Netters to fish lower Columbia River on Wednesday
Monday, April 4, 2011
At Bonneville Dam: 23 spring chinook (262 year total) and 87 steelhead (2,549 year total) on Sunday.
Streamflow is a very high 375,000 cubic feet per second, visibility is down to 3.0 feet and the temperature is 45 degrees
Commercial fishing for spring chinook in the lower Columbia River will resume Wednesday with a new six-salmon-per-vessel limit.
The net fleet will fish from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday from Beacon Rock downstream to the ocean with 41/4-inch-mesh tangle nets. The first six hatchery-origin chinook must be kept, then no additional drifts made.
Biologist John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said the commercials have 911 upper Columbia-origin spring chinook on their initial allocation. The fleet caught 1,263 chinook in four hours on March 29, including 951 upper Columbia salmon.
North predicted the commercials will catch 900 to 1,300 chinook on Wednesday. About 70 percent of the catch is expected to be upper Columbia chinook.
The landing limit is designed to keep the netters from exceeding their allocation.
"I know we haven't done that with spring chinook prior to this in the Columbia River, but we've done it several times for sturgeon,'' said Guy Norman, regional director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "It would certainly work for spring chinook as well, particularly with the situation we have with a limited number of spring chinook left.''
Spring chinook, especially caught early, bring the commercials the highest price per pound of any salmon in the Columbia River.
"It's important the consumers get every last fish they're entitled to,'' said Steve Fick, owner of Fishhawk Fisheries in Astoria.
Commercial and sport fishing conditions in the Columbia are poor, with very high streamflow.
"The river is wild now,'' said Jack Marincovich of the Columbia River Fisheries Protective Union, a commercial group.
John McKinley, a Wahkiakum County commercial fishermen, also said it is important to catch the commercial allocation completely.
"Us leaving impacts on the table is like throwing a lamb in front of a lion,'' he said. "They may not be here. The sports will probably gobble them up.''
State officials will meet at 3 p.m. Wednesday to review the sport catch and determine if more fishing is possible.
Sport salmon fishing is closed beginning Tuesday in the lower Columbia.
Randy Woolsey, a member of the bi-state Columbia River Recreational Advisory Group, asked the states to keep sport fishing open through Friday.
Catches have been poor and leaving the river open through Friday would give the states time to adopt an extension without a temporary closure, he said.
Woolsey mentioned using the balance of the sport allocation by having fishing open Wednesdays through Fridays.
Norman said the states need a bit more time to assess the sport catch.
Several commercial fishermen asked that "stacking'' be allowed. That involves two license holders on the same boat to reduce overhead costs.
Tony Nigro of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said stacking needs a more thorough analysis before being implemented.
Mark Herman, a commercial fishermen, said after Wednesday's net season both sport and commercial spring salmon fishing should be closed until the count at Bonneville Dam reaches 100,000.
The forecast is for an upper Columbia run of 198,000. Through Sunday, a total of 262 spring chinook have been counted at Bonneville Dam.