Oregon Coast Fall Salmon Season Proposals Announced

Oregon Coast fall salmon fishery proposals are beginning to emerge from the fog, with overall less restrictive wild Chinook seasons than last year on the table, along with a chance to fish the nearshore Chetco, Elk and Sixes Bubbles for the first time since 2018, as well as wild coho opportunities in more waters.


ODFW laid out its cards at a webinar last night and a press release this afternoon, a dedicated webpage, and will again present the options in person at the agency’s Tillamook office on Third Street starting at 6 tonight.

As it stands, there are proposed wild Chinook fisheries on the Necanicum, Nehalem, Tillamook system, Nestucca, Salmon, Siletz, Yaquina, Alsea, Yachats, Siuslaw, Umpqua, Coos, Floras Creek, New and Sixes, as well as for hatchery kings on the Elk.

Along with September 1-October 31 bubble fisheries off the mouths of Tillamook and Nehalem Bays, ODFW is also looking at October 7-8 and 14-15 openers off the Chetco mouth and November 1-30 seasons off the Elk and Sixes Rivers.

The question now is, following public comment over the next week and a half, whether ODFW chooses Alternative 1, with its more restrictive bag limits for wild Chinook in the rivers – from as few as one a day and one for the season to 1/5 – or Alternative 2, with from 1/2 to 2/10.

Where bag limits were more regionally uniform in the past, now they are being proposed watershed by watershed, a sticking point with some anglers who want ODFW to use the North, Mid and Mid-South Coast harvest stratums identified in 2014’s Coastal Management Plan, or at least choose the more liberal Alternative 2.

For its part, ODFW says it is being driven by declining coastal Chinook populations that also really took a hit during the Blob years of the mid-2010s. Federal overseers have found that they may warrant an ESA listing and are doing a deep dive. ODFW says that “new and rapid changes” in the Pacific and freshwater habitat are increasing the risk that their preseason forecasts are way off. Last year they predicted an escapement of over 10,000 spawners to the Nehalem, but only counted 4,830.

“These trends in environmental conditions and harvest rates call for more precautionary regulations in order to stay above Critical Abundance Thresholds and avoid future closures,” said Shaun Clements, ODFW Deputy Fish Division Administrator, in that agency press release. “The CMP and Rogue Fall Chinook Plan allow for adaptive management and ODFW believes this more restrictive approach is necessary considering the long-term outlook for Chinook populations.”

The only system closed to all Chinook fishing this fall would be the Coquille, where the stock has collapsed “largely due to smallmouth bass predation” and managers want to ensure enough broodstock for a new conservation hatchery program. However, the Siuslaw’s Lake Creek would be shut down for all salmon for the season.

And the Necanicum, Nehalem, Tillamook and Nestucca systems would be closed for Chinook in December. There’s also another caveat on the Nehalem, where a wild Chinook caught before September 16 would count towards the fall period.

With increasing angler efficiency across the board over the decades, ODFW is also concerned about overharvest and are warning that going with Alternative 2 could impact future seasons.

On the South Coast’s rivers, which are governed by the Rogue management plan, ODFW isn’t offering an Alternative 1 or 2. Instead, managers are proposing stock two-a-day and 20-a-season wild Chinook limit on the Rogue, 1/5 on the Pistol, Chetco and Winchuck Rivers, and 1/2 on Hunter Creek.

Looking back to last year, in response to low runs, there was no salmon fishing at all on the Siuslaw, Coquille and New Rivers and Floras Creek, while in a big move wild Chinook harvest was closed on Tillamook Bay’s Tillamook, Wilson, Trask, Kilchis and Miami Rivers and there were restrictions on a number of South Coast streams.

As for wild coho, they’re “again a bright spot” and ODFW anticipates opening the Siuslaw, Coquille and New Rivers and Floras Creek for harvest, along with the same nine as last year – the Alsea, Beaver Creek, Coos, Nehalem, Nestucca, Siletz, Tillamook, Umpqua and Yaquina Rivers.

“They’ve weathered ocean conditions pretty well and we’re in active discussions with [NMFS] about delisting them,” said Clements.

However, the Umpqua would remain closed due to “very low returns” to the South Umpqua.

The overall coastal bag limit would be one wild coho a day and an aggregate of five; note that you would need to fish at least two different systems to achieve that, as the season limit varies from one to three depending on the stream.

Oregon Coast fall salmon anglers can use a feedback survey to offer input until June 23. ODFW says it will review responses and that final seasons are expected to be set early next month.