Columbia River harvest managers have now opened recreational salmon angling from Bonneville Dam to Astoria to take advantage of a good fall chinook return (record passage at Lower Granite Dam) and a booming coho run. In contrast, the steelhead return during this period is still dismal.
Following nearly 40,000 public comments, NOAA Fisheries is approving an amendment to the fishery management plan for Chinook salmon off the West Coast. It will make more fish available for endangered Southern Resident killer whales in years when salmon returns are low.
Amid concern about record low numbers of steelhead moving up the Columbia River so far this year, state fishery managers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have announced new restrictions on steelhead fishing in the Snake River, as well as several Snake and Columbia River tributaries.
With a continued higher than allowed catch of lower river tule Chinook salmon, listed under the Endangered Species Act, Washington and Oregon fisheries managers today shut down all salmon fishing below Bonneville Dam, except for coho fishing from Buoy 10 to Tongue Point.
Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife staffs say there is little more that can be done to protect the dismally small number of upriver summer steelhead migrating this year in the Columbia River basin short of shutting down all non-tribal fishing, and even that “would not move the needle,” one staff member said.
Due to higher-than-expected catch rates and unexpected impacts to a salmon stock listed under the Endangered Species Act, Chinook salmon retention on the Columbia River from the Buoy 10 line upstream to the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line will close effective Friday, Aug. 27.
A 60 percent drop in the forecasted run of summer steelhead over Bonneville Dam is adding to the already bad news for Columbia and Snake river steelhead returns this year, which is seeing its worst year since Bonneville Dam was built.
An informal coalition of fisheries-focused conservation groups is urging the fish and wildlife commissions in Oregon and Washington to step up to save summer steelhead in a year when their returns are at the lowest numbers since Bonneville Dam was built and in a year when water temperatures threaten their migration.
As the Columbia River at Bonneville Dam warms to over 71 degrees Fahrenheit and with expectations of the second lowest steelhead run since Bonneville Dam was built, recreational angling for fall chinook, the largest remaining run of chinook salmon on the Columbia River, begins August 1.