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Columbia Spring Chinook Salmon
Season Set: Fewer Fish; More Room

by Bill Monroe, Special to The Oregonian
The Oregonian, February 8, 2011

OREGON CITY -- Vowing to avoid last year's "washing machine" of a spring chinook salmon fishery on the Columbia river, Oregon and Washington fish managers agreed Tuesday to a shorter season and larger sportfishing zone for this year's smaller anticipated run.

Oregon also announced white sturgeon retention fishing will resume Feb. 17 on the lower Willamette River, Multnomah Channel and Gilbert River on Sauvie Island.

Spring chinook fishing is open now on the lower Columbia below Interstate 5, but on March 1, the open area for fishing from a boat on the Columbia will extend upriver from I-5 to Rooster Rock, then close April 4.

Bank anglers may continue to fish from the shoreline all the way up to Bonneville Dam after March 1, but also must quit fishing April 4.

The current bag limit is two fin-clipped salmon and/or steelhead, but beginning March 1, only a single fin-clipped adult chinook can be kept per day below Bonneville.

Upriver from Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington border, fishing - bank or boat - will be allowed March 16 to April 24 (although no boat fishing downriver from the Tower Island power lines near The Dalles). The daily bag limit is two spring chinook and/or steelhead per day.

Spring chinook fishing on the Willamette River and Multnomah Channel will remain open throughout the season, seven days a week, with a two-fish bag limit.

The frenetic 2010 spring chinook season was limited mostly to an area downriver from the Interstate 5 bridge, congesting hundreds and sometimes a thousand or more anglers and their boats into a stretch of a few miles when the bulk of the upriver run arrived in mid-April.

"I agree with everyone out there last year," said Steve Williams, deputy fish division chief for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "It was a washing machine. I felt like I was riding a bucking bronco."

This year, with a run prediction much smaller - close to 200,000 upriver Columbia fish and another 104,000 Willamette salmon are predicted - fishing can't extend beyond April 4 until the run and catches are assessed and biologists are assured of the prediction's accuracy.

Since most upriver fish haven't arrived by that time, Williams said the states can spread out the fishing area to alleviate the congestion.

Commercial gill-net seasons won't be set until after test-netting is conducted in late February to assess the strength and presence of the earlier Willamette River spring chinook. Commercial seasons will then be set on just a few-days' notice and probably will end in late March to avoid the April arrival of endangered upriver Columbia salmon.

Williams also announced the resumption of white sturgeon retention for the lower Willamette River, Multnomah Channel and the Gilbert River, a small slough on Sauvie Island.

Retention fishing will be allowed Thursday, Friday and Saturday, starting Feb. 17, but will last only until 2,550 legal-sized (38-54 inches, fork length) fish are kept. Williams said biologists hope fishing lasts through the end of March.

The Compact also set other sturgeon retention seasons for the Columbia River:

Buoy 10 to Wauna, 40 miles east of Astoria - Jan. 1 to April 30, May 14 to June 26 and July 1-4; seven days a week; 38-inch minimum fork length Jan. 1 to April 30 and 41-inch minimum May through the remaining fishing days. Note: season may end if 6,800 are kept before July 4.

Wauna to Bonneville Dam - Jan. 1 to July 31 and Oct. 8 to Dec. 31; Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 38-54 inch fork length (nose to fork in the tail). Note: season may end once 3,410 are kept.

Bill Monroe
Columbia Spring Chinook Salmon Season Set: Fewer Fish; More Room
The Oregonian, February 8, 2011

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