Columbia Managers To Consider Lower River Reopener Periods

Columbia spring Chinook managers are proposing to reopen the big river below Bonneville for 10 days over the coming weeks, as well as a 12-hour tangle-net fishery this coming Monday that is drawing pushback from Coastal Conservation Association Oregon.

Both will be decided during a compact hearing that begins at noon, and if the sport proposal is approved as is, anglers could be back on the water below the dam starting this weekend, the following weekend and then an extended open period feathering into the summer Chinook fishery that begins June 16.

A fact sheet out ahead of the meeting says that with this week’s slight runsize update to 122,400 above-Bonneville-bound springers now expected, there is a balance of 2,914 mortalities available on those stocks for recreational fishermen below the dam.

Ten days of fishing would see an estimated handle of 3,150 adult springers of all stocks, with 2,463 of those kept, the fact sheet states.

No fish are available for the mainstem Columbia Gorge fishery from Bonneville to the state line east of McNary Dam, where 1,440 were kept through the end of April with 1,459 total mortalities but the updated allocation is just 770. It’s a similar story for Washington’s Snake, which sits at 120 percent of allocation.

As for that commercial fishery, the fact sheet states that there are 678 fish currently available to netters on the mainstem. Staffers at the DFWs are proposing to allow a tangle net opener from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, May 20. Net mesh size would be restricted to 4 1/4 inches and Zones 1-5 – essentially, the entire Columbia below Bonneville – would be open.

“Given the timing, short-notice, and potential for shad encounters in the proposed fishery, effort is expected to be relatively low,” the fact sheet states.

CCA Oregon is objecting, saying it “will also kill non-target species as bycatch” and during a similar fishery in 2022 caught “250% more non-target species (including ESA-listed salmonids) than the number of hatchery spring Chinook harvested. It was an embarrassment.”

The fact sheet states, “Any steelhead encountered in this fishery would be classified as lower river Skamania stock. Based on observations in prior year fisheries during May, few steelhead are expected to be impacted in this fishery and aggregate impacts to wild lower river Skamania steelhead are expected to remain well within the 2.0% ESA limit for non-treaty fisheries.”

It also shows that commercial fishers have landed 7,296 spring Chinook this season in off-channel areas near the mouth of the Columbia and still have upriver mortalities on hand to continue fishing there.