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Officials Check Numbers
Before Deciding on Salmon Closure

by Allen Thomas
The Columbian, June 28, 2006

Washington and Oregon officials will decide Thursday when to close the surprisingly good fishing for summer chinook salmon in the lower Columbia River.

On Tuesday, Washington officials pushed for a closure beginning Saturday, while Oregon envisioned prohibiting chinook retention starting July 6 or 7.

Delaying the decision until Thursday gives state and tribal biologists two more days of counts at Bonneville Dam and a slightly better estimate of the size of the run. A conference call is scheduled for 11 a.m.

Fishing for summer chinook has been good since the season opened June 16. Summer chinook fishing was closed for more than 30 years until a few seasons ago, when the run improved.

Anglers are learning how to target on the big, bright fish. Higher flows and cooler temperatures in the Columbia River also probably have helped the bite this year.

Summer chinook pass Bonneville Dam between June 16 and July 31, headed for tributaries upstream of Priest Rapids Dam near the Tri-Cities.

A run of 49,000 was forecast to enter the Columbia, but that already has been upgraded to at least 70,000, said Stuart Ellis of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

The run might be as large as 90,000, he said.

The harvest of summer chinook is determined by a complicated formula dividing the surplus in differing proportions between tribes upstream of Priest Rapids Dam, sportsmen upstream of Priest Rapids, mid-Columbia tribes, and sportsmen and gillnetters downstream of Bonneville Dam.

If the run is 70,000, sportsmen and gillnetters in the lower Columbia are due 3,100 summer chinook each, said Robin Ehlke of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If the run is 80,000, sportsmen and netters each get 4,300 chinook.

Through Friday, the sport fleet will have caught a projected 3,300 chinook below Bonneville Dam. Through Sunday, that number jumps to 4,100. Through July 7, the projection is 5,400.

Curt Melcher of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said he expects the good catch rate in the sport fishery to slow soon. There also will be fewer angler trips and less catch as a result of a 10-hour gillnet season from 7 p.m. Thursday through 5 a.m. Friday, he said.

Melcher said it appears the summer chinook run will be slightly more than 80,000 if the salmon are returning on their normal timing pattern. If the summer chinook are late, as were the spring chinook, the run could be even larger.

"All information indicates strongly the run is much larger than forecast,''Melcher said.

Sturgeon--Sturgeon retention in the Columbia River downstream of the Wauna power lines near Cathlamet will close as scheduled beginning July 5.

The catch is projected to be 14,600 on a target of 15,000. State biologists will determine a more accurate catch projection once the season ends.

Butch Smith of the Ilwaco Charter Association asked that if sturgeon remain on the estuary guideline that fishing be reopened on Fridays and Saturdays.

Ocean salmon angling starts Monday off the southern Washington and northern Oregon coasts. Fishing will be open Sundays through Thursdays.

Allowing sturgeon fishing on Fridays and Saturdays would provide an option during the two days a week the ocean is closed, Smith said.

John Day pool sturgeon--Sturgeon retention is closed beginning Saturday in the John Day pool, the Columbia River reservoir between John Day Dam near Rufus, Ore., and McNary Dam near Umatilla, Ore.

The catch guideline of 165 sturgeon is expected to be reached this week.

The Dalles pool closed in April. Bonneville pool remains open. Through Sunday, anglers had landed 390 sturgeon on the 700-fish guideline in Bonneville pool.

Allen Thomas
Officials Check Numbers Before Deciding on Salmon Closure
The Columbian, June 28, 2006

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