The tip of what is hoped to be a fall chinook and summer steelhead iceberg was revealed during early August with modest catches in sport and commercial fisheries in the lower Columbia River mainstem.
A nine-hour commercial fishery open from the mouth of the river nearly 146 river miles upstream to Bonneville Dam resulted in a catch of 1,025 fall chinook salmon, which was about one-third of the harvest projected by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife. According to data posted online by ODFW, the chinook harvested averaged 16.6 pounds.
The lower river commercial fleet also hauled in 896 sturgeon during the Aug. 4-5 nighttime fishery. ODFW and WDFW staff have recommended a sturgeon harvest of up to 1,800 fish during August fisheries, which would leave 746 for commercial harvest during September/October.
Earlier this month the Columbia River Compact, which sets mainstem commercial fisheries, OK’d five nine-hour commercial fisheries, including the one completed last week, during August. The next four will be carried out in Zones 4-5, roughly from Longview, Wash., upstream to Bonneville.
The gill-net fleet also caught 1,199 chinook during Aug. 3-4 during a “select area” fishery in Youngs Bay at Astoria, Ore. Select area fisheries are at sites off the mainstem where hatchery salmon receive their final rearing as juveniles before release. The fish then home in on those areas on their return as adults to provide so-called “terminal fisheries” where few wild fish are encountered. Fisheries are managed to avoid impacts on wild chinook stocks that are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Only 151 adult chinook were caught during 14,265 angler trips Aug. 1-7 to the lower Columbia (from Tongue Point/Rocky Point just above Astoria to Bonneville), according to a fact sheet prepared by the ODFW and WDFW staffs.
They did catch and keep 2,969 fin-clipped steelhead during the week and caught and released 2,376. Anglers are required to release steelhead that are not marked with a clipped adipose fin.
Preseason kept catch expectations for the fall lower Columbia sport fishery are 20,730 chinook and 1,000 coho salmon.
In all 766,300 fall chinook and 390,900 upriver summer steelhead are expected to return to the Columbia-Snake river basin this summer and fall, according to preseason forecasts. The fall chinook forecast includes a forecast of 324,910 upriver bright fall chinook. Upriver fish are bound for hatcheries and spawning grounds upstream of Bonneville Dam in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
A total of 173,714 steelhead has been counted at Bonneville this year through Wednesday. The high daily count so far was 9,339 on July 30. Wednesday’s steelhead count was 5,395.
The fall chinook counts have yet to build steam, averaging about 500 per day Aug. 1-10. Chinook passing Bonneville are counted as “fall” stock beginning Aug. 1.