States increase lower Columbia's fall chinook bag limit

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Anglers may keep two adult fall chinook per day in the lower Columbia River as the run appears to be a record high.

Washington and Oregon officials agreed that effective Friday the daily limit between Buoy 10 at the mouth of the Columbia River and Warrior Rock on Sauvie Island across from the mouth of the Lewis River will be two adult hatchery chinook or steelhead.

Between Warrior Rock and Bonneville Dam, the limit also will be two adult salmon or steelhead and any adult chinook, fin-clipped or not, may be kept.

The states also adopted "boat limit'' regulations for the Columbia from Tongue Point near Astoria upstream to the Highway 395 bridge in the Tri-Cities. The regulation allows each angler to continue to fish until all have achieved their daily limit.

Through Wednesday, the count at Bonneville Dam was 573,600 adult fall chinook. There have been several record-setting days including 63,870 adult chinook on Monday.

The initial forecast was for 434,600 of the "upriver bright'' stock of fall chinook to enter the Columbia. The forecast has been upgraded to between 664,000 and 835,000.

“This will be a fishing season to remember,” said Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “This year’s run of upriver fall chinook is through the roof, and a positive sign that regional efforts to rebuild this salmon population are making a difference. These new rules will increase fishing opportunity for anglers, while providing protection for the wild fish returning to the lower Columbia tributaries.”

The requirement that anglers release unmarked chinook below the Lewis River is specifically designed to protect wild chinook salmon returning to tributaries of the lower Columbia, Norman said.

Anglers fishing are required to use barbless hooks to facilitate the release of fish that must be returned to the water.

“We might have already seen the peak of the run at Bonneville, but there still will be good fishing in the lower Columbia River during the weeks ahead,” said Joe Hymer, a state biologist. “Meanwhile, this year’s huge run is starting to show up in fisheries hundreds of miles upriver.”

Gillnet season — Gillnetting between Warrior Rock and Beacon Rock will occur between 9 p.m. Sunday and 3 a.m. Monday and 9 p.m. Tuesday and 5 a.m. Wednesday.

The netters caught 45,600 chinook, 700 sturgeon and 380 coho in their August season and are projected to catch 18,000 to 25,000 additional chinook during the two upcoming nights.

The Columbia River Compact will meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday to consider additional gillnet fishing periods.

Willamette sturgeon — Oregon has announced sturgeon retention will be allowed on Oct. 19 in the lower Willamette River.

The bag limit will be one fish with a fork length of 38 to 54 inches. The river downstream of Willamette Falls including Multnomah Channel will be open. Additional openings may be possible if the harvest limit is not reached.