Columbia Springer Season Set; New Closure Area At Lewis Mouth

UPDATED 10:10 A.M., FEB. 24, 2017 AT BOTTOM WITH OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE

Columbia fishery managers set an initial March 1-April 6 spring Chinook season that includes a new sanctuary around the mouth of the Lewis to protect weak returns to the trib.

As usual, the big river is open to bank and boat anglers upriver to Beacon Rock, but only bankies from there to Bonneville Dam.

There are no Tuesday closures, and daily limit is one hatchery king.

SPRING CHINOOK ANGLERS PREPARE TO NET ONE ON THE COLUMBIA RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Overall, some 227,890 kings are expected back to the Columbia system, from the Select Areas near the mouth to North-central Washington, the wilds of Central Idaho and Oregon’s Hells Canyon tribs.

But it’s the 160,400 forecast to return to streams above Bonneville that managers need to watch out for.

An agreement on the fishery lops 30 percent of the run to guard against a busted forecast, and that allows for an overall mortality of 9,319 upriver-bound springers, both those intercepted for barbecues and wild fish that are released but some percentage of which die.

Managers expect 6,905 of those to be killed by sport anglers below Bonneville, 921 between the dam and Oregon-Washington state line above McNary, 863 in the Snake, around 610 in commercial fisheries in Select Areas, and set aside 20 for the Wanapum Tribe.

“We’ll continue to take a conservative approach in managing the fishery,” said WDFW’s Ron Roler. “If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look toward providing additional days of fishing on the river later in the spring.”

With no mainstem netting on the lower river before May’s runsize update, there are no Tuesday closures on the recreational fleet as in past years. Allocations have ratcheted from 70:30 sport:commercial last year to 80:20 this year.

However, starting March 1 a new closure takes effect around the mouth of the Lewis. The trib is forecast to see only 700 springers.

“ESA authorization for fisheries impacting listed lower Columbia River Chinook requires specific hatchery escapement goals be met,” the managers’ fact sheet for today’s decision states. “In 2017, the Lewis River spring Chinook return is forecasted to be less than the hatchery escapement goal of 1,380 adult fish.”

A WDFW IMAGE OUTLINES THE LEWIS RIVER MOUTH CLOSURE AREA DURING THE MARCH 1-APRIL 6 INITIAL COLUMBIA RIVER SPRING CHINOOK FISHERY. (WDFW)

The closure area is described as: “A line from a marker on the lower end of Bachelor Island through USCG buoy Red #4 to the Oregon shore, downstream to a line from the lower (north) end of Sauvie Island across the Columbia River to the downstream range marker (0.7 miles downstream of the Lewis River) and continuing along the wing jetty to the Washington shore.”

While the Willamette forecast is low — 38,090, roughly 21,000 below the 10-year average — with 32,500 of those being fin-clipped, there are just under 9,900 available for harvest below the falls and in the Columbia, and so Oregon managers not recommend any changes to the permanent regs in the Willy and Multnomah Channel.

Columbia managers also approved the usual March 16-May 5 fishery in the Columbia Gorge to the state line, with both banks open from Bonneville upstream, and boat fishing allowed from the Tower Island powerlines below The Dalles to the state line.

Daily limit is as one. The hand cast rule is in effect on the Washington side of the Bonneville Pool.

A high snowpack and what can sometimes be a fast-moving run means that anglers will need to keep their eyes on flows and state fish and wildlife e-reg sites.

“We ask anglers to keep watch for changing fishing rules, but it’s also important to keep a close eye on the river conditions,” Roler said. “Boat anglers, in particular, have a hard time catching fish when the river is running high and dirty, and personal safety has to be everyone’s first priority.”

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington set spring Chinook salmon seasons for the Columbia River Thursday during a joint state hearing in Vancouver, Wash.

The recreational springer season on the Columbia River from the mouth upstream to Bonneville Dam is scheduled to be open from March 1 – April 6, with boat angling restricted to below Beacon Rock.

The Columbia River spring Chinook season is based on a forecast of 227,900 returning spring Chinook, which includes an expected 160,400 upriver fish. The prediction is down from last year’s return of 274,700 springers and is 80 percent of the 10-year average return of 285,900 fish.

From Bonneville Dam to the OR/WA border upstream of McNary Dam, state fishery managers approved a Chinook retention season starting on March 16 and continuing through May 5

On the Willamette River, the spring Chinook forecast is 38,100 adult fish, which is down from last year’s actual return of 47,200 springers and two-thirds of the 10-year average return of 57,600. The 2017 return allows for a harvest of 9,550 hatchery Chinook between Willamette Falls and the mouth of the Columbia River.

The following is a summary of spring recreational fishing seasons approved by the states:

CHINOOK SALMON

Columbia River mouth to Bonneville Dam

Prior to March 1, permanent rules for Chinook salmon, as outlined in the 2017 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations, remain in effect.

From March 1 through April 6, boat fishing will be allowed seven days a week from Buoy 10 at the Columbia River mouth upstream to Beacon Rock, which is located approximately four miles below Bonneville Dam. Bank fishing will be allowed during the same timeframe from Buoy 10 upstream to the fishing deadline at Bonneville Dam. The recreational fishery below Bonneville will be managed prior to a run update based on the available guideline of 6,905 upriver spring Chinook. The season may be shortened or extended depending on actual catch and effort.

The states also adopted a no-fishing sanctuary around the mouth of the Lewis River to protect spring Chinook returning to that Washington tributary. No fishing is allowed within the closure area, which is defined as: A line from a marker on the lower end of Bachelor Island through USCG buoy Red #4 to the Oregon shore, downstream to a line from the lower (north) end of Sauvie Island across the Columbia River to the downstream range marker (0.7 miles downstream of the Lewis River) and continuing along the wing jetty to the Washington shore.

The daily bag limit will be two adipose fin-clipped adult salmon or steelhead in combination, of which no more than one may be a Chinook. The rules also allow retention of up to five adipose fin-clipped jack salmon per day in Oregon.

Columbia River from Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington border

Prior to March 16, permanent rules for Chinook salmon, as outlined in the 2017 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations, remain in effect.

Effective March 16 through May 5, this area will be open to retention of adipose fin-clipped Chinook. Fishing for salmon and steelhead from a boat between Bonneville Dam and the Tower Island power lines, approximately six miles downstream from The Dalles Dam, is prohibited.

This fishery will be managed to the available harvest guideline of 921 upriver spring Chinook and may be shortened or extended depending on catch and effort.

The daily bag limit will be two adipose fin-clipped adult salmon or steelhead in combination, of which no more than one may be a Chinook. The rules also allow retention of up to five adipose fin-clipped jack salmon per day in Oregon.

Select Areas

Except as noted below, permanent fishing regulations for recreational harvest in Oregon waters within Youngs Bay and Blind Slough/Knappa Slough are listed in the 2017 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations.

Effective February 1, 2017, the use of barbed hooks is allowed when angling for salmon, steelhead, or trout in the Youngs Bay Select Area from the Highway 101 Bridge upstream to markers at confluence of Youngs and Klaskanine rivers, including lower Lewis and Clark River upstream to Alternate Highway 101 Bridge and lower Walluski River upstream to Highway 202 Bridge; and in the Knappa/Blind Slough Select Area from markers at the west end of Minaker Island upstream to markers at the mouth of Blind Slough and continuing up Blind Slough/Gnat Creek to the Aldrich Point Road Bridge.

Based on today’s action, effective March 1 through June 15, 2017 on days when the mainstem below Bonneville Dam is open to recreational Chinook harvest, the daily adult salmon/steelhead bag limit in Select Area fishing sites will be the same as mainstem Columbia bag limits. On days the mainstem Columbia is closed to Chinook retention, the permanent bag limits for Select Areas will apply.

Willamette River

Under permanent rules, the Willamette River remains open to retention of adipose fin-clipped adult Chinook salmon and adipose fin-clipped steelhead seven days a week. Fishery managers will monitor harvest and passage and may need to adjust the season depending on actual returns and catch rates.  Effective February 1, 2017, the use of barbed hooks is allowed when angling for salmon, steelhead, or trout in the Willamette River downstream of Willamette Falls.

The bag limit on the Willamette below Willamette Falls is two adipose fin-clipped adult salmon or steelhead in combination. Above the falls, two adipose fin-clipped adult salmon and three adipose fin-clipped steelhead may be retained in the daily bag.

STEELHEAD AND SHAD

Permanent rules for steelhead and shad are in effect, except for the following modifications:

Effective March 16 – May 15, 2017, the Columbia River will be open for retention of adipose fin-clipped steelhead from Buoy 10 to the Highway 395 Bridge and shad from Buoy 10 to Bonneville Dam ONLY during days and in areas open for retention of adipose fin-clipped spring Chinook. Beginning May 16 permanent rules resume as listed in the 2017 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations.

SMELT

A limited recreational smelt fishery may be considered for the Sandy River in 2017 but due to sporadic nature of Eulachon returns and the difficulty predicting their arrival date, ODFW does not intend to propose the 2017 regulations unless circumstances are warranted. Under Oregon’s 2017 sport fishing regulations, smelt-dippers will be required to have a fishing license for the first time this year.

STURGEON

The retention of sturgeon remains open in the mainstem Columbia River from Bonneville Dam upstream to McNary Dam, including adjacent tributaries. Staff is monitoring harvest and will announce closure dates when pool-specific harvest guidelines are met.

Columbia Zone regulation updates can be found online at www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing/reg_changes/columbia.asp

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