States meet to set fall gillnet seasons

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



The Columbia River Compact will meet at today in Astoria and is expected to adopt a nine-hour glllnet season for fall chinook and sturgeon on Aug. 4-5.

The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. at the Holiday Inn, 204 W. Marine Drive.

Washington and Oregon biologists are recommending the commercial fleet fish from 9 p.m. Aug. 4 to 6 a.m. Aug. 5 from Buoy 10 to Beacon Rock. A catch of 3,000 chinook is expected.

Only the one night of gillnetting is anticipated for early August to minimize the catch of wild fall chinook headed for lower Columbia River tributaries.

Gillnetting is proposed to resume in mid-August between the mouth of the Lewis River and Beacon Rock. State biologists are proposing netting for the nights of Aug. 16, Aug. 18, Aug. 21, Aug. 23 and Aug. 25 upstream of Warrior Rock on the downstream end of Sauvie Island.

The net fleet is expected to catch 39,600 chinook in mid- to late August.

Netting would resume on Sept. 18, again upstream of Warrior Rock. The catch expection for the September period is 21,600 chinook.

Gillnetting to target on coho will be limited this fall. A coho season is likely during the weeks of Oct. 3 or Oct. 10 downstream of the Lewis River mouth. The catch expectation is 8,700 coho.

More coho might be available if harvest in the ocean or at Buoy 10 is smaller than expected.

The commercial fleet has about 2,550 sturgeon remaining on their allocation of 3,400. Landing limits are anticipated during the fall commercial seasons to stay within the allocation.

A big run of 766,300 fall chinook is forecast to enter the Columbia River beginning Monday and continuing through October. That would be the best since 2004 and compares to 657,100 a year ago.

Particularly encouraging is that almost 400,000 of those fall chinook are the prized “upriver brights,” mostly wild spawners headed for the Hanford Reach area downstream of Priest Rapids Dam.

If those upriver brights show as forecast, it would be the best run since 1987 and second best since 1964.

Overall, the forecast calls for 68 percent of the run to be of the various bright stocks and 32 percent the less-sought “tule” stocks.

The forecast is for a poor coho return, just 270,800, which is only half of the 10-year average. The return in 2010 was 441,100.

Early coho are predicted to number 168,500, while lates are forecast at 102,300.

Early coho enter the Columbia from August through mid-September. A big early run is critical if coho fishing is to be good at Buoy 10.

Late coho return from late September into November. They fuel the October fishery at the mouth of the Cowlitz and particularly around the west end of Lady Island at Camas in mid- to late October.

Bonneville Dam passage is expected to number 81,500 adult coho.

The summer steelhead forecast is 390.900, which is above average, but smaller than 410,500 of a year ago.

A-run steelhead are predicted to number 312,700, up slightly from a year ago. B-run steelhead are forecast at 54,100, down from 77,200 in 2010.

A-run steelhead are smaller and return to tributaries throughout the Columbia and Snake basins. B-run steelhead are larger and return primarily to tributaries in the Salmon and Clearwater rivers in Idaho.