Washington commission discusses salmon fishing reforms

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter

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OLYMPIA — Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission was briefed Saturday on the Columbia River salmon reforms, but took no action.

Kyle Adicks of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife told the commission that studies have shown beach seines and purse seines have a higher mortality rate on released salmon than anticipated, complicating intentions to use them to replace gillnets.

A new study of salmon and steelhead release mortality has been designed and the state is looking for money to pay for the research.

“One of the issues if we do implement that study and mortality rates are lower than expected we still have the previous studies that TAC (Columbia River Technical Advisory Committee) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) might not just want to put aside,’’ Adicks said. “They’ll want to consider all the information.’’

Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said efforts to develop a new off-channel commercial fishing location in Cathlamet Channel in Wahkiakum County is not off to a strong start.

Approximately 200,000 young spring chinook released in 2014 in Cathlamet Channel should have started showing up as 4-year-old adults in 2016. All of the fish in 2014 were fin-clipped so they could be identified when caught in sport or commercial fisheries.

“We found nothing this year,’’ Roler said. “I don’t know if they were sick going out. I don’t know what happened with them.’’

Although the reforms adopted in 2012 are supposed to apply through 2023, commission member Jay Kehne of Okanogan County said a complete review is needed before going to full implementation in 2017.

“I think it’s all back on the table if the presumptions we made are not panning out,’’ Kehne said.