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Tribal Chinook Fishing Begins

by Allen Thomas
The Oregonian, April 27, 2010

Tribal commercial fishing for spring chinook salmon began Tuesday in the Columbia River Gorge.

The Columbia River Compact on Monday adopted a commercial gill-net season from 6 a.m. Tuesday through 6 p.m. Thursday in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools.

Stuart Ellis, a biologist for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said the tribes are assuming a spring chinook run of at least 300,000 salmon, which allows a total tribal catch of 32,400 under the state-tribal-federal management agreement.

Ellis said he expects tribal members will sell to commercial fish buyers and to the public over the bank. The initial price is expected to be about $5 a pound.

Ellis estimated 12,000 chinook will be landed in the 2 1/2-day commercial season.

The four Columbia River treaty tribes have ceremonial, subsistence and commercial fisheries.

Tribal members have caught 8,600 spring chinook in ceremonial fishing that started in late March. They have also taken 2,480 chinook and 160 steelhead off platforms and by hook-and-line for subsistence purposes.

Of those 2,480 chinook caught by members of the Yakama, Umatilla and Warm Springs tribes, 1,970 were taken downstream of Bonneville Dam.

Although the tribes usually fish in the three pools, memorandums between the states on one side and tribes on the other spell out arrangements for tribal members fishing downstream of Bonneville Dam as far as Beacon Rock.

The tribes are reserving 10,000 chinook for the platform and hook-and-line fisheries, leaving 13,800 salmon available for commercial harvest, Ellis said.

"Tribal members are anxious to get out and catch some fish and make a little money," he said.

An estimated 500 to 600 nets are anticipated in the three pools.

If the run is large enough, the tribes will propose more commercial fishing next week, he said.

The tribes also are allowed as of Tuesday to sell fish harvested in their platform and hook-and-line fisheries until further notice.

State, federal and tribal biologists forecast a run of 470,000 chinook destined for upstream of Bonneville Dam. Dam counts and harvest account for almost 130,000 chinook, with counting at Bonneville continuing through June 15.

Kathryn Kostow of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said it is too early to update the forecast.

Reaching the 470,000 forecast is "plausible," Kostow said, but there counts at Bonneville Dam need to increase soon for that number to be reached.

Non-Native sport and commercial fishing in the lower Columbia River is closed until the run size is updated. That is expected in the first week or two of May.

Sportsmen in the lower Columbia took almost 23,000 upper Columbia chinook, and the net fleet landed about 8,800.

Allen Thomas, The (Vancouver) Columbian
Tribal Chinook Fishing Begins
The Oregonian, April 27, 2010

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