Tag Archives: ODFW

Columbia River Salmon Policies Subject Of Aug. 1 Public Meeting

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

The public is invited to attend a meeting of members of the Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions to discuss next steps in the review of salmon management on the Columbia River.

A GUIDE BOAT HEADS IN TO THE WEST MOORING BASIN AT ASTORIA. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The meeting is scheduled for Aug. 1 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Room located at 4034 Fairview Industrial Dr. S.E. in Salem.

The public is welcome to attend, but public comment will not be taken at the meeting. This meeting will include providing a significant amount of background material. The meeting will also be streamed online.

The Joint-State Columbia River Fishery Policy Review Committee (PRC), made up of members from each state’s commission, is working to find common ground for jointly managed fisheries, and emphasizes having concurrent regulations in these jointly managed waters.

The PRC group began meeting in January, and three additional meetings have been held. Materials from previous meetings can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/commission/joint-policy-review-committee.

“Since the first meeting of this group, department staff from both Oregon and Washington have provided informational material and analysis for review,” said Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River policy coordinator with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

The Aug. 1 meeting will include an overview of Columbia River fishery management, progress to date from the past PRC meetings, and discussions on ways to improve policy and regulatory concurrence between the two states in 2020 and beyond.

The committee is also expected to discuss a schedule for future meetings.

In 2018, WDFW finalized its five-year performance review of the Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy of 2013. That review can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/02029/.

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ODFW Extends Nehalem Wild Chinook Limit Reduction Onto Ocean Waters Off Jaws

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

Following conservation measures adopted last week to reduce catch limits in the Nehalem Basin itself, ODFW has implemented a temporary rule modifying catch limits for adult wild Chinook salmon in the ocean immediately off the mouth of Nehalem Bay. 

MIKE SMITH SNAPPED THIS PIC OF THE SUN RISING OVER THE ENTRANCE TO NEHALEM BAY DURING THE 2017 FALL CHINOOK SEASON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective July 1, ocean anglers fishing inside the special ocean management area (defined below) will be required to abide by the same catch limits as anglers fishing inside the Nehalem River basin. Under these new temporary rules, take of adult wild Chinook salmon in this ocean area and the Nehalem Basin combined is restricted to one adult wild Chinook salmon for the period of July 1-Sept. 15, 2019.

The rule changes do not affect other existing regulations in this ocean area. In particular, anglers will still be required to follow federal rules and use no more than two single point barbless hooks. Catch limits for hatchery salmon and legal size limits also remain unchanged. Salmon caught in this area will still be recorded on the combined angling tag as code “2”, not code “66” (see page 90 of the 2019 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations for location codes).

“During recently held public hearings, one of the concerns we heard was specifically about the ocean immediately outside of the bay, where an opportunity exists for anglers to harvest Chinook salmon bound for the Nehalem Basin,” says Robert Bradley, District Fish Biologist for ODFW’s North Coast Watershed District. “This special ocean management area is intended to ensure that conservation measures needed for the Nehalem Basin are achieved. The action will also make enforcement of the reduced limits more straightforward.”

Bag limit and other restrictions for fall-run Chinook salmon in Oregon coastal basins, including the Nehalem River and this special ocean management area after Sept. 15, will be announced later this summer. For more information about upcoming North Coast fishing seasons, including regulation updates, visit ODFW’s online fishing reports at https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/northwest-zone

Nehalem Bay special ocean management area

The affected area is a seaward rectangle, approximately 0.4 miles south and 0.7 miles north of the center of the channel and 0.5 miles seaward from the mouth of the Nehalem River, defined by the following GPS points:

Point 1: 45° 39’ 00” Latitude and 123° 56’ 31” W Longitude

Point 2: 45° 39’ 00” Latitude and 123° 57’ 15” W Longitude

Point 3: 45° 40’ 00” Latitude and 123° 57’ 15” W Longitude

Point 4: 45° 40’ 00” Latitude and 123° 56’ 24” W Longitude

AN ODFW MAP OUTLINES THE AREA OFF THE MOUTH OF NEHALEM BAY WHERE THE CHINOOK BAG LIMIT IS BEING REDUCED TO ONE WILD KING FOR THE SEASON. (ODFW)

Columbia Sockeye Run Downgraded Sharply

Columbia salmon managers have downgraded their expectations for this year’s sockeye run by nearly 42 percent, and it could come in as the smallest in a dozen years.

The Technical Advisory Committee now believe only 58,000 will return to the mouth of the big river, well below the preseason forecast of 99,400.

A FISH PASSAGE CENTER GRAPH CHARTS THIS YEAR’S SOCKEYE COUNT AT BONNEVILLE (RED LINE) AGAINST LAST YEAR’S (BLUE LINE) AND THE 10-YEAR AVERAGE. (FPC)

It’s the opposite direction of last year’s run, which was initially forecast at 99,000 but came in above 210,000.

So far 31,889 sockeye have been counted at Bonneville, and if a Fish Passage Center graph based on daily counts at the first dam on the Columbia is any indication, this year’s run has peaked and is on the downhill slide.

It’s a far cry from just a few years ago, when 512,455 and 651,146 sockeye entered the river, but this year’s run’s parents were also poached by the Blob’s very warm waters in early summer 2015, with large numbers likely dying in the reservoirs and Okanogan and Wenatchee Rivers well before they reached their spawning grounds.

In 2007, just 26,604 returned to the Columbia before runs mushroomed following habitat work and better flow management on the Canadian side of the Okanogan River.

There is no scheduled recreational sockeye (or summer Chinook) fishery on the mainstem this season. Preliminary figures from today’s fact sheet show a tribal platform, ceremonial and commercial catch of just under 800 sockeye so far.

Meanwhile, Lake Washington’s sockeye are also coming in low. After several 0-fish days that made the graph look not unlike a rock skipping across the water, the count has picked up, but the best case scenario is that the all-time-low forecast of 15,000 and change is topped.

Right now 1,124 of the salmon have gone through the Ballard Locks.

LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE COUNTS. (WDFW)

That system’s issues are largely linked to smolt predation in the lake and poor adult survival due to disease after the salmon swim through the warm ship canal.

But to the north on the Baker Lake system the count is tracking fairly tightly to the five-year average of just under 21,000 to the Baker River trap.

This one will be watched closely in the coming days and weeks.

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ODFW Leftover Tag Sales Delayed Till Aug. 1; Will Be Online Only

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

The sale of about 200 leftover controlled big game hunt tags will be delayed until Thursday, Aug. 1.

AMONG THE 217 LEFTOVER TAGS THAT WILL BECOME AVAILABLE AUG. 1 ON A FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVE BASIS ARE THREE FOR ANTLERLESS ELK ON THE ZUMWALT PRAIRIE OF NORTHEAST OREGON IN MID-DECEMBER. MELISSA LITTLE BAGGED THIS COW THERE DURING A SLIGHTLY LATER HUNT SEVERAL YEARS AGO. (HUNTING PHOTO CONTEST)

The process for these tags is changing this year due to ODFW’s new electronic licensing system, with leftover tags being sold exclusively online, rather than at license sale agents/vendors.

ODFW is delaying the date of the sale (from July 1 to Aug. 1 at 10 a.m.) to allow more time for staff to complete User Acceptance Testing of the new process before the sale takes place.

The delay also provides additional time for hunters who want to try for a leftover tag to get ready for the new process. Hunters will need to have an active and verified MyODFW online licensing account, including a username and password, to purchase a leftover tag this year. (If you don’t have an online account yet, visit MyODFW.com and click “Buy a License” and then follow the steps to verify your account.)

See below for tips on purchasing a leftover tag, and the MyODFW.com website for a step-by-step guide.

·        Check the list of tags available first. Note some of the hunts are on private land, and permission from the landowner is required to hunt with the tag. See the 2019 Big Game Regulations for more information about each hunt.

·        Be logged in by 10 a.m. on Aug. 1. Leftover tags sell out in minutes and in the past, hunters needed to be first or second in line at a vendor at 10 a.m. for a reasonable chance of purchasing one. ODFW anticipates leftover tags will sell out quickly online, too.

·        Get a 2019 annual hunting license before Aug. 1. Hunters need to have an annual hunting license to be eligible to buy a leftover tag.

·        Youth must purchase leftover tags from their own account. Parents can create an online account for their children and the purchase must be completed from the child’s account.  

Leftover tags provide an additional hunting opportunity for hunters, as they can be purchased in addition to a regular controlled or general season big game tag.

June 28 Added To Halibut Days On Marine Areas 1-10, Oregon Waters North Of Falcon

THE FOLLOWING ARE AN EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE AND A PRESS RELEASE FROM WDFW AND ODFW

Marine areas 1-10 to open for halibut fishing Friday, June 28 

Action:  In addition to days that are already scheduled, opens recreational halibut fishing on Friday, June 28 in coastal marine areas 1 through 4 and Puget Sound areas 5 through 10.

WASHINGTON HALIBUT ANGLERS LIKE AMANDA SPIEGEL, HERE WITH A NICE FLATTIE CAUGHT OUT OF PORT ANGELES, WILL GET ANOTHER DAY TO CATCH THE BIG FISH. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date: June 28, 2019.

 Species affected:  Pacific halibut.

 Location:  Marine areas 1 through 10.

 Reason for action:  Adding an additional fishing day for all coastal areas will provide Washington sport halibut anglers with the opportunity to catch the remaining 2019 sport quota.

The 2019 sport halibut season dates were established prior to the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) making their final decision on the 2019 quota, which was significantly higher than anticipated.

WDFW has added several fishing days to the season this year in response to the higher quota and several poor weather days. The Washington sport quota that the IPHC adopted for 2019 was also approved for the next three years. WDFW staff looks forward to working with stakeholders to identify changes to the season structure for 2020 and beyond that is more in line with the higher quota that will be in place through the 2022 season.

 Additional information: Summary of open sport halibut days for all marine areas.

 Marine Area 1:

All-depth: Open Friday, June 28.

Nearshore: Open seven days per week until further notice.

Marine Area 2:  Open Friday, June 28 and Saturday, June 29.

Marine areas 3 and 4: Open Thursday, June 27; Friday, June 28; and Saturday, June 29.

Puget Sound (MA 5-10): Open Thursday, June 27; Friday, June 28; and Saturday, June 29.

Marine area 5: It is permissible for halibut anglers to retain Pacific cod caught while fishing for halibut in waters deeper than 120 feet on days that halibut fishing is open. The lingcod season is closed in this area for the remainder of the year.

Retention of lingcod and Pacific cod seaward of 120 feet is not permitted on halibut days in marine areas 6-10.

Marine areas 1-10:  Daily limit of 1 halibut per angler, with no minimum size limit.  Annual limit of 4. All catch must be recorded on WDFW catch record card.  Possession limits remain the same.

Marine areas 11-13 are closed.

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The Columbia River Subarea (Leadbetter Point, WA to Cape Falcon, OR) all-depth halibut fishery will be open for one additional day on Friday, June 28.

After the most recent openings in Washington, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has determined there is enough quota remaining in the overall Washington recreational quota to have all Washington subareas, including the Columbia River Subarea, open on June 28.

Since Washington and Oregon co-manage the Columbia River Subarea, and have license reciprocity, anglers fishing out of Oregon ports in the subarea will be allowed to participate in the all-depth halibut fishery on June 28 as well.

Additional opportunities to fish for Pacific halibut also remain open in other areas of Oregon:

  • The all-depth halibut fishery in the Central Oregon Coast Subarea is scheduled to be open July 4-6, with the potential for the additional back-up dates of July 18-20 to open, if quota remains.
  • The summer all-depth season is scheduled to begin on Aug. 2-3 and be open every other Friday and Saturday until Oct. 31, or the quota of 67,898 pounds has been met.
  • Off the Central Oregon Coast Subarea (Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain) anglers may fish for halibut inside the 40-fathom line, seven days per week beginning June 1 through Oct. 31, or attainment of the harvest quota (32,591 pounds) for that fishery.
  • The area between Humbug Mountain and the OR/CA Border is open to all depth for Pacific halibut seven days per week through Oct. 31, or until the quota of 11,322 pounds has been met, whichever comes first.

Days on which Pacific halibut fishing is open will be announced on the NOAA Fisheries hotline (1-800-662-9825) and posted on the ODFW Marine Resources Program Website.

ODFW To Hold 20 Meetings Around Oregon On 2020 Hunt Reg Proposals

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

Join ODFW district staff at one of 20 meetings happening around the state in July.

A BLACK-TAILED BUCK IN WESTERN OREGON. (KEITH KOHL)

The meetings will focus on big game regulations and are a great chance to come and hear about changes proposed for the 2020 seasons, comment on those changes and ask questions of district wildlife biologists.

As part of a multi-year process to review, simplify and improve the Big Game Hunting Regulations, ODFW is proposing some major changes for 2020, including changing the Western Oregon centerfire bag limit to a buck with a visible antler and offering a new general season antlerless elk damage tag. Get more details on these proposals at the meetings or look for an online summary next week.

Public comment about the proposals and other issues related to big game regulations will be taken at these meetings, or email comments to odfw.commission@state.or.us. Final 2019 Big Game Hunting Regulations will be adopted at the Sept. 13 Commission meeting in Gold Beach.

2019 Big Game Public Meeting Schedule

City

Date

Time

Location

 

Burns July 2 7:00 pm Harney County Community Center

484 N Broadway, Burns OR

Pendleton July 2 4:00-7:00 pm Pendleton Convention Center

1601 Westgate, Pendleton OR

Lakeview July 8 8:00 am – 5:00 pm ODFW Lakeview

18560 Roberta Rd., Lakeview OR

Newport July 8 6:00 pm ODFW Newport

2040 SE Marine Science Dr., Newport OR

Clackamas July 9 5:00-8:00 pm ODFW Clackamas District Office, Large Conference Rm

17330 SE Evelyn St., Bldg. 16

Clackamas OR

Charleston July 9 6:00 – 8:00 pm OIMB Boathouse

63466 Boat Basin Rd., Charleston OR

Gold Beach July 9 6:00 pm Gold Beach Library

94341 3rd St., Gold Beach OR

John Day July 9 5:30 – 7:00 pm Grant County Extension Service Office

116 NW Bridge St. Ste. 1

John Day OR

Redmond July 9 6:00 – 8:00 pm Redmond High School

675 SW Rimrock Way, Redmond OR

Roseburg July 9 6:00 – 7:30 pm Backside Brewing

1640 NE Odell Ave., Roseburg OR

Heppner July 10 6:00 – 9:00 pm ODFW Heppner

54173 Hwy 74, Heppner OR

Springfield July 10 7:00 – 8:00 pm Gateway Sizzler

1010 Postal Way, Springfield OR

Albany July 11 7:00 – 8:30 pm Old Armory Building

104 4th Ave SW, Albany OR

Central Point July 11 7:00 pm ODFW Central Point

1495 East Gregory Rd., Central Point OR

Klamath Falls July 11 6:00 pm Shasta Grange Hall

5831 Shasta Way, Klamath Falls OR

La Grande July 12 6:00 – 9:00 pm La Grande City Library, Community Rm

2006 Fourth St., La Grande OR

Grants Pass July 18 7:00 pm Elmer’s Restaurant

175 NE Agness Ave., Grants Pass OR

Ontario July 18 7:00 pm (MDT) OSU Extension

710 SW 5th Ave., Ontario OR

Seaside July 18 4:00 – 7:00 pm Seaside Convention Center

415 First St., Seaside  OR

The Dalles July 18 6:00 pm The Dalles Screen Shop

3561 Klindt Dr. , The Dalles OR

Northwest States, Tribes Apply To Feds For OK To Kill More Columbia Sea Lions

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), along with a consortium of state and tribal partners, today submitted an expanded application to lethally remove California and Steller sea lions preying on threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia River and its tributaries.

SEA LIONS GATHER INSIDE THE MOUTH OF THE COWEEMAN RIVER AT KELSO, MOST LIKELY FOLLOWING THE 2016 RUN OF ESA-LISTED EULACHON, OR SMELT, UP THE COLUMBIA RIVER. (SKYLAR MASTERS)

California sea lions — and increasingly, Steller sea lions — have been observed in growing numbers in the Columbia River basin, especially in the last decade. These sea lions prey heavily on salmon and steelhead runs listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including thousands of fish at Bonneville Dam each year.

The impacts come at a time when many Chinook salmon runs are already at historic lows.

The recovery of sea lions since the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) in 1972 is a success story, said Kessina Lee, Region 5 director with WDFW. But that recovery has also brought challenges.

“The vast majority of these animals remain in coastal and offshore waters, but several hundred have established themselves in upriver locations,” Lee said. “Where salmon and steelhead numbers are low, any unmanaged increase in predation can cause serious problems.”

Predator management is a key part of a multi-faceted effort to restore salmon and steelhead populations in the Pacific Northwest.

“For decades, we’ve made strides in habitat restoration, hydropower policy, hatchery production, and fishery management, and we continue to work with our partners to further those initiatives,” Lee said. “Predator management remains an essential part of the equation.”

The application submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) by WDFW and its partners is the first since Congress passed an amendment to the MMPA in December 2018. That amendment, spearheaded by the Pacific Northwest congressional delegation, passed with strong bipartisan support and offers greater flexibility to wildlife managers when determining if a sea lion should be lethally removed in waters that host ESA-listed runs of salmon or steelhead.

“Based on years of experience working within the bounds of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Columbia River fishing tribes contend that predator management is necessary to restore balance to the Columbia River system,” said Ryan Smith, chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “Strong partnerships and collaboration with the states, northwest congressional delegation, federal authorities, and nongovernment organizations resulted in this amendment, which applies robust tools to manage sea lions in the lower Columbia River and recognizes tribal sovereignty in that management.”

WDFW and its partners have taken steps to deter California sea lions in the Columbia River basin for more than a decade, but non-lethal measures have proven largely ineffective, driving animals away for only short periods. These hazing measures appear similarly ineffective against Steller sea lions. Non-lethal measures continue to be used as a short-term deterrent when appropriate.

Wildlife managers have conducted lethal removal operations of California sea lions in the Columbia River basin since 2008, when NMFS first issued a letter of authorization under section 120 of the MMPA. From 2008-2019, wildlife managers removed a total of 219 California sea lions that met the federal criteria for removal below Bonneville Dam.

Steller sea lions have not previously been subject to lethal removal.

“Prior to this legislation, wildlife managers were severely limited in their ability to effectively manage sea lions in these areas,” Lee said. “Additional action is required to protect these troubled fish stocks before they are completely eliminated. This is an unfortunate, but necessary step in the salmon recovery process.”

If approved, WDFW expects to begin humanely removing animals under the terms of the expanded application beginning in 2020. The application is subject to a public comment period and review by NMFS. Members of the public can review the application at https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2019-06/MMPA-120f-application.pdf.

Other entities submitting the application with WDFW include the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon (CTWSR), The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, and the 3.6.D Committee, which includes ODFW, CTUIR, CTWSR, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community, and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians of Oregon.

Volunteers Needed To Help Raise Winter Steelhead At South Umpqua Facility

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

Volunteers are needed to help the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife raise hatchery winter steelhead at Barrett Creek near Winston. This project is an opportunity to work directly with fish and help produce hatchery winter steelhead for anglers.

VOLUNTEERS CARE FOR HATCHERY WINTER STEELHEAD AT A REARING FACILITY ON BARRETT CREEK, NEAR WINSTON, OREGON, IN THE SOUTH UMPQUA RIVER DRAINAGE. (ODFW)

Responsibilities include fish feeding, recording data, cleaning fish holding troughs and inspecting the site. Some volunteers are also asked to respond to on-site alarm systems at any hour. All volunteers must follow protocols to ensure good fish health. Volunteers must provide their own transportation and a high clearance vehicle is necessary as the site is on a steep hill.

“We’ve had some issues in the past meeting our production goals of hatchery winter steelhead for the South Umpqua River,” said Evan Leonetti, ODFW Salmon Trout Enhancement Program biologist. “We designed this rearing project to hold the fish in a cold water area that will help increase their survival and directly benefit anglers.”

Those interested are asked to volunteer for at least three consecutive days. In the past, volunteers have contributed up to two weeks. The project began in late May and runs through September.

Anyone over 18 interested should contact Evan Leonetti at 541-464-2175 or evan.leonetti@state.or.us.

ODFW’s Commission Adopts Updated Wolf Management Plan

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

The Commission adopted a Wolf Plan at its meeting in Salem in a 6-1 vote after hearing from 44 people who came to testify and reviewing thousands of public comments.

OREGON WOLF TRACKS IN MUD. (ODFW)

Allowing controlled take (limited regulated hunting and trapping of wolves) was one of the most controversial topics in the new Wolf Plan. The original Plan adopted in 2005 allowed for controlled take only in Phase 3 (currently eastern Oregon), in instances of recurring depredations or when wolves are a major cause of ungulate populations not meeting established management objectives or herd management goals. While ODFW believed it needed to remain a tool available for wolf management, the department has not proposed any controlled take of wolves and has no plans to at this time.

Commissioners made some changes related to “controlled take” from the proposed Plan.  An addendum was added clearly stating that “Use of controlled take as a management tool requires Commission approval through a separate public rulemaking process” and the definition of controlled take was modified.

Additional minor changes were made to emphasize the importance of non-lethal tools to address wolf-livestock conflict and easy access to this information. Non-lethal measures to prevent wolf-livestock conflict continue to be emphasized in all phases of the Plan, and required before any lethal control is considered.

After some discussion, Commissioners revised the definition of chronic depredation (which can lead to lethal control of wolves if non-lethals are in use and not working) in Phase 2 and 3 from two confirmed depredations with no specific time frame to two confirmed depredations in nine months.

The Wolf Plan will be filed with the Secretary of State and posted on the ODFW Wolves webpage (www.odfw.com/wolves) within the next few business days.

In other business over the two-day meeting June 6-7, the Commission also:

  • Allocated big game auction and raffle tags for 2020.
  • Heard a briefing on the crab fishery and reducing the risk of whale entanglements.
  • Adopted harvest limits for Pacific sardine in state waters for July 2019-June 2020 based on federal regulations.
  • Approved funding for Access and Habitat projects that provide hunting access or improve wildlife habitat on private land.
  • Heard a briefing on proposed changes to 2020 big game hunting regulations as part of efforts to improve and simplify the Big Game Hunting Regulations

The Fish and Wildlife Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in Oregon. Its next meeting is Aug. 2 in Salem.

Bonneville Shad Count Skyrocketing; Will It Top 2018’s Record 6.1 Million?

Updated: 8:45 a.m., June 7, 2019 with more comments from the Army Corps of Engineers

A record set just last year at Bonneville could soon be broken as the Columbia River’s shad count has surged to highs never seen so early.

Through Thursday, June 5, a whopping 2,875,519 have been tallied at the dam, with 86 percent of those fish — 2.5 million — coming in just the past seven days, a meteoric rise captured by a Fish Passage Center graph.

A FISH PASSAGE GRAPH SHOWS HOW QUICKLY THE 2019 SHAD RUN AT BONNEVILLE DAM RAMPED UP (RED LINE) VERSUS LAST YEAR’S RECORD RUN (BLUE LINE) AND THE 10-YEAR AVERAGE. (FPC)

The run so far has already topped the 10-year average overall return, hit 2.5 million fish four days faster than the next closest run, and set a new best seven-day count ever.

One observer thinks that 2018’s high mark of 6.1 million could be exceeded by 5 million, give or take, at this pace.

However, it’s also early and unclear if the 2019 return will exhibit the multiple peaks across much of June that other years’ returns have. If it doesn’t, this rocket could fall short.

This morning Jeffrey Henon, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland District, says the contractor that performs the fish counts for federal dam operators was asked to double check the numbers.

He said that 250,000 shad is the daily capacity of a “crowder” device at the fish-counting station, and counts above that can diminish the accuracy.

In June 2017, what at first appeared to be a 497,000-fish day was revised to 247,366 after a “a technical glitch in (the Corps’) count recording system” was corrected for.

But a short while later Henon called back to say the review had been finished.

“Bottom line, the numbers are accurate,” Henon said.

A CHART SHOWS ALL THE YEARS SINCE 1938 THAT THE SHAD COUNT AT BONNEVILLE HAS EXCEEDED 2.5 MILLION, THE DATE THAT MARK WAS FIRST HIT, EACH RUN’S TOP SEVEN-DAY STRETCH AND THE FINAL RUN SIZE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It also represents good news for the fishermen who gather on the bank below Bonneville to drift shad darts along bottom, or anchor on seams below there and well downriver to run Dick Nites and other small spoons behind lead droppers.

The bony fish are played for sport and quite a few are taken home to be canned or used for sturgeon or crab bait.

In his outdoor report yesterday, Terry Otto at The Columbian in Vancouver noted that 1,730 were kept last weekend by 212 anglers on the Washington bank in the gorge, with fish also being caught in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day Pools.

Nearly 180,000 are already above McNary Dam, over 5,000 are above Ice Harbor on the Snake.

According to the 2019 WDFW and ODFW joint staff report for Columbia spring and summer fisheries, last year’s sport kept catch of 250,000 shad below Bonneville was the highest on record. With low market demand, commercial fisheries are minimal.

Washington anglers won’t need a license to fish for them this Saturday and Sunday as it’s Free Fishing Weekend. There is no size, daily or possession limit on shad.

SHAD SWIM PAST A WINDOW AT BONNEVILLE DAM. (ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS)

Not much is known about the Columbia’s shad or where they go in the Pacific, much less why their returns are surging.

“I don’t have a great answer for that, and I’m not sure anyone does,” says ODFW’s Tucker Jones, who manages the big river for Oregon.

While he and much of the rest of Northwest anglerdom would probably prefer to see daily Chinook, coho, sockeye and steelhead counts as astronomical as those we’re seeing with shad, the nonnative species that feeds on plankton throughout its anadromous lifecycle may be benefiting in part from warmer waters and ocean conditions that negatively impacted salmonids.

While 2004’s and 2005’s big shad runs occurred in years that also saw high overall Chinook returns, that coincidence didn’t repeat last year nor is it expected to this year.

Jones says there’s no research backing this up, but it’s possible that young shad and young salmon could be competing for the same forage in the Columbia and ocean before Chinook and coho switch to a different diet as they grow larger.

LOWER COLUMBIA SHAD COLLECT IN A COOLER DURING A PAST RUN. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Per a species profile put together by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, from 10 million to 20 million shad may annually actually enter the Columbia, with most spawning below Bonneville, meaning the dam count reflects a fraction of the overall run.

Shad can also bypass the counting windows by going through the locks.

Even if no other shad crossed the dam this year, 2019 would still go down as 10th best since shad began to be tallied in 1946, primarily on the strength of the last seven days, which includes the third best one-day count.

While Wednesday’s 412,448 shad was nothing to shake a stick at, the largest daily passages on record occurred on June 5 and 6, 2003, when 504,724 and then 520,664 were tallied.

How high will this year’s run go? Stay tuned.

ELLIE, BOO BOO AND McKENNA SHOW OFF A PAIR OF COLUMBIA RIVER SHAD CAUGHT SEVERAL SEASONS AGO NEAR KALAMA. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)