Both treaty and non-treaty commercial fisheries on the Columbia River mainstem were approved Tuesday by the Columbia River Compact.
The fisheries, which begin next week, will primarily target a building fall chinook salmon run, sturgeon and, for the tribes, steelhead. Chinook counts at Bonneville Dam in recent days have started to climb with the daily count passing 1,000 for the first time this year. The dam counts are one of the primary measures of the progress and size of each year's upriver fall chinook run.
Chinook counted at Bonneville from Aug. 1 through the end of the year are considered "fall" chinook. Fish heading upriver past the dam include upriver bright, some of the fall chinook classified as Mid-Columbia brights and Bonneville pool hatchery tule fall chinook.
On average in the past, 50 percent of each year's upriver run has passed Bonneville by Sept. 7. Through Wednesday the fall chinook count was only 13,369, but many more are on the way. The preseason forecast is for a return of 319,200 URBs, which would be greater than the 1999-2008 average of 238,000 adults to the mouth of the Columbia.
The BPH return, mostly the product of Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery, is expected to number 162,900, which would be three times greater than the 2009 return and nearly double the 10-year average.
Also expected to return are a total of 375,000 to 400,000 upriver summer steelhead. That would be 139 percent of the recent 10-year average of 326,200. Non-tribal commercial fishers cannot retain steelhead caught in their nets.
Fisheries approved by the Compact this week for non-tribal gill netters include a 10-hour outing that begins at on August 19 and 9-hour outings that beings at on Aug. 22 and Aug. 25. The Compact, which sets mainstem commercial fisheries, is comprised of representatives of the Oregon and Washington department of fish and wildlife directors.
The ODFW and WDFW staffs estimate that the gill netters will harvest from 9,500 to 11,500 fall chinook during the three fisheries in the Columbia from near the mouth of the Lewis River upstream to a point about four miles below Bonneville Dam. That's nearly 60 miles of river. The lowest 87 miles of river was excluded an a means of minimizing impacts one "lower river hatchery" fall chinook. The LRH stock are a measure of the impacts being exacted on the Lower Columbia natural stock, which is listed under the Endangered Species Act.
During 12-hour fisheries beginning Aug. 2, 5. 8 and 10 the non-tribal commercial fleet cauth8,481 chinook, 121 coho and 1,578 white sturgeon.
Four Columbia River basin treaty tribes will launch their first fishery of the fall season at Aug. 24 and fish until Aug. 27. Also approved Tuesday by the Compact were a 4.5-day fishery beginning Aug. 30 and a 3.5-day fishery that begins Sept. 7.
The tribes estimate they will catch 93,900 chinook (including 47,600 URBs) and 12,500 steelhead (including 3,500 B steelhead) during the three fisheries. That would represent a 15 percent impact on the URB run and a 4 percent impact on the B steelhead, which are mostly bound for streams in Idaho. Under a management agreement with states and the federal government, the tribes are allowed to catch up to 25 percent of the URB run and 20 percent of the B steelhead return. The wild portions of both stocks are protected under the Endangered Species Act.