For 2019 Columbia/Snake Spring Chinook, Sockeye
Anglers can expect fewer spring chinook salmon returning to the Columbia River this year as fisheries managers are predicting a total run of 157,500 fish. That's about 11 percent lower than the actual run in 2018 of 177,043 fish.
In fact pre-season forecasts for all runs of salmonids in 2019 are lower than 2018 actual runs, with the exception of wild winter steelhead that are forecasted to be 14,400 fish, compared to last year's actual but dismal run of 11,323 (the 2018 forecast was 11,700 fish).
Hit especially hard this year are sockeye salmon with a forecasted total of just 94,400, less than half the 2018 actual run of 210,915 (2018 forecast was 99,000). Just 200 endangered Snake River sockeye are expected to return. Last year's actual run that made it past Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River was 297, while the forecast last year was for 600 fish.
The two-state Columbia River Compact met this week for the first time this year to discuss opening a test research level eulachon (smelt) fishery, as well as lower river select area commercial fisheries and John Day and The Dalles pools tribal fisheries.
The hearing, Tuesday, Jan. 29, did not give any indication of what recreational anglers will have in store for fishing this year, but the Compact will determine that and treaty winter commercial fisheries at its next scheduled meeting Feb. 20.
When the Compact does take action on spring chinook fishing, it will follow guidelines set by the 2018-2027 U.S. v Oregon Management Agreement, which provides the treaty Indian and non-treaty fishery harvest frameworks and harvest rate schedules for salmon and steelhead stocks destined for areas upstream of Bonneville Dam (see CBB, March 2, 2018, "Agreement Guiding Columbia Basin Fisheries Harvests, Hatchery Production For Next 10 Years Approved".
It will also follow Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commission's guidelines. The commissions jointly manage the Columbia River fishery under the two-state Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy that was enacted in 2013 to assure recreational anglers would receive a larger portion of the non-tribal harvest allocation of salmon and steelhead. The Management Policy's intention also is to remove commercial gillnetters from the mainstem of the river.
According to the Management Policy, the non-tribal allowed ESA impacts to upriver spring chinook are allocated 80 percent for recreational fisheries and 20 percent for commercial fisheries. The majority of the commercial allocation is expected to be utilized in Select Area fisheries not in mainstem commercial fisheries, according to the Compact's Winter Fact Sheet No. 1..
Each year from 2014 through 2018, a limited conservation-level commercial research fishery for smelt has been set in February to help evaluate run strength and provide biological data. Fishing has been limited to eight 7-hour periods over 4-5 weeks, the Fact Sheet says. The test fishery has generally yielded about 9,000 pounds of smelt, but last year that dropped to just 110 pounds. This year's forecasted smelt run size is even smaller than in 2018, so the Compact staff recommended not to initiate the test fishery and alerted recreational smelt dippers that a smelt fishery on the Sandy River in Oregon and the Cowlitz River in Washington in 2019 is unlikely.
Smelt were listed as threatened in 2010 under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The Compact approved a 12.5 day tribal commercial gillnet fishery Feb. 1 through Feb. 13 in The Dalles and John Day pools only. In addition, it approved a platform and hook and line fishery beginning Feb. 1 and ending March 21 throughout all of Zone 6 (Bonneville Dam pool upstream through the John Day pool).
Looking ahead to winter, spring and summer commercial salmon gillnet fisheries in lower Columbia River select areas, the Compact set fishing times in Youngs Bay, Tongue Point/South Channel and Blind and Knappa sloughs.
See the Jan. 29, 2019 Columbia River Fishery Notice for details of treaty and select area fisheries at here.
By the numbers:
Science Review Of Salmon Survival Study: Snake River Fish Not Meeting Smolt-To-Adult Return Goals by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 11/4/16
Fisheries Managers Offer Grim Forecast by Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, 1/25/19
Idaho Mulls Scrubbing Steelhead Season by Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, 11/14/18
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