Extra Columbia River angling fee finances research

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



Eight fishery monitoring efforts totaling $603,000 in Southwest Washington have been approved for 2013 with money raised from the special fee paid by anglers of the Columbia River and its tributaries.

The Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Recreational Advisory Board approved the spending for 2013-14 when it met in late February in Yakima.

Since April 2010, Washington-licensed sportsmen in the Columbia River and tributaries have paid an extra $8.75 with the money designated for continuing and expanding selective fisheries.

Selective fisheries is the term for allowing harvest of hatchery-origin salmon and steelhead while releasing wild fish. Many of those wild fish are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Almost half the endorsement fee money to be spent in Southwest Washington is going toward Cowlitz River steelhead. The summer steelhead fishery in the Cowlitz is big, fueling 59,000 angler trips, a harvest of 7,200 fish and generating $3.4 million in economic activity.

Other Southwest Washington waters due endorsement fee dollars include the Wind, Klickitat, South Fork Toutle and Columbia rivers.

Here’s a brief summary of the eight local projects:

Lower Cowlitz River steelhead weirs ($164,000) — The money will pay to operate weirs on four tributaries to divert steelhead into traps. Wild steelhead will be passed into the tributaries while the hatchery fish will not.

Genetic studies show a unique stock of wild steelhead in lower Cowlitz tributaries and the goal is to reduce spawning with hatchery fish. The traps will help determine if enough late wild winter steelhead return to collect spawners and start a late winter steelhead hatchery program.

Cowlitz summer steelhead recycling ($140,000) — Excess summer steelhead at Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery are no longer transported downstream to give anglers a second chance. Recycling the fish stopped to avoid their wandering into tributaries and spawning with wild steelhead.

The money will pay for putting radio tags in 60 steelhead and visual tags in 440, then recycling them 20 miles downstream from the salmon hatchery. Monitoring will determine if they return to the hatchery, get caught, remain in the Cowlitz, enter a tributary or leave the Cowlitz system.

The data might make it possible to resume large-scale recycling of summer steelhead again.

Klickitat River creel sampling ($92,000) — The money will pay for angler sampling from June through November from Lyle Falls at river mile 1.5 to river mile 40.

Little data has been collected in the Klickitat upstream of Lyle Falls, but fishing effort in the river is substantial, particularly from the shore and drift boats. In 2009-2010, the catch estimates were 2,300 chinook, 5,100 coho and 2,000 steelhead.

New information will shed light on the fishery and its impact on wild salmon and steelhead.

Columbia summer chinook creel ($77,000) — This money will supplement existing sampling during the June 16-July 31 summer chinook period in the Columbia River.

At least 20 percent of the catch needs to sampled to assure the results are statistically accurate. Last summer, this fishery generated 80,000 trips with 2,900 chinook kept and 2,550 released. That’s about $4.7 million in spending and re-spending.

Columbia fall chinook creel ($7,900) — This money will pay to sample the selective fishery for a week in September downstream of the mouth of the Lewis River.

Rather than completely close chinook retention, the states might allow a fishery where hatchery chinook may be retained and wild chinook released during this week.

In 2012, there were an estimated 5,000 fishing trips with a catch of 750 hatchery chinook and 2,450 wild fish released. Federal money used to monitor the week in 2012 is not available in 2013.

South Toutle summer steelhead census ($55,000) — Summer steelhead releases in the South Toutle were reduced from 25,000 annually to 15,000 to reduce hatchery summer fish spawning with wild winter stock.

There is public pressure to increase the number of hatchery summer steelhead and releases recently were increased to 20,000.

With this study, handling and hooking mortality of wild winter steelhead can be verified. If catch rates of hatchery summers are high, more hatchery fish might be able to be released.

Sampling would be May 2013 through February 2014.

Wind River mouth spring chinook monitoring ($27,000) — The money pays for sampling at the mouth of the Skamania County stream.

The fishing area at the mouth was enlarged in 2012 and the monitoring is to learn if the catch is Wind River chinook or salmon destined for elsewhere.

Siltation has been filling in the mouth of Wind River. Enlarging the fishing area was to relieve crowding and provide a more enjoyable experience.

Wind River steelhead mortality study ($40,000) — For the third year, sport-caught summer steelhead will be checked for hooking location and passive transponders applied to fish caught upstream of Shipherd Falls.

The survival of steelhead caught and released with sport gear will be compared with a control group tagged at the Wind River trap.

The study also will see if there is a difference in survival of angler-caught steelhead based on anatomical hook location.

New infrastructure was installed in the Wind River in 2012 to detect upstream movement of tagged steelhead.

Elsewhere — The board approved $72,000 for projects on the lower Snake and Grand Ronde rivers, $28,000 for the Yakima River and $532,000 for the upper Columbia River.