Excellent Forecast for Northern Oregon and
by Tom Paulu
Chinook and coho returns are expected to aproach record levels
The good news for Ilwaco's fishing fleet is that the summer salmon runs for the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River should be immense.
The bad news: This is the first year when it's been illegal to keep a sturgeon in the lower Columbia River.
In past years, May and June have been the biggest months for sturgeon fishing in the lower river. With only a few catch-and-release sturgeon trips this year, this weekend's opening of the ocean salmon season is even more important for charter boat operators.
A chinook-only ocean season starts Saturday and runs through June 13. Starting June 14, anglers can keep chinook and coho. The salmon season on the lower Columbia River starts Aug 1.
Washington and Oregon fishery managers have been touting the big runs arriving this summer and fall.
The Columbia River fall chinook forecast is more than 1.6 million, the largest since 1938, the year after Bonneville Dam was finished (runs were higher before then). The 2013 fall chinook return of 1.2 million was nearly double the forecast of 686,900.
In addition to all those chinook, a monster run of coho totaling almost 1 million fish is forecast to return to the Columbia River this fall. In 2013, there were 316,900 Columbia River coho.
"I think fishing should be off the chain," said Butch Smith, a charter boat owner and president of the Ilwaco Charter Association. He said commercial trawlers have been landing chinook weighing 30 pounds and up.
"I think the predictions are true," Smith said. "We should have a pretty good king-only season and an excellent summer season that starts the 14th."
"It should be absolutely fantastic," said Milt Gudgell, owner of Pacific Salmon Charters in Ilwaco. "The commercial guys have been just pounding them."
"This certainly could be a banner year for summer salmon fisheries, particularly off the Washington coast in the Columbia River," Ron Warren, policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a news release.
Of the 1.2 million coho forecast, slightly more than half are Columbia early-stock coho, the main source of the ocean and Buoy-10 fishery. Buoy 10 is the name given to the 16 miles between Buoy No. 10 at the Columbia River mouth and the line between Tongue Point in Oregon and Rocky Point in Washington. At the fishery's peak, the area often is mobbed with boats.
The late coho stock usually enters in October and November, when sport-fishing interest starts to wane.
Ilwaco is the largest port for charter boat sport fishing at the mouth of the Columbia, with about 25 boats.
Smith said early in the season, most people who book trips live within a one-day drive. Later in July, charter boat operators see more family groups on extended vacations, he said.
Dampening all the enthusiasm for the upcoming salmon runs is the lack of a sturgeon season.
The estimated number of legal sturgeon in the Columbia River went from 100,200 in 2010 to 72,700 in 2012, according to estimates by Washington and Oregon biologists.
In 1987, the lower Columbia River sturgeon harvest was 62,400. Last year, sturgeon fishing on the lower Columbia closed in June and the harvest was only 6,500.
Earlier this year, Smith made a pitch to the Fish and Wildlife Commission for a limited sturgeon fishery in May and June because it would have provided a needed economic boost to the Ilwaco area. He argued that the sturgeon population is rebounding along with the smelt they eat.
The commission didn't discuss revisiting the issue (which would also require action by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission) but Smith said the issue will be discussed again next year.
Until two or three years ago, when sturgeon seasons were longer, they provided more than half of his income, Smith said. Last year, sturgeon trips still brought in about $80,000, he said -- he's only one of four charter boat companies in Ilwaco.
"This is worse than it was in '94 when they closed the (salmon) season," he said.
Though salmon get most of the glory, Ilwaco charter boat operators also do trips for bottom fish, halibut and tuna
Ocean Fishery Impacts on Idaho's Salmon & Steelhead by Robert Kope email to bluefish.org, 7/29/9
NORTH COAST OCEAN FISHING SEASONS
Pacific Ocean, North of Cape Falcon, Ore., to Leadbetter Point, Wash.
- Recreational season for hatchery fin-clipped chinook from May 31-June 13 (9,000 coastwide quota).
- Recreational season for all salmon from June 14-Sept. 30 with a two-fish limit, of which only one can be a chinook and all coho must be fin-clipped. Quota of 92,400 coho with 13,100 chinook guideline.
In the following fisheries, anglers fishing from the same boat may continue fishing for salmon until all licensed anglers have reached their daily limits:
- The mainstem Columbia River from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to the Lewis River will be open for hatchery coho Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. Anglers will be allowed to retain one adult chinook as part of their two-adult daily limit from Aug. 1 through Sept. 6. From Sept. 7 through Sept. 14, anglers will be allowed to retain hatchery chinook. From Oct. 1 through Dec 31, anglers can retain two chinook daily.
- The Columbia from the Lewis River upstream to Steamboat Landing dock and the point straight across on the Oregon side of the river will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 for hatchery coho and chinook, with a daily limit of two salmon.
- From the Steamboat Landing dock upstream to the Bonneville Dam will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 for hatchery coho and chinook with a daily limit of three salmon, two of which can be hatchery coho.
- From Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 with a daily limit of three salmon, two of which can be hatchery coho. Anglers must release any unmarked coho caught downstream of the Hood River Bridge.
- The sockeye and hatchery summer chinook fishery below Bonneville Dam will be open from June 16 through June 30 on the mainstem Columbia River, with a daily limit of two adult salmon or steelhead, or one of each.
The Buoy 10 salmon fishery will be open from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. The fishery will be open for chinook and hatchery coho Aug. 1 through Sept. 1 with a daily limit of two salmon, only one of which can be chinook. From Aug. 30 through Sept 1, all retained chinook must have an adipose or left ventral clip.
From Sept. 2 through Sept. 30, anglers will have a daily limit of three hatchery coho but must release chinook. Fisheries managers will assess in-season catch and may enact in-season changes to the chinook retention in August and September. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, anglers can keep five fish, two of which can be chinook.
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