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Sport Anglers Poised for Busy Buoy 10 Fishery

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - July 26, 2002

Anglers awaiting the Buoy 10 fishery, which opens Aug. 1, are likely to encounter a near-record return of fall chinook salmon in numbers that will continue to build through August.

The fall chinook run, projected to total about 659,800 fish, is expected to be the third-largest return since 1948. The estimates are for adult returns to the mouth of the Columbia River.

The annual "Status Report" for Columbia River fish runs and fisheries compiled by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife shows a "minimum" run of 871,700 fall chinook adults in 1987 -- the most since fish managers began counting adult fall chinook and "jacks" separately in 1970. The total fall chinook return in 1987 was estimated to be 956,800 including jacks, younger chinook that return to the river before their reproductive prime. The following year was nearly as bountiful, 783,000 adults and a total run of 869,100 fall chinook including jacks.

This year's predicted adult return is not expected to quite match up either with runs in 1947 and 1948 that totaled 903,600 and 899,200, respectively, including jacks. But it's still expected to be a banner run.

The largest estimated "minimum" run since 1938 was 1,175,700 fall chinook, including jacks, in 1941.

The lowest estimated return, including jacks, was 235,700 in 1993.

Typically, fishing action varies on opening day but builds throughout the month, said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish biologist Joe Hymer.

"Fishing should be smoking by mid to late August," Hymer said.

Adding to the action is the fact that about half the run is expected to be made up of "tules," lower Columbia hatchery-reared fish that are known for their strong performance on the line in the river estuary area.

The forecast includes a prediction that some 136,000 "Bonneville Pool Hatchery" fall chinook will return, the most since 1964. Those tules are bound for the Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery and tributaries to the Bonneville (Dam) pool.

The expected return of "upriver brights" is 273,800 fall chinook adults, well above the recent five-year average of 171,700. Those upriver brights are in large part wild fish destined for the Hanford Reach section of the mid-Columbia. The Mid-Columbia bright forecast is for 91,800 adults, nearly double the five-year average of 51,700.

The "lower river wild" forecast of 18,300 adults would be the largest since 1991 and a six-fold increase from the record low return of 3,300 adults in 1999. Those stocks are produced naturally in the Lewis River system, and to some extent the Cowlitz and Sandy rivers, according to the status report.

The prediction for a return of 133,000 "lower river hatchery" fall chinook would be the largest return since 1988.

Fishers are reminded that most of the Buoy 10 area -- except for a narrow ribbon along the Washington shore -- is in Oregon waters and subject to Oregon rules regarding party fishing. Although Washington moved recently to allow fishing to continue until every fisher on board catches his or her limit where a saltwater license is valid, Oregon still requires each fisher who has limited to stop fishing even if others have not caught their fish. Washington fishers are subject to Oregon rules while in most Buoy 10 waters.

Besides the fall chinook opportunity, Aug. 1 will also bring additional salmon fishing opportunity further upriver. Opportunities by area beginning Aug. 1 include:

Other areas above the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco currently are open for fishing under emergency rules. Anglers should consult the WDFW fishing hotline at (360) 902-2500 or the WDFW website at for information.

The Columbia River Compact, which sets commercial fishing seasons on the Columbia mainstem, meets Aug. 2 to consider non-Indian commercial salmon fishing options. The Oregon-Washington compact meets again on Aug. 15 to review salmon, steelhead and sturgeon stock status and to consider fishing seasons. Additional Compact meetings will be held throughout the late summer and fall to consider additional treaty Indian and non-Indian commercial season and to make run status updates.

Related Links:

Sport Anglers Poised for Busy Buoy 10 Fishery
Columbia Basin Bulletin, July 26, 2002

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