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Compact Approves One Shortened Mainstem Gillnet Period, Opens Two-Day Sturgeon Fishery
Posted on Thursday, August 30, 2018 (PST)

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 50 percent.

 

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 percent.

 

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 says.

 

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.

 

Also see:

 

--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

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