States adopt Columbia spring chinook, sturgeon seasons

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



PORTLAND — The mega-popular spring chinook salmon season in the lower Columbia River will be brief in 2013, with the sport allocation projected to be filled on April 5.

“It’s a pretty sparse fishery,” said Steve Williams, an assistant administrator of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Washington and Oregon adopted spring chinook and sturgeon sport seasons here Wednesday. The seasons are controlled by catch quotas with the closing dates far from guaranteed.

Downstream of Interstate 5, spring chinook angling is open currently and is scheduled to close beginning April 6.

Between I-5 and Bonneville Dam, salmon angling will be open beginning March 1 and is scheduled to close beginning April 6. Boat angling will be open upstream to Beacon Rock and bank fishing will be open to the deadline at Bonneville Dam.

Sport fishing will be closed on two Tuesdays — March 26 and April 2 — from the Columbia River mouth to Bonneville Dam to allow for gillnet fishing.

Biologist Robin Ehlke of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said a run of 141,400 spring chinook is forecast to enter the Columbia River headed for upstream of Bonneville Dam

An additional 83,600 spring chinook are forecast to Oregon’s Willamette River plus other lower Columbia tributaries.

A year ago, the upper Columbia run was 203,100, the lower Columbia run was 92,200, and fishing was open through April 22.

Under the various conservation restrictions and management agreements there are 5,010 upper Columbia spring chinook available for lower Columbia anglers prior to the run forecast update in early to mid-May, Ehlke said.

That number really determines how long fishing will stay open.

Sportsmen are projected to keep 6,100 spring chinook from all stocks from 63,500 angler trips in the lower Columbia, said John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The daily bag limit is one hatchery chinook, although a steelhead can be kept, too. New this year is a requirement to use barbless hooks.

Guy Norman, regional director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, noted that a few more days of angling would be possible and a slightly higher catch total if fishing was limited to downstream of Interstate 5, where Willamette-origin chinook dilute the catch of upper Columbia chinook.

If future upper Columbia runs get much smaller than 140,000, it might make sense to restrict sport fishing to downstream of I-5, he added.

A review is planned April 3 to examine catches and determine if the lower Columbia season can be extended.

State officials adopted several other fishing seasons.

Mid-Columbia salmon — Angling from Bonneville Dam to the Washington-Oregon border upstream of McNary Dam will be March 16 through May 5. The real limit here is a catch of 670 spring chinook.

Boat fishermen in the Bonneville pool are limited to upstream of Tower Island power lines, six miles downstream of The Dalles Dam. Bank angling is allowed in the area closed to boats in Bonneville pool.

Two hatchery chinook per day may be kept.

Estuary sturgeon — The main summer sport season downstream of the Wauna power lines near Cathlamet will start May 11 and is scheduled open through June 30. The estuary has a catch allocation of 4,042 sturgeon.

The estuary also is open daily from now through April 30, but few, if any, sturgeon are caught in the early season.

Mid-river sturgeon — Angling between the Wauna power lines and Bonneville Dam will be open Thursdays through Saturdays through June 15, plus Thursdays through Saturdays from Oct. 19 to Dec. 31.

The catch allocation is 2,021 sturgeon.

Sturgeon fishing is closed in the spawning sanctuary downstream of Bonneville Dam from May 1 through Aug. 31. The sanctuary is from the dam downstream for nine miles to navigation marker No. 82.

Bonneville pool sturgeon — The winter season will close as scheduled beginning Feb. 11. A four-day summer season, probably in late June, is anticipated.

The catch through Feb. 10 is projected to be 150 sturgeon, leaving 950 for the summer season. North said about 800 to 900 sturgeon are needed for four days in summer.

The Bonneville pool sturgeon allocation, originally set at 2,000, has been reduced to 1,100 because research in 2012 found the population in the reservoir is smaller than thought.

Lower Willamette sturgeon — Oregon will allow sturgeon retention in the Willamette River downstream of Willamette Falls on July 11-13 and July 18-20. The catch limit 1,733 sturgeon.

Traditionally, the Willamette season is in mid-February, but Oregon calculates the quota would be caught in a day.

“A one-day derby is not what most people are interested in,” Williams said.

Commercial winter sturgeon — Three gillnetting periods between Beacon Rock and the ocean were adopted to catch sturgeon.

The commercials will fish from 6 p.m. today to 6 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Monday to 6 p.m. Tuesday and 6 p.m. Wednesday to 6 p.m. Feb. 7.

A maximum of 10 sturgeon may be sold in each of the two calendar weeks per vessel. The states have allocated 250 sturgeon from the commercials’ overall allocation of 2,020 for the three winter periods.

Ehlke said having the winter commercial sturgeon season in early February is designed to avoid any catch of spring chinook.

Commercial spring chinook — The gillnet fleet is allocated 1,135 upper Columbia spring chinook for 2013 prior to the run update in mid-May. It is anticipated the netters will need only one fishing period, or possibly two, to catch their share.

Test gillnetting will begin in March with the full-fleet fishery likely on March 26 or April 2.

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