Managers Approve 11 More Days For Lower Columbia Springers, But Don’t Agree On Comm Days

More time on the water for Lower Columbia hatchery spring Chinook was approved today by state managers, but they could not agree on a pair of proposed nontreaty commercial openers below Bonneville.

With big early numbers of shad at the dam and the potential to clog the 4-inch tangle nets, ODFW’s Tucker Jones said he felt the window had closed on holding more commercial fisheries for kings on the mainstem.


WDFW’s Charlene Hurst said she didn’t share conservation concerns about holding staffs’ proposed Thursday and Tuesday fisheries, and when she pitched running just tomorrow’s, Jones said he couldn’t support that either. Referencing statements from some of commercial fishermen today, she said shad can be kept and sold, adding value to the fishery, but acknowledged WDFW and ODFW were in “different spots” and that she couldn’t say she wasn’t disappointed by it.

Indeed, it was another of example of Washington and Oregon having different ideas and policies around managing the shared river. Last fall saw the latter state go it alone with a one-day commercial fishery on its side of the Columbia only.

But Jones and Hurst were unified when it came to the recreational angling proposal. As it stands, sportfishing for Chinook will now be open June 1-15 for springers (and then June 16-19 for clipped summer kings), a reflection of slower catches in a tailing-off run at least allowing for more opportunity in the form of additional open days. Today’s action essentially tacked 11 more days onto a season that earlier this month was set to reopen June 12-15.

Catches have been much lower than expected during the past two weekends’ openers, allowing for additional angling despite an 8,300-fish reduction in the upriver-origin spring Chinook forecast by the U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee, which has a bit of concern about the Snake River natural-origin portion of the run.

“This fishery is expected to result in a handle of up to 1,450 adult Chinook, including about 1,100 kept, and is expected to accrue up to 955 additional upriver spring Chinook mortalities,” a fact sheet for this afternoon’s Columbia River Compact stated. “Projected season total upriver spring Chinook mortalities would be 4,313 adults,” a figure that includes that previously OKed June 12-15 opener.

It would put the spring fishery at 82 percent of the allocation of 5,244 upriver fish at the current forecast of 114,100.

With negative catch balances from April and May’s mainstem Columbia Gorge and Snake River fisheries, there was no recommendation today to reopen either of those stretches for sport angling.

Per the fact sheet, last week’s 12-hour commercial tangle-net opener yielded 42 kept adult Chinook, including 34 upriver fish, and 6,140 shad and saw an estimated 17 adult Chinook, 29 steelhead (including 5 unmarked fish) and 11 sturgeon released from the gear designed to catch fish by their teeth. Observers were aboard 11 of 20 boats fishing, according to WDFW’s Ryan Lothrop.

The two proposed openers would have landed 300 Chinook, including 277 upriver fish. During public testimony, commercial fisheremen asked to be allowed to use 8-inch gillnets. While Hurst noted that the use of gillnets is allowed by Washington policy in spring, she acknowledged Oregon’s does not.

Many recreational advisors and anglers on today’s call were against the net opener, which was supported by commercial fishermen. They have also caught 9,361 spring Chinook in the off-channel SAFE fisheries at the mouth of the Columbia.