Cowlitz, North Lewis bag might include wild chinook

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



Washington is proposing to allow the limited harvest of wild fall chinook in the North Fork of the Lewis and lower Cowlitz rivers in 2012.

A draft of the fall sport-fishing proposals distributed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife last week includes the following:

North Fork Lewis — Wild fall chinook could be kept from Sept. 15-Dec. 31 from the mouth to Colvin Creek and from Sept. 15-30 and Dec. 16-31 from Colvin Creek upstream to the powerlines downstream of Merwin Dam.

The spawning goal of 5,700 wild fall chinook is expected to reached in 2012, leaving extra fish for sport harvest.

Cowlitz — One wild chinook would be allowed to be kept from the Highway 4 brdge in Kelson upstream to the barrier dam during September. Wild jack chinook also could be kept as part of the daily limit, which is six salmon but no more than two adults.

Pat Frazier, regional fish program manager, said about 7,000 of the 24,000 adult fall chinook that returned to the Cowlitz in 2011 were wild. A similar return is expected in 2012, allowing an opportunity to retain a wild chinook while targeting hatchery salmon.

Frazier said efforts to reestablish fall chinook in the Cowlitz river upstream of the three dams is working.

“We’re having production from that upper basin that we never really expected to have,” he said. “We’re getting a really good return from the upper Cowlitz.”

September is the peak month for hatchery fall chinook, so the wild fish population is diluted during the month.

The Highway 4 bridge in Kelso is proposed as the lower boundary to minimize the handle of upper Columbia summer steelhead cooling in the Cowlitz and also gives protection of wild fall chinook staging at the mouth of the Coweeman River.

This proposal gives anglers a month to keep wild chinook in the popular fishing area around Castle Rock, including the new boat ramp.

Wind — The Wind River from the buoy line at the mouth to 400 feet downstream of Shipherd Falls would be open in July to allow catch of summer chinook concurrent with the Columbia River.

The addition would result in a salmon season from mid-March through October in the lower Wind River.

Drano Lake — Unmarked fall chinook and coho could be kept August through December in Drano Lake.

Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery releases some unmarked fall chinook which also have coded-wire tags for fishery data collection purposes. Once back to the lake there is no reason to protect the fish. Drano also gets stray coho, including unmarked fish, returning to the hatchery.

White Salmon River — Fishing for hatchery salmon and steelhead would be open from the mouth to the county bridge at river mile 2 year-round.

Hatchery summer steelhead will be returning to the White Salmon this year and stray hatchery salmon also might be available for harvest.

Fishing also would be open for hatchery steelhead from June 2 through Oct. 31 from the bridge at the upper end of the former Northwestern Lake (river mile 5) to 400 feet downstream of Big Brother’s Falls at river mile 16.

Selective gear rules (no bait, single barbless hooks) would be required.

This would allow catch of the summer steelhead, but all other trout must be released and salmon fishing would remain closed.