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Ecology and salmon related articles

Fishing Plan Adopted

by Allen Thomas, Columbian staff writer
The Columbian, February 6, 2004

OREGON CITY -- Washington and Oregon officials adopted sport and commercial fishing plans Thursday for the monster run of more than 500,000 spring chinook poised to enter the Columbia River soon.

In a nutshell:

Although a huge run of Columbia River spring salmon is coming between now and mid-May, the fishing seasons are neither simple nor wide open.

That's because intermixed with big surpluses of hatchery-origin chinook are wild spring chinook headed for the upper Columbia and Snake rivers. The wild fish are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

An agreement between the states, federal government and treaty Indian tribes limits non-Indians to killing no more than 2 percent of the wild fish.

Sport and commercial seasons in the lower Columbia target on the plentiful hatchery chinook. Both groups release wild fish. Still, some wild fish die despite being released. Those dead fish are called "impacts.''

State biologists calculate and monitor during the season how fast those impacts are being used to ensure the 2 percent ceiling is not exceeded. How those impacts are shared between sport and commercial fishermen drives the overall catch.

Thursday, the Columbia River Compact decided those impacts will be split 60 percent for sportsmen and 40 percent for commercial fishermen. Each fishery closes once it has used up its impacts.

Patrick Frazier of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said the goal is to have sport fishing open in the Columbia River through April and even into May.

But that's unlikely.

Water conditions, catch rates, forecasting errors and other factors will influence how long the quota lasts, Frazier said.

"Don't leave here with an expectation of reaching April 30,'' Frazier told the Columbia River Compact.

If angling restrictions are necessary to dampen the catch and keep the season from closing too early, the first change will be to reduce the number of open days per week between Interstate 5 and Bonneville Dam.

The next step will be to close the I-5 to Bonneville Dam stretch and reduce the number of open days downstream of Interstate 5.

The compact's plan for commercial fishing calls for test netting on Sundays beginning Feb. 22 to get a feel for chinook stocks in the lower Columbia and the ratio of chinook to steelhead. A goal is to minimize the commercial handle of wild winter steelhead.

Meetings will be scheduled Monday afternoons to review the Sunday test catch and decide whether to allow full-fleet commercial fishing on Tuesdays. The commercial catch from Tuesdays will be reviewed Wednesday afternoons to determine if netting can be allowed on Thursdays.

If test results are not favorable on Sundays, then Tuesdays will be used for test fishing again.

The goal is to avoid a repeat of 2003, when the commercials used up a large portion of their impacts in the first two days of netting.

"We're going to know the stock status we're fishing on to prevent the oops we had last year,'' Frazier said.

Don Swartz, policy advisor for the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, urge the compact to act cautiously on the commercial fishery so that the netters don't accidently overfish and use up a portion of the sport share.

Allen Thomas covers hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and other outdoor recreation topics for The Columbian.
Fishing Plan Adopted
The Columbian, February 6, 2004

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