Washington reopened summer chinook fishing in
some mainstream pools and tributaries of the upper Columbia River, beginning
this week, after seeing stronger than expected returns of the fish.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
closed area chinook fisheries earlier this month after the summer chinook run
was downgraded by the U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee, which forecasts
runs of salmon and steelhead into the Columbia River, from a preseason forecast
of 67,300 fish to 44,000 fish as counted at Bonneville Dam.
“Based primarily on counts at Bonneville Dam,
that assessment indicated that this year's run size was one of the lowest since
2000,” a July 23 WDFW news release says.
"The counts at Bonneville Dam indicated a
very low return, so we were compelled to take the precautionary step of closing
the fisheries until additional information was available," said Bill
Tweit, WDFW Columbia River management unit leader. "But more recent fish
counts of summer chinook passing Priest Rapids Dam farther upstream indicate
that the run is stronger than expected."
Tweit noted that the overlap of spring and
summer chinook passing Bonneville Dam can make it difficult to get an accurate
estimate of the summer chinook return. Recent counts of summer chinook passing
Priest Rapids Dam provide a more accurate assessment of this year's return, he
For that reason, Washington manages its upper
Columbia non-treaty summer recreational fishing based on the count of summer
chinook at Priest Rapids Dam.
According to Stuart Ellis of the Columbia
River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and lead of TAC, summer chinook fisheries
are based on the forecast of upper Columbia River summer chinook June 16
through July 31. As of Wednesday, July 25, passage at Bonneville Dam was 39,246
Passage of chinook at Priest Rapids Dam as of
July 25 was 35,931 fish (1,770 jacks) and is nearly as high now as the summer
chinook count at Bonneville where 300 to 400 fish are still passing every day.
The Confederated Tribes of the Colville
Reservation manage according to passage at Wells Dam upstream, Tweit said.
Passage at Wells Dam as of July 25 was 16,127 adults and 603 jacks.
In addition to the low adult counts of summer
chinook this year, low jack chinook counts indicate an even weaker run next
year, according to Chad Jackson, WDFW Region 2 fish program manager. At Priest
Rapids Dam the jack count is just 10 percent of the 10-year average.
"Jack counts are usually a very good
predictor of adult returns the following year," he said. "It appears
we'll face some additional management challenges next year."
Based on current projections of summer chinook
passage over Priest Rapids Dam, Washington fishery managers are now confident
that there are surplus fish from the Chelan Falls, Entiat and Chief Joseph
hatchery programs available for harvest, the news release says.
"Hatchery fish produced from these
programs are solely intended for harvest," Jackson said. "Removal of
surplus hatchery fish will also help achieve conservation objectives by
reducing hatchery-wild interactions on the spawning grounds."
Starting July 25, anglers can again catch and
keep hatchery adult chinook from Rocky Reach Dam to Wells Dam, and the Chelan
River. In addition, the chinook fishery will open Aug. 1 from Wells Dam to
Chief Joseph Dam, including the Wenatchee, Okanogan, and Similkameen rivers.
Jackson said the area above Wells Dam will open
later to give the Colville Confederated Tribes time to collect broodstock for
their Chief Joseph Hatchery. Normally, July water temperatures in the lower
Okanogan River are high enough to create a thermal barrier to migrating salmon.
These fish gather just outside the mouth and are easily collected by tribal
staff. This year the thermal barrier formed later and the CCT are behind
The daily limit of hatchery adult chinook is
two fish per angler. Additional regulations are described in the Fishing Rule
Change at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=2174.
--CBB, April 27, 2018, “States Set Summer,
Fall Chinook Seasons; Below Average Forecasts Means Less Fishing,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440610.aspx