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With Higher Run Estimate for Spring
Chinook (260,000), More Fishing Approved

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, May 29, 2015

Erika Holmes holds a bright spring chinook she caught on the lower Columbia River. (Jeff Holmes) Posted on Friday, May 29, 2015 (PST) With a higher run estimate of spring chinook salmon, the two-state Columbia River Compact, made up of Oregon and Washington fisheries managers, approved on Tuesday more fishing for treaty and commercial gillnetters, as well as for recreational anglers.

The Compact approved a three and a half day gillnet spring fishery in Zone 6 (Bonneville through John Day pools) for Treaty Tribes, a 10-hour commercial fishery in the lower river, continued recreational fishing of chinook in the river downstream from Bonneville Dam and it re-opened the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington border.

The US v Oregon regional technical advisory committee met Tuesday morning, prior to the Compact meeting, and updated its in-season estimate of the 2015 spring chinook run from 250,000 to 260,000 salmon, according to Stewart Ellis, chair of TAC, who also represents the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. The increase raises the allowable catch of upriver fish up to 26,000.

As of May 25, 203,368 chinook had passed Bonneville Dam. In addition, 26,100 shad had passed the dam, far lower than the five-year average of 100,000 shad on the same date when there is typically a daily passage in the 20,000 fish range.

Passage of spring chinook at Willamette Falls on the Willamette River hit 33,414 on May 13, far above the 5-year average of 15,031 fish for that date. The five-year 50 percent passage of chinook over the falls occurs May 21.

TAC expects 240,000 spring chinook will pass Bonneville Dam, Ellis said, and he predicted an even higher run size by the time the adult spring chinook migration is considered over, June 15. After that date, chinook salmon in the river are considered summer chinook.

The Compact approved treaty gillnet fishing this week from 6 am Wednesday, May 27 through 6 pm Saturday, May 30, in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools. The expected catch in this period is 3,100 chinook, 40 steelhead and a small number of sockeye salmon.

To aid treaty gillnetters, the Technical Management Team, a regional team of fishery managers and hydroelectric dam operators, approved on Wednesday the Tribes' System Operations Request 2015-C2 asking that the three reservoirs be operated to protect gillnets, by limiting Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pool fluctuations to within a 1.5 foot band during the Treaty Fishery

The Compact could meet again as early as next week to approve another period of treaty fishing, depending on the catch this week. At this point, the Compact has set a firm June 10 date to review treaty fishing.

The Compact also set a 10-hour non-Indian commercial fishery in the lower river from 7 pm Wednesday, May 27 to 6 am Thursday, May 28 for adipose fin-clipped chinook salmon and shad. Gillnetters are allowed to use 8 inch nets in order to reduce the number of shad trapped in the net. Prior to this opening, the mesh size of the nets was limited to 4.5 inches. The larger mesh allows for shorter drift times, a measure that allows gillnetters to return unharmed fish listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

With low and clear water, the Compact set a night fishery in order to conceal the larger mesh nets from the fish, a move that most gillnetters favored.

The Compact expects the catch to be 500 chinook salmon. Nearly all could be upriver fish. That would bring the total non-Indian commercial catch of upriver salmon this season to 3,940 fish, or 81 percent of the commercial non-Indian fishery allocation. The allocation of upriver chinook is 4,847 fish.

Five mainstem non-Indian commercial fisheries have occurred prior to this sixth fishery, with a total catch (upriver and lower river fish) of 4,757 chinook.

While this short fishery was underway, the Compact, under State of Oregon guidance, closed the Youngs Bay select area fishery to gillnetting, 7 pm Wednesday, May 27, to noon Thursday, May 28.

At the same meeting, the Compact extended recreational salmon fishing downstream of Bonneville Dam to June 15, with an expected catch of upriver fish to total 15,539 chinook. The allocation is 16,729 fish. The fishery is open from Tongue Point/Rocky Point near Astoria upstream to the dam for up to two adipose fin-clipped salmon or steelhead per day, but only one fish can be a chinook.

The Compact reopened Thursday, May 28, recreational fishing from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Oregon/Washington border until June 15. After that time, fishing will continue, but chinook salmon caught after June 15 will be considered summer fish. The catch tally so far this year in the middle stretch of the Columbia River is 1,552 spring chinook. The allocation is 2,231 upriver fish. Anglers can catch up to two adipose fin-clipped salmon or steelhead per day, but only one fish can be a chinook.

Snake River recreational fisheries are currently closed. The catch tally so far this year is 1,819 fish compared to the allocation of 1,755 fish. Additional fishing could occur, but the decision will be based on an updated run size and the number of fish taken in Columbia River fisheries.

Recreational sturgeon fishing is open in the John Day pool until June 3, when the Compact expects the allocation of 500 fish will be met. The current catch is 386 fish. 46 sturgeon were kept last week. Catch and release sturgeon fishing will be allowed after June 3.

With the new run size estimate of 260,000 upriver spring chinook, the mainstem commercial allocation rises to 5,237 fish, with 390 of those fish taken in the lower river select area fisheries.

Some 20,763 are allowed for recreational fishing. That includes a 16,729 upriver catch below Bonneville, 2,231 fish from Bonneville to the Oregon/Washington border, 1,755 in the Snake River and 48 for Wanapum tribal commercial and subsistence fishing.

With Higher Run Estimate for Spring Chinook (260,000), More Fishing Approved
Columbia Basin Bulletin, May 29, 2015

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