Summer chinook season to reopen in lower Columbia

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



Summer chinook retention in the lower Columbia River will resume on Friday and continue through July, segueing into the much-anticipated fall season starting in August.

Washington and Oregon officials on Wednesday reopened summer chinook season effective Friday, plus approved gillnetting on the nights of July 14 and 21.

State, federal and tribal biologists on Monday updated the summer chinook run prediction from 67,500 to 74,000. The upgrade makes more chinook available to both the sport and commercial fisheries.

“It’s a nice opportunity for an additional 21 days of fishing that wasn’t anticipated,” said Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Biologist Robin Ehlke of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said sportsmen had taken 2,296 summer chinook through Sunday’s final day of the season.The number is 75 percent of the 3,063 allowed.

Ehlke estimated anglers between the Astoria Bridge and Bonneville Dam will keep 350 chinook and release 500 in the balance of July.

Only fin-clipped, hatchery-origin chinook may be retained. Only fin-clipped steelhead and any sockeye also can be kept.

The total of kept catch and release mortalities through July is projected at 2,721 summer chinook, or 89 percent of the lower Columbia sport allocation.

“This is a world-class fishery,” said Harry Barber of Washougal, a member of the bistate Columbia River Recreational Advisor Group. “You can go out and catch all three species in a morning.”

However Robert Moxley of Dundee, Ore., also an advisor group member, said the summer chinook run — with only 40 percent of the fish fin-clipped — is frustrating to anglers.

Moxley questioned allowing catch-and-release fishing in water temperatures already in the upper 60s.

A fall chinook run of 1.6 million and more than 900,000 coho will begin entering the lower Columbia in August.

Commercial fishery — The netters have caught 1,821 summer chinook during two nights of fishing. Slightly more than 500 remain on the commercial allocation and they are projected to catch about 450 chinook total during the nights of July 14 and July 21.

The average weight of summer chinook in the commercial catch is 15 pounds and the fishermen are paid about $5 per pound.

Record sockeye run — The sockeye count for the season at Bonneville Dam through Tuesday was 526,367, which tops the sockeye run record of 520,959 in 2012.

The biologists predict the sockeye run will total 560,000 or more by the time the 3-pound fish complete their spawning run.

Most the run is headed for the Okanogan River in north-central Washington, with a smaller component destined for the Wenatchee River and a much smaller number headed for the upper Snake River.

Sockeye do not bite well on sport gear. The lower Columbia sport allocation is 3,520 with 843 caught already and another 400 projected to be caught during the rest of July.

Most sockeye are caught incidentally while angling for summer chinook or steelhead.

The commercials are allocated 1,680 sockeye in the lower Columbia and their total catch for the season is projected to be 375.

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