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State Panel Seeks to
Extend Spring Chinook Season

by News Sources
The Bend Bulletin, January 7, 2005

SALEM -- The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Friday supported restricting either the bag limit or the number of open fishing days each week for Columbia River spring chinook in the area immediately below Bonneville Dam in an effort to extend the 2005 recreational season into May and to spread the allowable harvest to all parts of the river.

The potential restrictions were proposed by Oregon biologists responding to the results of the 2004 fishing season when the majority of spring chinook harvested from the Columbia River were caught in the five miles immediately downstream of Bonneville Dam. The 2004 recreational fishery closed below Bonneville Dam before the end of April.

Potential options include reducing the daily bag limit to one adipose fin-clipped chinook per day and/or reducing the number of fishing days to fewer than seven days a week.

The Commission also supported efforts to reduce impacts to steelhead and wild chinook from commercial boats through the use of specialized nets and observers on board the boats.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists Friday provided the Commission an updated estimate of expected returns. The 2005 pre-season forecast predicts that 254,100 "upriver" spring chinook will enter the Columbia River and 116,900 spring chinook are destined for the Willamette River. In 2004 the actual run size was 221,600 upriver spring chinook and 143,700 Willamette River spring chinook.

Final decisions on the 2005 spring chinook harvest seasons will be made by the states of Oregon and Washington at the Columbia River Compact meeting at 10 a.m., Friday, Jan. 28, 2005, at the Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, Wash.

Spring chinook provide tremendous economic benefit to both the commercial and sport-fishing industries because the meat is prized for its flavor and it is the first fresh non-farmed salmon of the season to reach barbecues and specialty markets.

The Columbia River spring chinook fishery is managed to allow the harvest of hatchery fish while protecting salmon runs that are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The sport fishery for the Columbia River is limited to a 1.2 percent "impact" to spring chinook listed as threatened under the federal ESA. Commercial fishery impacts are limited to 0.8 percent. "Impacts" are the unintended mortalities associated with handling and releasing wild fish.

In other action, the Commission:

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is the policymaking body for fish and wildlife issues in the state. The seven-member panel meets monthly.

News Sources
State Panel Seeks to Extend Spring Chinook Season
The Bend Bulletin, January 7, 2005

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