(NORTHWEST SPORTFISHING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION PRESS RELEASE)
On June 16, the mainstem Columbia River from the Astoria Bridge at the mouth to Priest Rapids Dam will open for a full season of summer Chinook fishing with a mark select fishery that is scheduled to last through the opening of the Fall Chinook fishery on August l.
In a mark-select fishery, hatchery fish-which have had their adipose fin removed-may be retained. Wild summer Chinook will be release unharmed. This will not only provide more protection of wild fish, mark-select fisheries nearly double the length of the time sport anglers can spend on the water.
Because of low return numbers, sport fishing for summer Chinook ended in 1974 and did not reopen until 2002. In 2005, the states agreed to a fishery that was catch and kill of wild summer Chinook. That decision was opposed by NSIA and the majority of sport clubs, but supported by the gillnet fleet.
NSIA has since advocated that anglers voluntarily release wild summer Chinook, and retain the adipose marked hatchery salmon, while urging the responsible agencies to prohibit retention of wild summer Chinook.
In 2002, a selective sport season provided the Northwest with the economic and cultural benefits of nearly 55,000 angler trips in less than six weeks. In contrast, the catch-and-kill wild fish policy in effect in 2007 translated into 28,000 angler trips.
Mark-select fisheries can help keep hatchery fish off spawning beds, provide more protections to wild fish and dramatically increase the economic benefits sport fisheries provide to communities.
Today’s summer Chinook are remnants of a huge race of salmon, once known as “June Hogs” for their size and strength. June Hogs, known to reach up to 70 pounds, were nearly eliminated when most of their spawning and rearing grounds were blocked by the building of the Grand Coulee Dam and from overfishing.
“It’s gratifying to know that in 2010, more wild summer Chinook will reach their spawning beds in the upper Columbia and its tributaries. Some of these mighty salmon enter the Columbia in May and June and end up spawning in Canada via the Okanogan River. It’s a real testament to the tenacity of wild fish and their genetics” said Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.
Buzz Ramsey, brand manager for Yakima Bait, added, “Although summer Chinook come in all sizes, they often average 25 to 35 pounds and can reach weights of 40 pounds or more. These salmon pass close to the homes of many Northwest residents, sustaining rural jobs as they move up the Columbia. And summer Chinook are accessible to those fishing from the bank or a boat. Since the reopening of this fishery in 2002 after a 29-year fishing closure, this has become a favorite fishery for many Northwest residents, including me and my family!”
Hamilton finished: “Given the unemployment rates in Oregon and Washington, having a full summer Chinook fishery, followed on August 1, by nearly three-quarters of a million fall Chinook, returns will punctuate that sportfishing means business. Policies that create full sport fisheries sustain jobs in every corner of the Northwest.”