about seeing to the health of the species throughout the basin.”
Fishing for other species on the Columbia remains open under normal regulations, and several tributaries are open as well. See the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations, and be sure to check for any emergency rules at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ before heading out.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting, and perpetuating fish, wildlife, and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting, and other recreation opportunities.