Fall chinook bag limit to increase in lower Columbia

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Washington and Oregon officials increased the limit for fall chinook salmon in the lower Columbia River to two adult fish daily beginning Wednesday.

The Columbia River Compact also on Monday adopted commercial fishing periods for Wednesday and Sunday nights.

Retention of fall chinook in the sport season is open in the lower Columbia from the mouth of the Lewis River upstream to Bonneville Dam. Chinook retention closed on Sept. 12 downstream of the Lewis River to protect fall chinook destined for lower river tributaries.

Chris Kern of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said sportsmen kept an estimated 12,400 chinook through Sept. 12. They are projected to keep a total of 14,800 for the season.

By now, more than 80 percent of the upper Columbia chinook run typically has passed upstream of Bonneville Dam, he said.

Chinook fishing is open with a two-adult limit upstream of Bonneville.

Gillnetting will be allowed from 8 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday between the mouth of the Lewis and Beacon Rock.

Kern said the net catch is projected to range from 2,100 to 5,000 chinook in the two night. Fishing on Sunday night might be rescinded, depending on Wednesday night's catch.

The netters will be allowed six sturgeon a week.

Kern said it is too early to have a good feel on fall chinook returns to lower Columbia tributaries.

The Kalama River is tracking behind expectations and sport retention is closed because the hatchery system likely will not achieve its goal.

Toutle Hatchery returns are on track with forecasts. The Washougal River has chinook throughout the stream and the hatchery has strong early returns.