Summer chinook season extended in lower Columbia

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



Anglers will get four more days to keep summer chinook salmon from the lower Columbia River — wrapped around the Fourth of July weekend.

Washington and Oregon on Tuesday approved retention of fin-clipped adult summer chinook from Thursday through Sunday, an extension expected to bring the sport catch to about 98 percent of its allocation for the season.

Summer chinook and sockeye retention closed effective Tuesday.

Biologist Robin Ehlke of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said lower Columbia sportsmen are allocated 2,414 summer chinook from the forecasted run of 67,500.

At the end of fishing on Monday, the catch was estimated at 2,028 chinook kept or dead from release mortality. That is 84 percent of the allocation.

Anglers during the holiday weekend are expected to catch 350 summer chinook, Ehlke said.

Sockeye retention will be allowed from Thursday through July 31. The sockeye forecast to the upper Columbia and Snake rivers has been upgraded from 347,100 initially to 425,000 now.

Lower Columbia sportsmen caught 650 sockeye through Monday and are expected to stay far below the 2,975 sockeye allocated to recreational fishing at a run of 425,000.

Only fin-clipped summer chinook may be retained in the sport fishery, but any sockeye. Through Monday, the chinook clip rate in the lower Columbia fishery was 45 percent, a source of frustration to sportsmen.

Robert Moxley of Dundee, Ore., a member of the bistate Columbia River Recreational Advisory Group, urged a bag limit of one chinook — hatchery or wild — instead of two hatchery chinook.

Bob Rees, executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, said an any-chinook limit would use up the small allocation quickly and not allow four additional days of fishing.

Gillnet fishery — The commercial fleet caught 1,385 summer chinook on one night of fishing in mid-June. That was 73 percent of the fleet’s 1,893 chinook guideline.

Washington and Oregon approved 12 hours of netting from 7 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. July 8 from Beacon Rock to the ocean using 8-inch-minimum mesh.

Ehlke said the netters are expected to catch 300 to 400 chinook and the sockeye catch will stay well within the 1,275 allocated to the commercials.

The commercial chinook are expected to average about 15 pounds with the netters getting about $5 per pound, she said.

Commercial fishermen may retain any chinook, not just hatchery-origin fish.

Bonneville pool sturgeon — Sturgeon retention in the Bonneville pool of the Columbia River will be open July 11-12 and July 18-19.

The sport catch guideline for Bonneville pool is 1,100 sturgeon for 2014. Anglers caught 241 in the winter season and 391 in the summer season, leaving a balance of 468 sturgeon.

Ehlke said the catch for the four-day reopening in July is expected to range between 420 to 460 sturgeon.

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