The lower Columbia River commercial fleet got one last shot at spawning upriver fall chinook salmon this week, and anglers got a doubled bag limit in mainstem reaches between Portland and Bonneville Dam, with the goal of allowing each fishery's full harvest allocation.
Effective Wednesday, anglers can keep up to two adult chinook salmon per day on the Columbia River between Warrior Rock and Bonneville Dam under revised rules adopted Monday by Oregon and Washington fishery managers. Warrior Rock is located near the north end of Sauvie Island at Portland, about 58 miles downstream of Bonneville.
Downstream of Warrior Rock, chinook fishing closed as planned on Sept. 12. Fishery managers left that closure in place to protect wild tule chinook salmon bound for lower river tributaries. Coho and steelhead may still be retained in this area as well as elsewhere up and down the Columbia mainstem.
Oregon and Washington fishery managers estimate that lower river (from Bonneville down to the river mouth) sport and commercial fisheries have already claimed their share of the allowed harvest this year on the lower river tule stocks. But by late September most of those tules have moved out of the mainstem and into tributaries so little, if any, additional incidental impact is expected from continued sport catch or non-tribal commercial fisheries.
Oregon and Washington department of fish and wildlife staff estimate that by season's end, non-tribal fishers will have landed 53,800 fall chinook salmon, including 29,930 in lower river commercial fisheries, 6,900 in the completed Buoy 10 fishery and 14,800 in the lower river fishery that is ongoing.
That harvest is expected to include a total of 23,090 "upriver brights," the maximum allowed this year based on the latest run-size forecast. URBs are fall chinook stocks bound for the mid-Columbia's Hanford Reach, the Snake River basin and elsewhere above Bonneville. The catch is limited in order to hold down impacts on URBs, such as Snake River wild fish, that are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The Technical Advisory Team met on Monday to update the fall chinook run-size forecast based on counts at Bonneville and other hydro projects and returns to hatcheries. The URB forecast was downgraded from the preseason estimate of 319,200 adult fish to the mouth of the Columbia to an expected return of 279,900, which would be slightly higher than the recent 10-year average (1999-2008) 238,000.
TAC's federal, state and tribal fishery officials also revised the Bonneville Pool Hatchery tule stock forecast, dropping g the estimate from 162,900 to 123,800. The BPH stock is comprised primarily of fish produced at Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery above Bonneville Dam. The hatchery already has enough fish in hand to achieve its escapement goals of 11,900 adults and 16,700 females to produce the next generation of fish.
Fall chinook passage at Bonneville Dam from Aug. 1 through Sept. 19 totaled 354,000 adults, including 243,100 bright stock and 110,900 tules. Based on the recent five-year average adult fall chinook passage is typically 81 percent complete by Sept. 19.
Also on Monday the Columbia River Compact, which sets mainstem commercial fisheries, approved 10-hour outings beginning at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22 and Sunday Sept. 27 in mainstem Zones 4 and 5 upstream of southwest Washington's Lewis River. The Compact is made up of representatives of the ODFW and WDFW directors.
The Compact was forced today (Friday), to rescind the Sunday commercial fishery because the gill-net fleet caught at least 5,000 chinook Wednesday night. In setting the two fisheries the Compact has estimated that no more than 5,000 chinook would be caught combined during the two fisheries. Additional URB impacts from now on jeopardize commercial fisheries targeting coho next month.
In the sport fisheries coho and steelhead must be adipose fin-clipped fish in order to be retained. Chinook are not subject to this requirement and may be retained regardless of whether their adipose fin has been clipped or not.
Prior to Monday's action, the daily bag limit in this section of the river was two adult salmon and steelhead in combination, but only one could be a chinook. The change will mean that anglers can now keep two adult salmon and steelhead in combination, and both fish may now be chinook in this area.
"Our latest projections indicate that we have some additional upriver bright chinook that we can offer to recreational fishermen," said Chris Kern, assistant fisheries manager for the ODFW's Ocean Salmon and Columbia River Program.
The rule change will apply through the end of the year.
Anglers are reminded that fishing regulations can change at any time based on changes in fish population estimates, catch rates and other factors. The latest regulations, visit ODFW's website.
The Compact also on Friday approved a tribal commercial gill-net fishery from Monday through Wednesday in mainstem Columbia reservoirs above Bonneville Dam. During the fishery, four treaty tribes will be allowed to catch and sell salmon, steelhead, walleye, shad, yellow perch, catfish, bass and carp.
So far during the fall season the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakima tribes estimate they have caught 106,176 chinook, including 41,937 URBs, and 21,415 steelhead. They project that another 12,600 chinook and 4,300 steelhead will be caught during next week's fishery.