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Washington Closes Three Rivers To Chinook Retention Due To Low Hatchery Returns
Posted on Friday, October 06, 2017 (PST)

Worried about filling quotas at hatcheries, Washington closed the Cowlitz, North Fork of the Toutle and Green rivers to retention of fall chinook salmon this week.


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife closed the rivers October 3, saying that the closures are to ensure that enough fall chinook return to those rivers to support hatchery production this coming year.


The Cowlitz River flows into the Columbia River near Longview Washington. The North Fork of the Toutle River is a tributary of the Cowlitz River and the Green River is the North Fork’s largest tributary. All are in southwest Washington.


The Cowlitz River will remain open to retention of other sport fish, such as coho, summer steelhead and sea-run cutthroat trout. Anglers will be required to return to the rivers any chinook caught while fishing.


"This was a tough decision for fishery managers, but we can't ignore the lagging chinook returns," said Dan Rawding, acting WDFW regional fish manager. "We have to think about producing fish for next year too."


According to the pre-season forecast, 3,900 hatchery fall chinook were expected to cross Barrier Dam on the Cowlitz River this year, with a goal of collecting 1,900 fish for hatchery broodstock. So far, only 700 chinook have returned to the river, and Rawding said fish managers are now hoping to get 1,400 back to the hatchery.


On the Green River, only 400 chinook have been collected this year out of an expected return of 1,000 hatchery fish. The broodstock goal is 800 fish at the hatchery, which produces chinook returning to the Green and North Toutle rivers.


Two other large Columbia River tributaries – the Kalama and the Washougal – will remain open to fishing for chinook salmon. Both rivers are downstream of Bonneville Dam. There, too, chinook returns are lower than expected, but fishery managers still expect to meet hatchery broodstock goals on those rivers, Rawding said.


Rawding said WDFW will continue to monitor salmon returns in area rivers, and will consider reopening rivers to chinook fishing if returns improve in the coming weeks.


Passage of upriver fall chinook at Bonneville Dam is nearly complete with passage as of October 4 standing at 297,149 adults and 35,089 jacks. Last year on the same date, passage was 426,043 adults and 51,722 jacks. The 10-year average is 492,322 adults and 80,285 jacks (


At its meeting last week, the U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee updated its fall chinook forecast and is now predicting that 487,000 fall chinook will enter the Columbia River mouth, down from the previous week’s forecast of 492,800 fish.


The new forecast is 79 percent of the preseason forecast of 613,800 fish (which was 96 percent of 2016’s actual return of 642,400 fish and 84 percent of the 2007-2016 average return of 727,600 fish).


TAC said that passage of bright stocks is tracking consistent with pre-season expectations and so it maintained the pre-season expectation for these stocks. However, it downgraded the Bonneville Pool Hatchery tule run based on reduced lower river harvest estimates. The current fall chinook forecast of 487,000 fish includes 275,200 upriver brights and 39,700 Bonneville pool hatchery, also heading upriver.


More information about Washington rule changes can be found on WDFW's website at


Also see:


--CBB, September 29, 2017, “Treaty Fishing Gets Another Week; B-Run Steelhead Downgraded To 6,500 Fish, 1,000 Wild,”


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