No spring chinook season in Oregon's Deschutes River

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THE DALLES — There will be no spring chinook salmon fishing season in Oregon's Deschutes River in 2013.

Rod French of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said fewer than 650 wild spring chinook are forecast to return to the Warm Springs River to spawn. The lower Deschutes management plan calls for at least 1,000 wild fish before Oregon opens a sport season on hatchery chinook.

“We have seen a significant decline in the return of wild fish over the last several years,” French said. “When the wild populations are this low, we can’t afford any incidental harvest from anglers targeting hatchery fish.”

The return of hatchery fish to the two Deschutes River hatcheries is also expected to be low and any harvest may jeopardize future hatchery production.

The exact cause of the decline is unknown, but managers hope that allowing additional fish to return to spawning grounds will boost wild production.

The Deschutes River is closed to all chinook fishing under permanent rule.

Unlike the wild spring chinook population, the wild fall chinook population in the Deschutes River is one of the healthiest stocks in the Columbia Basin, and the anticipated return should be well above management goals.

This will allow fishery managers to propose a sport fishing season for fall chinook beginning in August, French said.