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Gillnetting in Lower Columbia Select Areas Delayed
One Week as Managers Await Spring Chinook Return

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, April 24, 2015

(Gordon King) Commercial fisherman Les Clark pulls a sockeye, or blueback, salmon from his net while fishing on the Columbia River near Skamania, Wash. on July 3, 2008. It's the first time Clark has been able to fish for coho in more than 20 years. An abundant run of coho has allowed limited commercial fishing this summer. Oregon and Washington fishery managers this week delayed commercial gillnet fishing in select areas by one week until more is known about the size of this year's spring chinook run.

Passage at Bonneville Dam of the fish reached 41,223 adults as of April 19. Typically 50 percent of the run will pass the dam by May 7.

The select area fishery in the lower Columbia River has been shut down since March 31 due to the continued presence of upriver spring chinook, but the Columbia River Compact had scheduled the fishery to open for two short days this week. Those openings are now rescinded.

At its meeting Monday, the Compact shut the fishery down (including the Deep River select area that had opened April 16) because commercial fishermen had already taken their pre-season allotment of 244 upriver spring chinook. The fishery could be allotted 105 more upriver fish, but only after a status review by the U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee.

That had some commercial fishermen and their representatives who see sports anglers daily taking salmon out of Youngs Bay near Astoria wondering if they are as well off today under what they term the Kitzhaber ruling on fisheries as they were before.

"You're basically shutting down the select fisheries for about 100 fish, with 300,000 fish going upriver," said Steve Fick, of Fishhawk Fisheries Inc. "How many would we get without the Kitzhaber plan? If the law requires you to shut us down, I guess you have to, but this is not panning out as well as we had hoped."

Senate Bill 830, a bill pushed by then Gov. John Kitzhaber, passed in the 2013 Oregon legislative session. It, in effect, removes commercial gillnetters from fishing in the mainstem Columbia River below Bonneville Dam as of 2016. The gillnetters are in a transition period until then, while some early spring fishing on the mainstem has been allowed and while gillnetters test new nets.

However, many commercial gillnetters believe the plan to remove gillnetters from the mainstem river is just a trade-off in which sports anglers get to catch more fish, while commercial gillnetters get fewer fish, and that's creating tension between the two groups.

Jim Wells of Salmon for All, an Astoria-based commercial fishing advocacy group, after noting that sports anglers are fishing in select areas, said that "the recreational guys have caught more fish than the tangle nets in the select fishery. As long as those are local guys, that's OK. But if the guides start to come into these areas, then we'll immediately go to the director (Oregon Fish and Wildlife Director, Curt Melcher) to have it shut down."

The recreational spring chinook salmon fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam closed April 16.

Through April 11, the catch was estimated at 11,213 fish, with an additional 2,000 expected from the April 16 single day fishery. The pre-run allocation for recreational anglers was 10,318, according to information provided by the Compact.

John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, representing the ODFW director, said the two states would look into the issue of whether commercial fishers are as well off as before the new rules, but that the report could take some time to produce.

Select area fisheries are at sites off the mainstem in the lower Columbia River where hatchery salmon receive their final rearing as juveniles before release. The fish then return to those areas as adults to provide so-called "terminal fisheries" where few wild fish are encountered.

This year, the preseason forecast allows commercial gillnetters to catch up to 349 upriver spring chinook salmon in select areas, but only 244 fish until a status review of the spring chinook run by TAC, which did not update the run's status this week.

The select area fisheries are allowed in their total catch to take up to .015 percent of the total upriver spring chinook run. The preseason forecast for the spring chinook run was 232,500 fish.

Commercial gillnetters fishing the mainstem Columbia River this spring have caught 1,737 spring chinook salmon, 1,361 of those fish were upriver spring chinook, which is 77 percent of the 1,760 upriver fish commercial fishers are allowed prior to the TAC update. The mainstem gillnet fishery is also suspended until the TAC status review.

(See CBB, April 10, 2015, Gillnetters Fall Short of Harvest Target in Tuesday Fishery; Heavy Sea Lion Presence Sited)

Those select area fisheries reviewed by the Columbia River Compact this week are located in Youngs Bay, Tongue Point/South Channel and Blind Slough/Knappa Slough in Oregon, and Deep River in Washington.

The Compact this week scheduled select area fisheries to reopen April 28 and 30, and May 5 and 7, but only for four hours a day.

The spring chinook run in the lower river is expected to begin declining after May 7, which could allow the select area fisheries to resume.

The exclusion of commercial gillnetters from the Columbia River mainstem began when a review of non-tribal fisheries on the lower Columbia River was initiated in August 2012 at the request of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. He asked ODFW to work with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to adopt the necessary rules to:

Both commissions adopted the package of reforms in December 2012 and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission re-affirmed these management changes in June 2013.

Related Pages:
Oregon Appeals Court Rejects Challenge To New Rules Phasing Out Lower Columbia Gill Nets by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 4/24/15
Washington Appeals Court Rules Against Gill-Netters On Challenge To New Harvest Rules by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 2/13/15
Oregon Approves Gill-Net Transition Fund; Gillnetters Instead Want New Harvest Policies Overturned by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 12/12/14
Oregon Argues in State Appeals Court that Challenges to New Gill-Net Rules 'Without Merit' by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 2/21/14
Briefing Begins In Oregon Appeals Court On Challenge To New Rules Limiting Lower Columbia Gill-Nets by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 1/3/14
Oregon Legislation Passes Bill Paving Way For Gill-Net Ban; Issue Still Before Oregon Appeals Court by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 7/12/13
Oregon Appeals Court Halts Implementation Of Lower Columbia Gill-Net Ban, Will Hear Legal Arguments by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 2/22/13

Gillnetting in Lower Columbia Select Areas Delayed One Week as Managers Await Spring Chinook Return
Columbia Basin Bulletin, April 24, 2015

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