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Fall Fishing Opens To Lower Than Usual Chinook Returns; Season Includes Rolling Steelhead Closure
Posted on Friday, July 28, 2017 (PST)

Tribes, commercial gillnetters and sports anglers will all begin fishing in August as the two-state Columbia River Compact met this week to set fishing times through the fall season that begins August 1.

 

Some 613,840 fall chinook are forecasted to return to the Columbia River, 96 percent of 2016’s actual return of 642,400 fish and 84 percent of the 10-year average (2007 – 2016). Of those, nearly 403,600 upriver chinook will pass Bonneville Dam, a run that is typically half done by September 9.

 

The forecast for coho salmon returning to the Columbia River is 319,300 fish, 93 percent of the 5-year average (2012 – 2016) of 344,500 fish. That includes an early run of 196,800 and a late run of 122,500. About 97,400 will pass Bonneville Dam this year, according to Fall Fact Sheet No. 1 prepared by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (https://web.mail.comcast.net/service/home/~/?auth

 

Recreational anglers have been fishing for summer chinook since July 7 from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to the Highway 395 Bridge near Pasco at the Washington/Oregon border.

 

In a decision that had been made earlier in the year, beginning Tuesday, August 1, they will fish for fall chinook from Tongue Point upstream to Warrior Rock near St. Helens, Oregon, until September 7 for any chinook, but the area will only be open for retention of hatchery chinook Sept. 8 - 14.

 

From Warrior Rock upstream to Hwy. 395, chinook retention will be open all fall with a two fish/two chinook daily adult bag limit.

 

Also opening August 1 for chinook retention is the popular Buoy 10 fishery at the Columbia River mouth. It is expected to remain open through September 4, but will be closed for chinook retention Sept. 5 – 30 (Columbia River regulation updates are at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing/reg_changes/index.asp and at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/).

 

As recreational angling for fall chinook opens in the Columbia River, the departments of fish and wildlife in Oregon and Idaho are closing chinook fishing in the Snake River canyon downstream of Idaho Power’s Hells Canyon Dam at sundown, Sunday, July 30. Idaho is also closing to chinook fishing the Little Salmon and Upper Salmon rivers on the same day because harvest objectives are being met or because the run has ended. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is considering a fall chinook fishery today, July 27. See https://idfg.idaho.gov/press/idahos-chinook-salmon-seasons-end-july-30 for more information.

 

The Compact at its Tuesday, July 27 meeting in Ridgefield, Washington, also set Treaty Indian commercial setline fishing for sturgeon in the John Day pool, commercial platform hook and line fishing for salmon, Yakama Nation commercial fishing in Columbia River tributaries and commercial platform and hook and line fishing for areas downstream of Bonneville Dam.

 

In addition, the Compact approved fall gillnetting in select areas of the lower Columbia River estuary.

 

While chinook and coho salmon runs are somewhat below average this year, upriver summer steelhead are arriving in record low numbers. The total A-Index run of steelhead (generally the smaller of the A- and B-index runs at less than 78 centimeters – about 31 inches in length, called fork length – and arriving earlier) is expected to be 54 percent of the 5-year average. The B-Index run of fish (larger than 78 cm and later arriving) is expected in numbers that are just 25 percent of the 5-year average.

 

Dave Moscowitz, Executive Director of The Conservation Angler, said the use of the 5-year average for steelhead is misleading. The A-run summer steelhead, he said, is just 18.3 percent of the 10-year average, whereas the 5-year average is showing that the current run is 54 percent of average. That’s a big difference, he said, opposing the Tribal hook and line fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam.

 

However, Jeff Whisler of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and a member of the U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee, which provides fishery managers with in-season forecasts, said that the 5-year average gives a more recent look at the run, although TAC as well as ODFW look at both 5- and 10-year averages when determining run sizes and regulations.

 

Some 119,400 A- and B-run steelhead are forecasted to pass Bonneville Dam, including 41,500 unclipped fish (34,100 wild). The 41,500 unclipped to 34,100 wild fish ratio reflects the typical proportion of unclipped hatchery fish in the run, said Stuart Ellis of CRITFC and the TAC lead this year.

 

“Counts of steelhead at Bonneville Dam during July 1-25 total 10,418 fish, which is much less than expected (about 20,800) and is the lowest cumulative passage since 1943,” the Fact Sheet says. “Passage at Bonneville Dam (July-October) is typically 50 percent complete by August 13. The count of unclipped steelhead from July 1 - 25 totals 6,025 which is the lowest cumulative count of unclipped fish since 1995.”

 

Passage in July is usually just A-run fish. B-run fish usually show up around the end of August and primarily are returning to the Snake River. A-run fish return to tributaries throughout the Columbia and Snake river basins, the Fact Sheet says.

 

Restrictions on steelhead retention in the Columbia River basin is the biggest change for the 2017 fall season, according to ODFW.

 

Those restrictions include area-specific, 1-2 month steelhead retention closures and a one steelhead bag limit when retention is allowed, including a series of rolling closures that progress upriver following the steelhead return to reduce the take of both hatchery and wild fish.

 

ODFW and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife together set the rolling closure regulations.

 

All steelhead (hatchery and wild) must be released as follows:

-- Buoy 10 upstream to The Dalles Dam during Aug. 1-31

-- The Dalles Dam upstream to John Day Dam during Sept. 1-30

-- John Day Dam upstream to McNary Dam during Sept. 1 - Oct. 31

-- McNary Dam upstream to Hwy. 395 during Oct. 1 – Nov. 30

 

Night angling is also prohibited except for registered anglers targeting Northern pikeminnow.

 

(See CBB, June 16, 2017, “States Set Schedule Of Angling Closures Aimed At Protecting Low Numbers Of Wild Steelhead,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439106.aspx)

 

TAC will again begin to look at updating run sizes when it meets August 7. It will meet weekly through the fall season, Ellis said.

 

According to the Fact Sheet fall chinook are made up of six management components: some 13,700 select area brights (SAB) are forecasted to enter the river, lower river hatchery (LRH) are forecasted at 98,750, lower river wild (LRW) at13,610, Bonneville pool hatchery (BPH) at 164,390, upriver bright (URB) at 275,210, including 12,400 Snake River wild, and mid-Columbia bright (MCB). The MCB component is comprised of Bonneville upriver bright (BUB) forecasted at 3,470, pool upriver bright (PUB) at 44,490, and lower river brights (LRB) at 220.

 

The URB, BPH, and PUB chinook are headed to areas upstream of Bonneville Dam -- the upriver run. Lower river chinook stocks are SAB, LRH, LRW, LRB, and BUB. The LRH and BPH stocks are referred to as tules and the LRW, SAB, URB, and MCB stocks are brights.

 

The Compact approved four tribal fisheries:

--Treaty Indian commercial sturgeon setline for 6 am Tuesday, Aug. 1, to 6 pm, Saturday Aug. 12 in the John Day pool. Allowable remaining catch of 43 inch to 54 inch white sturgeon is 136 fish.

--Treaty fishery – Zone 6 commercial platform and hook and line for 12:01 am, Aug. 1, to 6 pm, Oct. 31.

--Yakama Nation commercial fisheries – Zone 6 tributaries for 12:01 am, Aug. 1, to 6 pm, Dec. 31 at Drano Lake and the Klickitat River.

--Treaty fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam: commercial platform and hook and line for 12:01 am, Aug. 1, to 11:59 pm, Oct. 31.

 

Commercial gillnet off-channel select area fisheries approved by the Compact this week are:

--Deep River, Washington: Monday through Thursday nights, 7 pm to 7 am, Aug. 21 - Sept. 1; Monday through Friday nights, 6 pm to 9 am, Sept. 4 – 23; and Monday through Thursday nights, 7 pm to 7 am, Sept. 25 - Oct. 13.

--Blind Slough/Knappa Slough, Oregon: Monday and Wednesday nights, 7 pm to 7 am, Aug. 28 – 31; Monday through Thursday nights, 7 pm to 7 am, Sept. 4 - 8, and 6 pm to 10 am, Sept. 8 - Oct. 27.

--Tongue Point/South Channel: Monday and Wednesday nights, 7 pm to 7 am, Aug. 28 - 31; Monday through Thursday nights, 7 pm to 7 am, Sept. 4 – 8 and 6 pm to 10 am, Sept. 8 – 27.

--Youngs Bay: 7 pm Tuesday to 7 am Thursday weekly Aug. 1 – 24; Monday through Wednesday, 7 pm to 7 am, Aug. 28 – 31; and 7 pm Monday, Sept. 4 to noon Tuesday, Oct. 31.

 

The Compact’s July 27 Columbia River Action Notice is at https://web.mail.comcast.net/service/home/~/?auth=co&loc=en_US&id=489709&part=2.

 

Also see:

 

--CBB, July 21, 2017, “Summer Chinook, Sockeye Runs Downgraded; Treaty Commercial Fishery Extended,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439313.aspx

 

 --CBB, July 14, 2017, “Harvest Managers Approve More Tribal Fishing, Concerns Expressed Over Low Sockeye, Summer Steelhead,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439267.aspx

 

--CBB, July 7, 2017, “Summer Chinook Fishing Resumes Below Bonneville, Wild Summer Steelhead Passage To Date Very Low,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439220.aspx

 

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