By the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association
As the springers roll up the Columbia it is good to remember the hard work, advocacy and litigation it has taken to ensure anglers have access to these fish.
JIM MARTIN AND JOHN SHLIMENKO SHOW OFF A NICE SPRING CHINOOK. (NSIA)
For instance, many salmon and sportfishing advocacy groups have weighed in on the long-running case before U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon to protect and restore beleaguered Columbia River salmon stocks.
Last April, Judge Simon rewarded those efforts by ordering that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work with state, federal and tribal biologists to develop a joint plan to provide more voluntary spill to provide better protections for outmigrating juvenile spring Chinook salmon, steelhead and sockeye.
The increased spill will be timed earlier in April, to help outmigrating spring Chinook smolts and should result in better returns in years to come.
“Sending water over the tops of dams for fish works,” says Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. “In 2006, NSIA and our allies secured an injunction in Judge Redden’s court to increase the use of spill to protect out-migrating juvenile fall Chinook. Within eight years — two generations of fall Chinook — we saw sharply increased runs of fall Chinook. We are confident spill will have a similar positive result for spring Chinook in the Columbia.”
Spill does not increase river flows, it only changes the route the water — and the fish — take past the dams.
According to Buzz Ramsey of Yakima Bait, it’s the change in how the water gets past the dams – by spill or through the turbines – that is important for salmon.
“Salmon do not swim down to the sea,” said Ramsey. “Instead, the fish point their nose into the current and let the flow push them downstream. The fish go where the water goes.”
He explains that if the water only passes through the turbines, that is where all the fish will end up and each dam will take its toll.
The Columbia River spring Chinook fishery is extremely popular and is a huge driver of fishing license sales for the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. NSIA hosts a popular annual fishing derby in the river called the Spring Fishing Classic.
This year’s event will be held Saturday, April 7, and is cohosted by Fisherman’s Marine & Outdoor and supported by many top names in the sportfishing industry, including Willie Boats, Scotty, Berkley and Stevens Marine.
Participation offers anglers a chance to have fun and engage in a little friendly competition, while supporting advocacy work for better fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.
A brand-new 17-foot Willie drift boat, trailer and seats will be raffled off, while $500 will also go to whomever weighs in the largest fish. Team prizes are also awarded.
Tickets are $255 for a team of three, $425 for a team of four and $510 for a team of six.
To register for the derby, call NSIA at (503) 631-8859 or go to nsiafishing.org, where you can also learn more about the organization and its efforts to help the fish and sportfishing.