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Columbia River Compact
Changes Angling Rules in Midstream

by Mike Stahlberg
The Register-Guard, February 10, 2005

One of the hottest spring chinook salmon fishing spots in the Columbia River during 2004 is sure to produce far fewer fish this year.

Oh, there will still be plenty of salmon in the area immediately downstream of Bonneville Dam. Columbia River fishery biologists expect a run of 413,400 spring chinook, similar to the 2004 numbers.

What's changed for 2005 are the rules governing a five-mile-long section of the river between Bonneville Dam and Rooster Rock.

Last year, that stretch of water accounted for a sizeable chunk of the entire lower Columbia sport salmon harvest.

In fact, fishing in the Rooster Rock to Bonneville area was so good that the 2004 recreational fishery between Interstate 5 and Bonneville had to be closed before the end of April because the allowable "impacts" to wild salmon had been met.

To avoid a repeat early closure this year, Oregon and Washington fishery managers have dumped regulatory cold water on that fishing hot spot.

Under an agreement reached by the Columbia River Compact, the section of river from Bonneville Dam downstream to Rooster Rock will be closed to salmon, steelhead and shad fishing four days a week (Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays are the open days). And the bag limit will be a single salmon or steelhead.

The balance of the river will remain under the old rules - open seven days a week with a bag limit of two fin-clipped salmon per day.

The states decided putting a damper on the catch immediately downstream of Bonneville provides the best chance for keeping the season open until May 15, its scheduled end.

Biologists say reducing the number of fishing days and cutting the bag limit in half should cut the catch enough to allow angling for hatchery-bred spring chinook every day from the mouth of the Columbia River at Buoy 10 upstream to Rooster Rock and from Bonneville Dam upstream to McNary Dam.

There's no guarantee of that, however. Biologists will closely monitor the sport harvest and the impacts to wild fish (which must be released unharmed). In-season modifications will be made, if necessary, to keep within the federally allowed impacts on the wild runs mixed among the hatchery fish. (Of the salmon returning this year, about 70 percent are expected to be marked by a clipped adipose fin, which designates them as hatchery-reared "keepers.")

Should in-season adjustments be necessary, compact members agreed, they would be made in this order: 1) Eliminate the fishery between Rooster Rock and Bonneville Dam; 2) Reduce the fishery below the Rooster Rock boundary to less than seven days a week; 3) Eliminate the fishery below Rooster Rock.

Mike Stahlberg
Columbia River Compact Changes Angling Rules in Midstream
The Register-Guard, February 10, 2005

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