Tribal commercial fishermen will get the most out of their Columbia River mainstem “summer” salmon fishing season with the approval Thursday of a 5 ½-day fishery that will stretch right up until 6 p.m. Saturday, July 30.
The fishery was approved by the Columbia River Compact, which is made up of representatives of the directors of the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife. The tribes will be allowed to catch and sell chinook and coho salmon, steelhead, shad, yellow perch, bass, walleye, catfish and carp. They can catch and keep, but can not sell, sockeye salmon.
That will make it seven fisheries – each ranging from 2 ½ to 5 ½ day -- during a summer season that began June 16 and ends July 31. The tribes estimate that by next Friday they will have hauled in in 21,800 summer chinook and 12,800 sockeye salmon. Based on the updated run-size forecasts and corresponding Endangered Species Act impact limits, treaty Indian fisheries are allocated a total of 22,974 adult summer chinook and 13,076 sockeye.
The catch in hand of upper Columbia summer chinook, already the largest on a record dating back to 1980, is 16,319 in 2006 in Zone 6’s reservoirs upstream of Bonneville Dam. The vast majority of the tribes’ catch is in Zone 6. Bonneville Dam is the first dam the summer chinook encounter (river mile 146) on their way to hatcheries and spawning grounds above Priest Rapids, the fifth dam in the Columbia system.
Because the tribes’ – the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama – are approaching their ESA sockeye limit, the tribes next week will for the third straight week maintain minimum mesh size restriction as a means of reducing sockeye encounters. Most of the sockeye, which are much smaller than chinook, can wriggle through the larger mesh nets and continue their spawning journey.
Under a management agreement between states, tribes and the federal government, the tribes are allowed to harvest up to 7 percent of the sockeye run. Allocations are based on the expected size of the return. The state and tribal harvests are kept in check in order to limit impacts on Snake River sockeye, which are ESA-listed. The vast majority of the sockeye are unlisted fish bound for the Okanogan and Wenatchee basins in central Washington and/or southern British Columbia.
The upper Columbia summer chinook are unlisted and considered to be a healthy stocks.
In recent weeks most of the sockeye are being caught with hook and line from river’s edge platforms, Stuart Ellis, a Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission biologist, told the Compact.
“People are busy canning sockeye right now” for consumption during the fall and winter, Ellis said.
The 2011 white sturgeon recreational fishing season in Zone 6 officially comes to an end at the end of the day Friday, July 29 with the closure of The Dalles Dam pool.
During a joint state sport fishing hearing also held Thursday ODFW and WDFW fishery managers decided that by next Friday anglers will have harvested the 300-fish allocation for The Dalles reservoir. The catch from Jan. 1 through July 17 was 220 of the big fish.
Based on observed catch rates during July 11-17, staff is estimating the catch to range from 6 to 7 white sturgeon per day through next week. That would bring the harvest close to the limit.
The Bonneville pool was closed to sturgeon retention July 9 after anglers shot past (2,341 harvested) the 2,000-fish guideline for the reservoir. The John Day pool was closed April 10 with 532 fish in hand compared to a 500-fish guideline.
All three reservoirs remain open for catch-and-release fishing for white sturgeon through the end of the year. Anglers are reminded that sturgeon spawning sanctuaries exist immediately downstream of both John Day and McNary dams as described Oregon and Washington sport fishing regulations. Fishing for sturgeon is prohibited in these sanctuaries through July 31.