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News / Sports / Outdoors

All of lower Columbia River to open for fall salmon fishing

Fall chinook numbers expected to increase from earlier projection

By ALLEN THOMAS, for The Columbian
Published: September 20, 2023, 3:01pm

Fall salmon fishing in the entire lower Columbia River will be open beginning Friday (Sept. 22) and remain open indefinitely, Washington and Oregon officials agreed Wednesday.

That means the closure scheduled to begin Friday between Warrior Rock near St. Helens, Ore., and the current closure between the west end of Puget Island near Cathlamet are rescinded.

Angling at Buoy 10 near the mouth of the river and upstream of Bonneville Dam is already are open.

The initial forecast of upper Columbia-origin fall chinook called a run of 463,400. Last week, the projection was increased to 590,000. On Monday, state, federal and tribal biologists upgraded the forecast to 613,000 fall chinook.

Roger Dick Jr. of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission told state officials the to-date count of fall chinook at Bonneville Dam is the second best of the past 10 years. The 56 percent fin-clip rate (hatchery-origin fish) is higher than average.

The daily bag limit will remain two adult salmon, but only one chinook. Any chinook is allowed, but only hatchery-origin coho.

Biologist Jeff Whisler of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said anglers are projected to catch an additional 9,300 fall chinook between now and the end of the run.

Robert Moxley, a member of the bi-state Columbia River recreational fishery advisory group, asked why sportsmen must release wild coho while the fish may be retained by gillnetters in the Warrior Rock to Beacon Rock zone.

Commercial fishing — Washington and Oregon also adopted two nights of gillnetting for next week.

The commercial fleet will fish between Warrior Rock and Beacon Rock from 8 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday (Sept. 24-25) and Tuesday (Sept. 26-27).

The netters are projected to catch about 2,800 chinook in the two nights of fishing, Whisler said.

On Sunday night, the netters caught 1,787 chinook and 449 coho from 31 deliveries. Catches from Tuesday night’s rare Oregon-side-only gillnet fishery are not available yet, he added.

State officials will meet next Wednesday to consider additional gillnetting in the lower Columbia.

Steelhead — There’s some good news for long-suffering upper Columbia River summer steelhead.

Dick Jr. said the count at Bonneville is 101,414 summer steelhead, almost 40,000 more than the forecast of 63,400.

The return is 35 percent better than the five-year average, although only 73 percent of the 10-year average.