One shortened Columbia River mainstem gillnet
period was set this week in a hearing by the two-state Columbia River Compact,
and two days were set for recreational white sturgeon fishing in mid-September.
Taking a conservative approach to commercial
non-Treaty gillnetting in the Columbia River, the Compact set just one more
night period for gillnetting upstream of Warrior Rock at St. Helens, Ore. to
Bonneville Dam, and that night was shortened by one hour.
Prior to the fall chinook fishing season, the
Compact had intended on providing six 8-hour periods for gillnetters in zones 4
and 5. That changed this week with the announcement by the U.S. v Oregon
Technical Advisory Committee that cut the anticipated steelhead run by nearly
As a precaution, there will be just four days
of fishing and gillnetters will have to use 9-inch mesh gillnets, which is more typical to use when steelhead are present,
according to Bill Tweit, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Columbia
River management unit leader.
Steelhead can pass through the larger mesh
much easier without becoming entangled in the net.
Given a preseason forecast for fall chinook of
375,510 fish, the expected catch in August for the gillnetters was about 9,980
chinook, which assumes an impact of 2.1 percent on Snake River wild fall
chinook. So far, commercial gillnetters have caught 5,735 chinook, 198 coho
salmon and 330 white sturgeon. The chinook catch is 57 percent of preseason
expectations, according to the Compact’s Fact Sheet No. 3 (https://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/FS/18/18_08_28ff3.pdf).
It goes on to say that preliminary stock
composition based on coded wire tags indicates 6.6 percent of the catch is
lower river hatchery fish (the preseason expectation was 13.8 percent), 58.3
percent Bonneville pool hatchery (preseason was 36.8 percent), 32 percent
upriver brights (42.5 percent) and 3 percent for pool upriver brights (6.9
percent). Sampling data indicates bright composition is running slightly ahead
of preseason expectations.
TAC’s fall chinook run forecast (375,510 fish)
to the river’s mouth is 79 percent of the 2017 actual return of 476,463 fish
and 50 percent of the 10-year (2008 – 2017) average of 753,350 fish, according
to the Compact’s Aug. 14 Fall Fact Sheet No. 2 at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/FS/18/18_08_14ff2.pdf
Some 253,100 of those fish will travel
upstream of Bonneville Dam. Passage at the dam is typically 50 percent complete
by Sept. 9. As of Aug. 28, 32,101 fall chinook had passed the dam, 47 percent
of the 10-year average for that date of 68,584 fish. Last year on Aug. 28,
passage at the dam was 40,144.
Coho have begun to pass Bonneville, with 2,754
by Aug. 28, 49 percent of the 10-year average of 5,621. Last year passage on
this date was 1,804.
Also this week, the Compact set two more days
for anglers to fish for white sturgeon in the Columbia upstream of the Wauna
powerlines that cross the river at Puget Island and up to Bonneville Dam. The
lower Willamette River remains closed to sturgeon retention at this time,
according to an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife news release.
Anglers can fish on two Saturdays, Sept. 15
and Sept. 22. This year’s white sturgeon season is about two weeks earlier than
last year when inclement weather impacted success rates and overall harvest.
As a precaution and so catch doesn’t exceed
the allocation of 1,231 fish for the two days, the dates are one week apart.
With that separation, the Compact staff can assess the previous week’s catch.
Fisheries managers may close the season early once the harvest guideline is
achieved, according to ODFW.
Another precaution is a narrower size limit –
44 inches to 50 inches instead of the normal 38 to 54 inch size limit.
The bag limit is one legal-sized white
sturgeon per day and up to two for the year. Fork length is measured in a
straight line from the tip of the nose to the fork in the tail fin with the
fish laying on its side on a flat surface and the ruler positioned flat under
the fish. (See Page 12 of the 2018 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations. More
information and regulation updates are at ODFW’s Columbia River Zone online (https://myodfw.com/fishing/columbia-zone).
According to Fact Sheet No. 3, staff had
earlier updated the WDFW and ODFW commissions and the Columbia River Advisor
groups on the status of lower Columbia River white sturgeon. Both supported
sturgeon retention fisheries this year that would be similar to the fishery
allowed last year, except for the area upstream of the Wauna powerlines where
they had recommended an earlier start to the fishing.
The 2018 Estuary fishery has so far consisted
of 11 retention days during mid-May through mid-June resulting in 2,412 kept
fish (81 percent of the 2,960 fish guideline for this area) from 17,380 angler
trips, the Fact Sheet says.
Based on the 2018 abundance forecast of
153,540 fish (44-50 inch fork length), a total of 6,160 white sturgeon would be
available for harvest downstream of Bonneville Dam. Recreational fisheries are
allotted 80 percent of that, while non-Treaty commercial fishers are allowed 20
The 2018 guideline for white sturgeon harvest
in non-treaty commercial fisheries is 1,230 fish and the expected catch in the
Select Area spring-fall commercial fisheries in the lower estuary is 560 fish,
leaving a balance of 670 for mainstem commercial fisheries
Due to the decline of legal-size fish and
other indicators during 2008-2012, retention fisheries downstream of Bonneville
Dam were closed during 2014-2016. However, based on the increasing trend for
legal-size white sturgeon in the lower Columbia River, both Commissions
approved limited retention fisheries in 2017 and again in 2018, the Fact Sheet
For the Compact’s decisions this week, see the
August 28 Compact Action Notice is at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/CAN/18/180828_notice.pdf.
--CBB, August 17, 2018, “Commercial Fishing
For Columbia River Fall Chinook To Open For Treaty, Non-Treaty Gillnetters,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441296.aspx
-CBB, July 27, 2018, “Fall Chinook Fishing
Begins Wednesday With Run Forecasted At 50 Percent Of 10-Year Average,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441188.aspx