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Commercial Fishermen Await Chinook Ruling

by Staff
The Daily News, March 31, 2006

Commercial fishing for spring chinook is on hold while fishery managers keep their eyes on a run that may be smaller than expected.

But it's too early to say whether the sport fishing season will be cut short before the currently scheduled April 19, and a fisheries biologist says anything is possible.

Earlier this week, the Columbia River Compact decided not to schedule any gillnet seasons for the time being. The Compact plans to meet again late next week to look at the latest fish statistics.

The preseason estimate for spring chinook entering the Columbia River was 88,400 fish, which would be the worst in six years.

One fish fact suggests the return is less than expected. As of last Saturday, only six springers had been counted at Bonneville Dam. A year ago at the same time, the count was 30 and the 10-year average for the date is 1,894.

Catches during commercial test fishing periods last week were decreasing when they were expected to increase, said Robin Ehlke, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist.

Relatively few sport anglers have been on the river, Ehlke said. However, sport anglers have been doing better the past few days, she said. Typically, only 1 percent of the spring chinook run arrives in March so it's too early to judge the run size, she said. The run could be "early, late, big or small," she said. "All possibilities are on the table."

Commercial fishing is unlikely to resume until the third week of April, Ehlke said, with gillnetting in May or June a possibility.

The sport fishing cutoff of April 19 "could be moved one way or the other," depending on how the run size shapes up, Ehlke said.

Commercial Fishermen Await Chinook Ruling
The Daily News, March 31, 2006

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