Angling Restrictions Studied
Oregon's Fish and Wildlife Commission has given its blessing to cutting the spring chinook bag limit or number of open days per week immediately downstream of Bonneville Dam if needed to stretch the fishing season into May.
The panel took its action in Salem two weeks ago.
A final decision on sport and commercial spring salmon seasons will be made when Washington and Oregon officials meet at 10 a.m. Jan. 28 at the Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way.
A good run of 403,200 spring chinook salmon is expected to begin entering the Columbia River in February. That includes 254,100 destined for upstream of Bonneville Dam, 116,900 for the Willamette River and 32,200 spread between the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis and Sandy rivers.
The goal of the sport-fishing season in the lower Columbia River is to get at least through April before using up the small incidental catch allocation of wild upper Columbia and Snake spring chinook, which are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
In 2004, the area between Bonneville Dam and Interstate 5 closed on April 21 and downstream of I-5 closed on April 30.
Spring chinook catches downstream of I-5 are a mix of upper Columbia, lower Columbia and Willamette fish, while upstream of I-5 the catch is all upper Columbia chinook.
Because lower Columbia and Willamette fish dilute the upper Columbia catch, more total spring chinook can be taken if the fishery is downstream of I-5.
In addition, catch rates can be extremely high in the stretch of the Columbia between Bonneville Dam and Beacon Rock, as the fish are concentrated downstream of the dam.
Eighty-one percent of the catch upstream of Interstate 5 occurs between Beacon Rock and the Bonneville Dam deadline.
Curt Melcher of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife presented the Oregon commission with a variety of possible options for dampening the catch and stretching the season.
Public testimony will be taken at the Jan. 28 meeting in Vancouver prior to the seasons being adopted.
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