A higher-than-anticipated early commercial catch of upriver spring chinook in Columbia River estuary “select areas” forced Oregon and Washington officials to rescind six fishing periods that had been scheduled this week and next.
The upriver spring chinook are bound for hatcheries and tributary spawning grounds above the Columbia’s Bonneville Dam in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Some, however, on their journey inevitably wander through the off-channel select areas, where terminal fisheries are intended to harvest hatchery produced chinook that are returning to the sites where they received final rearing in net pens.
The fisheries are designed to allow the harvest of hatchery fish in areas where there will be little incidental take of upriver fish, which include wild upper Columbia and Snake river spring chinook stocks that are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
In a preseason allocation of allowable upriver impacts between sport and commercial fisheries, the select areas’ share penciled out to be 208 fish. But in the openers of the spring season April 17-19 in Youngs Bay, Deep River and Blind Slough/Knappa Slough gill-netters caught 100 upriver fish among a total haul of 1,150 spring chinook.
After the haul early this week the 2011 select area harvest included a total of 108 upriver springers (eight were caught during the winter season) with 57 fisheries of from six hours to four days still scheduled at the various sites between Thursday (April 21) and June 10.
So the Columbia River Compact on Wednesday decided to rescind two fishing periods each in Youngs Bay and Blind Slough/Knappa Slough and one each in Deep River and Tongue Point/South Channel that had been scheduled late this week and early next week. The decision by Guy Norman and Steve Williams leaves one opener next week at each of the select areas. Norman and Williams represent, respectively, the directors of the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife on the Compact, which sets commercial fisheries on the mainstem Columbia where it makes up the border of the states.
The idea is to allow more of the upriver fish that might be roaming into the select areas to resume their journey. ODFW and WDFW staff theorize that a delaying spring chinook run upriver, combined with what has been a high, turbid river , may have led to an unusually high number of the upriver fish being present in the select areas.
“Based on past performance of the fisheries, the allowable upriver spring chinook cap of 208 fish is projected to be exceeded without modification of the currently adopted seasons,” according to the April 20 joint state fact sheet.
“It is expected that abundance of upriver spring chinook will decline by the end of next week and into early May, allowing the fisheries to resume as originally adopted.”