Tribal Commercial Season Opens
by Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. - The only commercial tribal salmon fishery remaining on the Columbia River opens Wednesday, making Indian-caught fish from the unusually reliable fall chinook run available to the public.
The preseason forecast for fall chinook is about 275,000 fish. Tribal fishermen will have a right to about 62,000 of those in a fishery that is guaranteed to last three weeks and can be extended a week at a time as the actual return and catch numbers are monitored.
Salmon will be sold to the public, usually between 10 a.m. and dusk and for cash, at several spots along the river from Cascade Locks below Bonneville Dam to the Tri-Cities, Wash. area.
Fish will be available from the four Columbia River treaty tribes, the Umatilla, the Nez Perce, the Warm Springs and the Yakama. Charles Hudson of the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission said Tuesday the fall run is the only one now that can support a commercial Indian fishery.
The better-known spring run had no commercial fishery from 1977-2002, improved briefly and now is lean again, allowing catches only for subsistence and ceremonial purposes, he said.
He said the fall chinook run is unusually hardy run with spawning rounds in the Hanford Reach, a rare free-flowing stretch of the river from below Washington's Priest Rapids dam to the Columbia's confluence with the Snake River.
Hudson said the conditions of spawning grounds in the Hanford Reach has kept the run robust.
It is the most reliable of the Columbia's salmon runs, Hudson said.
He said numbers of returning immature, or "jack," salmon give early indications of a good spring chinook run next year.
Attempts have been made in previous years to open commercial seasons for other runs.
In 2002 regulators allowed tribes to sell summer chinook to the public for the first time in 37 years because of high return rates.
While runs fluctuate, they remain a tiny fraction of their historic highs.
The Columbia River tribes have special fishing rights dating from treaties signed in 1855.
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