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Fall Chinook Fishing Begins Wednesday With Run Forecasted At 50 Percent Of 10-Year Average
Posted on Friday, July 27, 2018 (PST)

With a run-size roughly half of the 10-year average, recreational anglers on the mainstem Columbia River will begin fishing for fall chinook August 1.


The two-state Columbia River Compact set the fall season regulations in April. This week it also set Treaty sturgeon fishing in Zone 6 – Bonneville to McNary dams – and non-Treaty select area commercial gillnetting in the lower Columbia River.


The projected return of fall chinook to the Columbia River is 375,500, 79 percent of last year’s run of 476,100 and 50 percent of the 10-year average (2008-2017).


This year’s forecast includes 205,100 upriver bright chinook, compared to a return of 297,423 in 2017. Of those 9,600 are wild chinook headed to the Snake River in 2018, somewhat fewer than last year’s Snake River run of 11,750.


Based on this lower forecast, fisheries will be managed for a harvest rate of 8.25 percent, down from 15 percent in the recent years, resulting in shorter fall chinook retention seasons, according to the Compact Fall Fact Sheet No 1 (


For details on fall season recreational fishing see CBB, April 27, 2018, “States Set Summer, Fall Chinook Seasons; Below Average Forecasts Means Less Fishing,”


The allowable impact rate for combined treaty and non-treaty fisheries is 45 percent of the upriver bright run based on preseason forecasts – the upriver bright stock is the surrogate for Snake River wild chinook), the Fact Sheet says. This impact limit is allocated 30 percent for treaty fisheries and 15 percent for non-treaty fisheries. However, this year, due to the reduced anticipated run size that is near a 200,000 fish threshold, non-treaty fisheries are allocated 8.25 percent of the upriver bright stocks.


The six major management groups of fall chinook include select area bright, lower river hatchery, lower river wild, Bonneville pool hatchery, upriver bright and Mid-Columbia bright (comprised of pool upriver bright and lower river bright stocks).


Some 182,400 upriver summer steelhead are forecasted for 2018, including 57,700 unclipped (48,200 wild) steelhead. The A-run of steelhead (less than 78 centimeters, about 31 inches) forecast is 62 percent of the 10-year average, while the B-run (larger than 78 cm) is 60 percent of the 10-year average.


However, steelhead passage at Bonneville Dam is running behind schedule with counts – July 1-24 – of 16,970 fish, less than the expected 25,300 fish and is about one-third of the 10-year average or about 50 percent of the recent 5-year average. Passage at Bonneville (July–October) is typically 50 percent complete by August 13.


The count of unclipped steelhead – July 1-24 – was 8,272 fish (49 percent of the forecasted run) which is 66 percent of the expected passage for this period.


“The B-run forecast shows double what we had last year, but the numbers at Bonneville are not tracking” with the forecast,” warned Rick Stillwater, a Columbia River recreational advisor from the upper reaches of the Columbia River. “I’m worried that the wild B-run is not going to reach the forecast and it could be worse than last year.”


The coho salmon run this year is forecasted to be 213,600 fish. That includes 127,200 early stock and 86,400 late stock. The forecast is 51 percent of the 10-year average of 416,100 fish. Some 51,800 of the coho will pass Bonneville Dam. Just 2 have been counted at the dam so far this year, which is not unusual according to the Fact Sheet.


Conditions in the river are near normal, said John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Flow at Bonneville is about 191,000 cubic feet per second, while the 5-year average for this time of year is 160 kcfs. The water temperature at Bonneville is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, while the 5-year average is 70.2 F.


The temperature at Bonneville may not be indicative of what is happening elsewhere in the Columbia River Basin, according to Dave Moscowitz, executive director of The Conservation Angler.


“Half the steelhead (that have passed Bonneville Dam) are somewhere between Bonneville and the John Day Dam and that may be due to warm water,” Moscowitz said. “The run is still very low and the returns are at risk.”


He added that the Deschutes River water temperature at its confluence with the Columbia, which can usually be relied on to be a cold water refuge, is already at 71 degrees. In addition, the warm water will force fish into Drano Lake on the Washington side of the Columbia, a cool water refuge, he said, yet the Compact is allowing both recreational and tribal fishing in the lake, which should not be allowed.


There have been some reports of white sturgeon mortalities caused by warm water, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Laura Heironimus, sturgeon/smelt/Pikeminnow unit lead. She said biologists have documented about six mortalities in July, but only one has been verified. “As of now, there is no indication of a sturgeon die off,” she said.


With quotas of white sturgeon remaining in the Bonneville and John Day pools, the Compact approved the Treaty Tribes’ plan to continue commercial setline, platform and hook and line fishing in those two pools.


The sturgeon allocation for Treaty fishing in the Bonneville pool is 325 fish. Just 78 have been caught, with 247 remaining in the allocation.


The sturgeon allocation in the The Dalles pool is 415 fish and all 415 have been caught.


The sturgeon allocation in the John Day pool is 210 fish. Some 162 have been caught and 48 remain in the allocation.


Treaty commercial setline fishing in the John Day pool begins 6 am Friday, July 27, and ends 6 pm Saturday, Aug. 4. Setline fishing in the Bonneville pool begins 6 am Monday, Aug. 6 and ends 6 pm, Saturday, Aug. 18.


Commercial platform and hook and line sturgeon fishing in Zone 6 begins Aug. 1 and ends Dec. 31, as does Yakama Nation commercial sturgeon fishing in Zone 6 tributaries.


Commercial platform and hook and line sturgeon fishing downstream of Bonneville Dam begins Aug. 1 and ends Oct. 31.


Select area commercial gillnetting will also continue. Expected harvest include 36,100 coho and 2,800 select area bright fall chinook (hatchery fish). The expected coho catch would be 63 percent of the 10-year average catch, while that of the chinook brights would be 38 percent of the 10-year average.


Based on recent performance and the 2018 forecast, the expected escapement of tule fall chinook to the Big Creek Hatchery east of Astoria may not meet broodstock needs, therefore the fishery proposal for the Blind/Knappa Slough site is modified from recent years, according to the Compact Fact Sheet.


So far this year, white sturgeon landings in select area fisheries are 265 fish, or 22 percent of the 1,230 commercial guideline.


The Compact opened to commercial gillnetting the Deep River select area fishery Aug. 27 – 30, using the larger 9-3/4 inch mesh gillnets. After Sept. 8 gillnetters will be required to go to a smaller 6 inch mesh. Deep River will also be open Monday through Friday nights Sept. 3 – 22 (15 nights) and Sept. 24 – October 12 (12 nights)


“Use of large mesh gear in late August and early September focuses harvest on Chinook during peak abundance, which should reduce escapement of Chinook into Grays River,” the Compact Fact Sheet says. “The reduced mesh size (after September 8) and additional periods for the first three weeks in September are intended to maximize Coho harvest, and a mid-October end date reduces Chum handle.”


Knappa/Blind Slough is open Monday and Wednesday night Aug. 27 and 29, as well as Monday through Thursday nights Sept. 3 through Oct. 26 (32 nights).


Tongue Point and South Channel select areas will be open Monday and Wednesday nights, Aug. 27 and 29, and Monday through Thursday nights Sept. 3 through Oct. 26 (32 nights).


The Youngs Bay select area will be open for several 36-hour periods, 7 pm Wednesday, Aug. 1 to 7 am Friday, Aug. 3, 7 pm Tuesday to 7 am, and Thursday weekly August 7-23, as well as Monday and Wednesday nights Aug. 27–30 (7 pm – 7 am and 7 pm Monday, Sept. 3 to noon Wednesday Oct. 31 (58 days).


For information concerning these decisions see the July 26, 2018 Fall Fact Sheet #1 at:


Also see:


--CBB, July 13, 2018, “Summer Chinook Angling Ends Upstream Of Bonneville Dam, Treaty Fishing Gets Three More Days,”


--CBB, June 29, 2018, “With Run Downgrade, Summer Chinook Fishing Below Bonneville Dam Ends Early; Sockeye Above Forecast,”


--CBB, June 8, 2018, “Spring Chinook Fishing Extended With Increased Bag Limit; So Far, Jacks Passage Very Low,”


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