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Sturgeon Fishing Day Added, Mainstem Night Fishing Ban Lifted, Wild Steelhead Passage Still Very Low
Posted on Friday, October 27, 2017 (PST)

Oregon and Washington confirmed that tribal commercial platform, hook and line fishing will continue through the end of 2017, while also adding a day this weekend for recreational white sturgeon anglers and reinstating night fishing on the mainstem Columbia River, but excluding retention of salmonids.

 

The two-state Columbia River Compact met Thursday, October 26, to make the changes to fishing regulations for both tribal and recreational anglers.

 

Although Tribal gillnetting ended September 29, platform, hook and line fishing continued and will continue through the remainder of the year, allowing catches of salmon and steelhead, along with other river species, for commercial sales, and the retention of white sturgeon 43 – 54 inches in the John Day and The Dalles pool, and 38 – 54 inches in the Bonneville pool, for subsistence only.

 

The Compact also added one more day to the already allowed two days of recreational sturgeon fishing upstream of the Wauna power lines and downstream of Bonneville Dam due to a low catch rate on the first of the two days, Saturday, October 21.

 

The low catch rate was likely due to gale force winds and heavy rains that day, according to John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The second day of sturgeon angling had been set for yesterday, October 26. The additional and third day of sturgeon angling is tomorrow, Saturday, October 28, also upstream of Wauna and downstream of the dam, for fish 44 to 50 inches in fork length.

 

Finally, at the behest of walleye anglers, mostly upstream of Bonneville Dam, the Compact removed an Oregon temporary rule that banned night fishing on the mainstem river. That rule had been in place this summer mostly to protect steelhead, which is experiencing one of the worst runs in years. The new rule, however, makes it clear that retention of salmonids at night is not allowed.

 

The October 26 Compact Action Notice is at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/CAN/17/171026_notice.pdf.

 

The current forecast for upriver fall chinook is 372,500 fish, including 285,800 upriver brights, 45,200 mid-Columbia brights and 41,500 Bonneville pool hatchery fish. Some 313,121 adults had passed the dam as of October 25, along with 37,245 jacks.

 

Last year on the same date 438,013 had passed, with 53,848 jacks. The 10-year average is 515,304 adults and 85,701 jacks.

 

Some 113,400 combined A- and B-run steelhead are forecast. The forecast, according to the Compact’s Fall Fact Sheet No. 8 (http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/FS/17/17_10_26ff8.pdf), includes 79,400 hatchery A-run fish, 28,400 wild A-run, 4,800 hatchery B-run fish and just 800 wild B-run fish.

 

According to Fish Passage Center information (www.fpc.org), 116,920 combined A- and B-run steelhead had passed Bonneville Dam as of October 25, with 34,049 of them wild. Last year’s count on this date was 186,281 fish with 51,634 wild and the 10-year average is 329,779 with 109,943 wild fish.

 

So far this season, tribal gillnetters and platform, hook and line fishers have caught 107,040 fall chinook, with 71,326 of those the limiting upriver brights. Tribal fishers are allowed 85,740 upriver brights, so 14,414 upriver brights remain in their allotment.

 

A total of 7,984 steelhead have been caught in the tribal fishery, which includes 491 B-run, the limiting fish. Their allowed catch is 728 B-run steelhead and the remaining allotment is 237 B-run fish.

 

Recreational sturgeon fishing downstream of Bonneville Dam had been closed to retention of white sturgeon from 2014 through 2016 due to concerns about legal-size sturgeon abundance, although catch and release was allowed. Angler effort for the fishery declined by 90 percent during this period.

 

It last opened for retention for Oregon and Washington anglers in June after considerable debate by the Compact and its staff. However, the five day June 5 to 14 opening was only in the Columbia River estuary downstream of Wauna and was shortened by one day due to heavy angler pressure and overharvest.

 

October 21 and 26 were the first days open to sturgeon retention between Wauna and Bonneville since 2013.

 

Just 184 sturgeon were caught the first day (catch isn’t known yet for the second day). That was just 35 percent of the 525-fish one-day catch expectation. Still about 4,700 anglers participated, which was higher than the Compact staff estimate. With 1,061 fish available (85 percent of the 1,245 catch guideline) and only October 26 to fish, staff saw an additional opportunity for anglers.

 

(See CBB, October 13, 2017, “States Set Two Days For Sturgeon Retention Fishing Downstream Of Bonneville Dam; Fish Over 66-Inches,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439717.aspx)

 

Permanent rules in Oregon prohibit night angling for salmon, steelhead, trout, shad, sturgeon and whitefish, except in the mainstem Columbia River upstream of McNary Dam to the Oregon/Washington border. However, due to forecasted low returns of summer steelhead this year, both states shut down night fishing from Buoy 10 to Hanford June 16 to December 31, except for pikeminnow anglers.

 

Although the intention was to just shut down steelhead fishing, it also effectively closed all night angling including warmwater fisheries targeting walleye and catfish which handle few, if any steelhead, the Compact Fact Sheet No. 8a said (http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/FS/17/17_10_26ff8a.pdf).

 

Staff said it received “substantial correspondence, especially from walleye anglers, opposed to this temporary night closure rule. Considering steelhead run timing and the extremely low likelihood of steelhead encounters in non-salmonid fisheries, the Joint Staff recommends that current temporary rules pertaining to night fishing be liberalized.”

 

Also see:

 

--CBB, June 16, 2017, “With More Fish Caught Than Expected, States Close Lower Columbia Sturgeon Fishing,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439103.aspx

 

--CBB, February 10, 2017, “Harvest Managers Extend Tribal Sturgeon Gillnetting For One Week,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438300.aspx

 

-- CBB, Feb. 26, 2016, “Lower Columbia River White Sturgeon Overall Numbers Continue To Grow, ‘Ongoing Productivity Issues' ” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436114.aspx

 

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