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Summer Chinook Fishing Resumes Below Bonneville, Wild Summer Steelhead Passage To Date Very Low
Posted on Friday, July 07, 2017 (PST)

Recreational anglers downstream of Bonneville Dam to the Astoria-Megler Bridge turned out in higher numbers and caught more than expected fish early in the summer chinook salmon fishery that opened June 15. As a result, anglers zipped through the original harvest guideline quota and retention of summer chinook ended briefly Friday evening, June 30.

 

That changed this week. A run size update by the U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee, which met Wednesday, July 5, is now predicting a larger run of the summer chinook, giving anglers in the lower river almost 1,300 more fish to catch through July.

 

"The higher run forecast allows us to reopen the fishery through the end of the summer season, when the fall fishing season gets underway," said Ron Roler, a Columbia River fishery manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "That's been our goal all along, so long as the fishery meets established conservation standards."

 

The bad news in this week’s TAC update is a considerable downgrade of the sockeye salmon run. Passage at Bonneville as of July 5 was just 74,937 fish, far fewer than expected. Typically, half the run passes the dam by June 25. The preseason forecast for sockeye was for 198,500 fish, about 63 percent of the 10-year average, but that was reduced by more than half this week by TAC to 90,400 fish. Last year on July 5, 315,665 fish had passed the dam and the 10-year average is 267,087.

 

Passage of summer chinook at Bonneville Dam beginning June 16, the first day that chinook counted at the dam are considered summer fish, through July 4, was 43,160 fish. Passage is typically 50 percent complete on June 30, according to the two-state Columbia River Compact’s Summer Fact Sheet Number 3 (http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/FS/17/17_07_06sf3.pdf).

 

The preseason forecast was for a Columbia River return of 63,100 adult fish, but with slightly higher than expected passage at Bonneville Dam, TAC increased its run prediction to 74,100 summer chinook. The 10-year average run size is 72,100 fish and last year 91,048 fish returned. Summer chinook are not listed under the Endangered Species Act and are considered a healthy run, according to the Compact staff.

 

The previous allocation for sports anglers downstream of the dam using the preseason forecast was 2,656 fish. With TAC’s new forecast, the allocation now is 3,946 fish, giving anglers 1,290 extra fish to catch through July.

 

“Based on the current forecast and management agreements for adult summer Chinook, a total of 21,225 fish are available for treaty harvest and 5,804 fish are available for non-treaty in-river harvest downstream of Priest Rapids Dam,” the fact sheet said. That includes mortalities from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Priest Rapids for anglers.

 

Based on the current forecast and Endangered Species Act limits, 6,328 sockeye are available for treaty harvest and 904 sockeye are available for non-treaty harvest, the fact sheet said.

 

The updated run size allowed Columbia River fishery managers to provide additional harvest opportunities for anglers. So Thursday, July 6, the Compact reopened adult chinook retention below Bonneville. Retention of chinook had remained open upstream of the dam.

 

Preliminary catch estimates for the previous two-week opening ending June 30 was 2,608 adult chinook kept (1,375 released) from 21,357 angler trips. Estimated summer chinook mortalities to date (kept plus release mortality) are about 2,820 fish.

 

Summer chinook retention of two chinook per day resumes Friday, July 7, and will continue through Monday July 31, in the mainstem Columbia River from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to Bonneville Dam. Retention of jack hatchery chinook, hatchery steelhead and sockeye remains open under previously adopted regulations, including the one hatchery steelhead daily bag limit. Barbless hooks are required, and anglers must release any summer chinook with an intact adipose fin.

 

See the July 6 Columbia River Fisheries Notice at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/CAN/17/170706_notice.pdf

 

The Compact staff estimated the fishery would take an additional 705 kept and release mortalities for chinook, bringing total mortalities for the lower river fishery to 3,525, which is 89 percent of the allocation). Sockeye harvest is expected to be about 250 fish for the season.

 

The Compact also added five more 12-hour periods through July 28 allowing lower river commercial fishing in Select Areas to gillnet for late run hatchery select area spring chinook.

 

Gillnetting had already been extended at a Compact meeting last week due to significant late-season landings in Blind Slough/Knappa Slough and Tongue Point/South Channel. The extension was through July 11. And landings, according to Compact staff, remained strong the last two weeks of June with 130-230 chinook landed per 12-hour period in Blind/Knappa Slough and nearly 200 per period in Tongue Point.

 

Given the catch rates and strong ex-vessel prices, the staff recommended the additional Select Area fishing time.

 

Summer steelhead passage at the dam continues to be far below the forecast. As of July 5, some 5,847 summer steelhead had passed the dam. Of those 2,124 were wild fish. The 10-year average on July 5 is 20,410, with 7,864 wild fish, while last year’s count was 19,073 with 7,864 of those wild.

 

According to the June 28 Summer Fact Sheet Number 2b (http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/FS/17/17_06_28sf2b.pdf), upriver stocks of summer steelhead migrate past Bonneville Dam April 1 through October 31, and those that pass prior to July 1 are considered Skamania stock, while steelhead passing July 1 through October 31 are classified by length as either A-run or B-run fish. Summer steelhead handled in Columbia River fisheries downstream of Bonneville are considered lower river stock in May and June and upriver stock July through October.

 

Some 119,400 upriver summer steelhead are expected to pass Bonneville Dam this year during July through October, which is 38 percent of the 2007-2016 average of 315,100 fish.

 

Washington state fishing rules are at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/

 

Oregon state fishing rules are at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing/reg_changes/columbia.asp

 

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