Buoy 10 chinook retention to stay open through Labor Day

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Chinook retention in the popular Buoy 10 salmon season at the mouth of the Columbia River will stay open through Labor Day, Washington and Oregon officials agreed Tuesday.

The estimated catch through Sunday was 15,300 fall chinook and 2,800 hatchery coho. The chinook catch is higher than the preseason expectation of 13,900.

Steve Williams, an assistant administrator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said he feared late last week that a closure of chinook retention was likely prior to Labor Day.

But coded-wire tags in chinook sampled by the two states show the lower Columbia tule (dark) chinook are only about 19 percent of the catch compared to the expected 28 percent.

The catch of lower Columbia tules is what ultimately determines the length of the fishery. The fish are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Biologist John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said another 8,700 chinook are expected to be caught through Monday, bringing the season total to 24,000 at Buoy 10.

"This is a lot of chinook that have been caught at Buoy 10 and that's a good thing,'' Williams said.

Representatives of the coastal communities told the states in March that keeping chinook retention open through Labor Day at Buoy 10 is vital to their economy.

"I know that's important to a whole lot of people and that community down there,'' said Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In addition to the smaller than anticipated catch of lower Columbia River tules, there also are expected to be some savings from the ocean recreational fishery that can be applied to the Buoy 10 allocation, said North.

The per angler catch at Buoy 10 is the best in the past four years, he added.

Buoy 10 in the named given to the lower 16 miles of the Columbia from Buoy 10 at the river's mouth upstream to Tongue Point in Oregon and Rocky Point in Washington.

Summer steelhead — North said the run update for Columbia River Group A summer steelhead has been downgraded to 191,000, which is 61.3 percent of the initial forecast.

Group A are the smaller, earlier-returning steelhead headed for a wide variety of tributaries. Group B steelhead are larger, later and return primarily to Idaho. The Group B run also may be smaller than forecast, he said.