Anglers get three-day chinook retention extension

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Anglers will get three unanticipated days — Friday through Sunday — to keep chinook salmon in the Columbia River downstream of Woodland.

Washington and Oregon officials agreed Monday that sportsmen can keep chinook this weekend between Warrior Rock on the downstream end of Sauvie Island and Tongue Point at Astoria.

Chinook retention in that popular stretch of the Columbia closed beginning Sunday.

The reopening is possible because the harvest of chinook destined for lower Columbia tributaries is only about half of what was anticipated, said biologist John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Chinook retention upstream of Warrior Rock is open daily.

Here's is a summary of Monday's action:

• Opening the Columbia for chinook retention between Warrior Rock and Tongue Point on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The bag limit is six salmon, with no more than two adult chinook, coho or steelhead.

• Opening the Buoy 10 area (Buoy No. 10 at the river mouth to Tongue Point) beginning Friday for chinook retention. Chinook retention at Buoy 10 continues through Dec. 31. The bag limit will be two adult chinook, coho or steelhead. Jack salmon cannot be retained at Buoy 10.

• Adopting a gillnet season beginning at 9 p.m. Sunday through 6 a.m. Monday from Beacon Rock downstream to the river mouth. The gillnet fleet must use eight-inch minimum mesh nets. They are limited to seven sturgeon per vessel per calendar week.

The commercials also will fish the nights of Sept. 19, 20 and 22 upstream of Warrior Rock to Beacon Rock.

Fishing at Buoy 10 is largely done for the year. North said sportsmen are projected to catch 100 to 400 more chinook at Buoy 10. The catch estimate for the three days between Tongue Point and Warrior Rock is 1,500 chinook.

North said the commercial fleet is projected to catch 20,000 chinook and 800 to 1,100 sturgeon. The commercials have 1,292 sturgeon left on their lower Columbia allocation of 3,400 for 2011.

Harry Barber of Washougal urged the states to be cautious managing sturgeon, noting that the sport catch was weak in the lower Columbia in the January-through-July fishing period.

Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said managing fall fisheries in the Columbia River is a complicated jugging act.

"There's no other fishery on the West Coast that's fine-tuned like this one,'' he said.

State officials will meet again at 10 a.m. on Sept. 22 to review tribal and non-Indian commercial catches and seasons.

(Click here for the staff report and action notice of Monday's meeting.)