Commercial fleet returns Tuesday, Wednesday to lower Columbia River

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



Gillnetters will return to the lower Columbia River on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

The Columbia River Compact on Monday adopted two commercial fishing periods.

Between the mouth of the Lewis River and Beacon Rock, the gillnetters will fish from 7 p.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. Wednesday and 7 p.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday with 8-inch-minimum-mesh nets to target on chinook. From the mouth of the Lewis River to the coast, the netters will fish from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday with 6-inch-maximum-mesh nets to target on coho.

Biologist Robin Ehlke of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said the commercials have about 4,000 coho remaining on their allocation. She estimated the fleet will catch about 500 chinook and 3,000 coho this week.

There are 167 sturgeon remaining on the commercial allocation. The netters will be limited to two sturgeon per vessel this week. Their overall catch is expected to be about 50 fish.

Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said he is not interested in having a sturgeon-only season later this year to fill the catch guideline completely.

Ehlke said the early-stock coho return, projected to be 260,000 fish, appears to be about 250,000. The late-stock coho forecast of 102,300 might be a bit high, too.

Late coho headed for the Cowlitz River were forecast to number 34,000, but are on track to total about 29,000, she said.

Jim Wells of Salmon For All, an Astoria-based commercial fishing group, said the tides are not favorable for fishing on Wednesday and strong east winds are possible.

Wells said he doubts the fleet can catch 4,000 coho in two days of fishing downstream of the Lewis River . The catch during one day of fishing last week was 1,900 coho.

Washington and Oregon biologists will assess the coho catch on Thursday or Friday and decide if a compact meeting is needed next week to consider additional commercial fishing.