Posted on Friday, June 29, 2018
Summer chinook recreational fishing that was to extend to the end of July was abruptly canceled downstream of Bonneville Dam where anglers have already exceeded a new catch allocation based on a 23 percent decline in the run size forecast.
The lower allocation was a result of the U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee unofficially downgrading this week the number of summer chinook it expects this year.
As it shut down summer chinook fishing, the two-state Columbia River Compact at its meeting this week opened recreational angling for sockeye salmon that previously was closed due to a low preseason forecast of the fish.
TAC downgraded the summer chinook run from 67,300 fish at the river’s mouth to 52,000 at its Monday, June 25 meeting, but it more than doubled the anticipated run of sockeye salmon from 99,000 to 209,000 fish, allowing the Compact to open sockeye angling on the mainstem Columbia River.
TAC’s summer chinook update is unofficial, according to Stuart Ellis of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and chair of TAC, but the group will meet again Monday, July 2, he said, and at that meeting they will likely officially downgrade the run. The Compact conservatively accepted the unofficial in-season forecast as it reset fishing rules on the river at its meeting Thursday, June 28.
The Compact and TAC consider chinook salmon that pass Bonneville Dam beginning June 16 to be summer chinook. The count at the dam as of June 27 was just 20,870 fish. Passage is typically 50 percent complete by June 30 and has been less than expected, according to the Compact’s June 28 Summer Fact Sheet #1.
On the other hand, 120,577 sockeye had passed the dam by June 27 (half of the run is typically over the dam by June 26), so the run of sockeye has been far larger than what was anticipated by the preseason forecast. Last year just 50,329 sockeye had passed the dam by June 27 and the 10-year average is 186,613.
In addition, through June 27, some 5,141 Skamania steelhead have been counted at Bonneville. That includes 2,181 unclipped fish. Based on the 10-year average timing, the total run would normally be about 79 percent complete and the unclipped run would be about 72 percent complete at Bonneville on June 3, the fact sheet says. TAC says the total run is tracking less than expected, but the unclipped portion of the run is near the preseason forecast.
Given the higher preseason forecast for summer chinook, fisheries managers had previously set fishing quotas of 20,624 chinook for Treaty fishing and 3,541 for non-Treaty recreational and select area commercial fisheries.
With the lower forecast, however, the allocations dropped to 14,059 for Treaty fishers and 919 for non-Treaty fishers. That breaks down to 184 non-Treaty upriver chinook for commercial gillnetters in select areas near Astoria, 625 for recreational anglers downstream of Bonneville Dam and 110 upriver chinook for recreational anglers from Bonneville Dam upstream to Priest Rapids Dam.
Based on catch estimates of 455 summer chinook kept added to anticipated release mortalities since the opening on June 22, lower Columbia River retention is already at 986 fish or 158 percent of the revised allocation for the fishery of 625 fish. As a result, summer chinook retention will close from the Astoria/Megler Bridge to Bonneville Dam at the end of the day tomorrow, Saturday, June 30. The lower Columbia catch also includes 100 steelhead kept (28 released) and 24 sockeye, all released.
Angling for hatchery summer chinook from Bonneville upstream to the Oregon and Washington border, which opened June 16, is scheduled to continue through July 31. Just 9 summer chinook have been kept in that fishery with fewer than 300 angler trips.
Only five chinook have been caught in Washington waters from the border upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. That fishery also opened June 16 and will continue through July 31.
Sockeye retention in the mainstem recreational summer fisheries was prohibited due to concerns regarding Wenatchee River escapement. However, escapement goals are now expected to be met, the Fact Sheet says. Based on the upgraded sockeye return, approximately 1,670 sockeye are now available for mainstem recreational fisheries downstream of the Snake River. That fishery opens July 1 and extends from the Oregon and Washington border downstream to the Astoria/Megler Bridge at Astoria.
Anglers can retain two salmonids per day, including sockeye or hatchery steelhead, downstream of Bonneville Dam. Upstream of the dam to the Oregon and Washington border, anglers can keep two salmonids, including hatchery steelhead, hatchery chinook and sockeye.
Treaty commercial fishing has some way to go to meet its allocation. After two weeks of fishing since June 16, the Compact approved one more week of Treaty gillnetting in Zone 6 (July 2 – 6, upstream of Bonneville Dam). Total projected catch through July 6 is estimated to be 11,172, leaving 2,887 remaining to be caught.
Non-treaty commercial fishing in select areas is also under allocation for upriver fish because these fisheries are limited to areas where their take is almost all hatchery fish. Gillnetting in Blind Slough/Knappa Slough and Tongue Point was to end June 29, but the Compact extended fishing eight days for 12 hours each day during July in those areas.
The extensions allow access to late-returning select area spring chinook that are still present in the fishing areas, as well as providing partial access to the commercial sturgeon allocation, the Fact Sheet says. The catch expectation is 800 – 1,200 chinook and less than 100 white sturgeon. At the end of the new fishing periods total catch of upriver fish is expected to not exceed 50.
Idaho is closing some rivers this weekend because harvest goals have been met. After Sunday, July 1, all sections of the Lower Salmon River and the Little Salmon River will close, as well as the North Fork of the Clearwater River and the Lochsa River. The South Fork of the Salmon River and the Upper Salmon River will remain open.
Fisheries managers at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are anticipating about 2,000 adult chinook will return to the South Fork of the Salmon River, which would provide a sport-fishing harvest share of about 680 fish. The sport harvest share for the Upper Salmon will be about 250 to 300 chinook, according to an IDFG news release.