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Officials Set the Spring Chinook Season
on the Columbia River

by Staff
Statesman Journal, February 11, 2004

(AP Photo)Fish and wildlife specialist Brad Buchsieb moves a fall chinook salmon on the Columbia River. State officials in Oregon and Washington have set catch limits for the fish. Sport and commercial anglers on the Columbia River are expected to take about 10 percent of the half-million spring-run chinook salmon that are predicted to enter the river during the next several months.

Fish biologists from the Oregon and Washington departments of Fish and Wildlife said the total run of hatchery and naturally spawning native springers entering the Columbia should be about 500,000, the second-highest number since counts began in 1938.

About 70 percent to 80 percent of those are hatchery fish marked with a clipped adipose fin. A good chunk of the hatchery spring chinook run is bound for the Willamette River and its tributaries.

Thursday, officials for Oregon and Washington, acting as the Columbia River Compact, set sport and commercial seasons that biologists estimate will lead to an estimated combined sport and commercial Columbia River spring chinook catch of about 50,000 hatchery fish.

They estimated that catch on hatchery fish would not exceed the 2 percent unintended mortality allowed for wild, native steelhead and salmon that are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Also as a conservation measure, both the Oregon and Washington Fish and Wildlife commissions, and the compact, passed an additional protection that requires all native fish that must be released not be taken out of the water.

The rule is designed to reduce stress-related salmon deaths by such activities as picture-taking or excessive handling.

Here is a look at the sport season rules in the Columbia that were approved by the compact:

Biologists in Oregon and Washington will look at the sport catch and calculate the impacts to wild fish one or two days a week from April 6 through May 15 before making “in-season” decisions about modifying the remainder of the season.

In order to prepare for that eventuality, several options already have been proposed, fom the lower Columbia upstream. Those, in order, are:

Biologists are trying to juggle the regulations to ensure that sport anglers have similar fishing opportunities upriver and downstream from the I-5 bridge.

During comments to both of the states’ Fish and Wildlife commissions, biologists said they hope to keep sport fishing for spring-run chinook open on the Columbia through April and into May.

But because of the need for monitoring the impacts on protected native fish, and potential restrictions and closures, the final date for sport anglers can’t be set in stone.

“Because the sport fishery will be managed on impacts, the end date of the fishery is not precisely known,” Cindy LeFleur, a Columbia River fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, says in a press release announcing the compact’s decisions. “We don’t have a crystal ball.”

Officials Set the Spring Chinook Season on the Columbia River
Statesman Journal, February 11, 2004

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