Editor’s note: UPDATED at bottom with ODFW and WDFW press releases
Fishing for adult hatchery summer Chinook will be shut down on the Columbia from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to Priest Rapids Dam effective Saturday, July 1.
State salmon managers made the call this afternoon with the return so far coming in weaker than expected.
“Unfortunate to have to close. Necessary,” summarized Oregon’s Tucker Jones at the end of today’s Columbia River Compact call.
Technically, he and his counterpart on the Washington side, Kyle Addicks, closed the shared Columbia between Astoria and the state line east of McNary Dam, but WDFW is expected to follow suit by closing the big river from the state line up to Priest Rapids Dam, if the staff recommendation in today’s fact sheet is followed through on.
There won’t be an official runsize update on the unlisted salmon stock until tomorrow, but with dam counts “tracking less than expected” – 23,858 through yesterday and today is the 50 percent completion mark, per the five-year average – staffers at ODFW and WDFW “applied a 30 percent reduction to the preseason forecast in order to calculate potential in-season harvest allocations by fishery.”
It’s a rather novel tool for the unlisted summer Chinook run – it’s always applied to the ESA-listed spring Chinook fishery to prevent a harvest overage before the midrun update – but Jones didn’t see it as a buffer in that same sense. He said that staff saw that the run was tracking behind expectations and needed a figure to do their calculations.
The preseason forecast was for 85,837 summer kings back to the mouth of the big river, but the new figure used for today’s decision was 59,771.
It means that the total expected catch of 2,488 on the mainstem Columbia from Priest Rapids Dam down to the estuary – and mostly below Bonneville – through the 30th will have exceeded the new allocation of 2,242 fish.
There was some interest in keeping the river open through the Fourth of July, but that would have cost about 500 more mortalities, ODFW’s Jeff Whisler stated.
Addicks made the motion to adopt the staff recommendation to close the shared Columbia and Jones “grudgingly” supported it. They were representing their respective agency directors, Kelly Susewind and Curt Melcher, at the compact.
Where the bulk of the recreational spring Chinook fishery has been set aside for Lower Columbia anglers, the summer Chinook fishery is largely reserved for anglers above Priest Rapids.
Still, today’s decision will leave lower river salmon fishers “twiddling our thumbs till fall fishing starts,” stated Randy Woolsey, a Columbia recreational fishing advisor and Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association representative stated.
Online, guide David Johnson wondered if the bag limit on Chinook could have just been lowered to one a day from as many as two, if no sockeye were retained. It wasn’t brought up during the call.
THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
Columbia River summer Chinook fishing closed as of July 1
CLACKAMAS, Ore.—With the summer Chinook run tracking significantly below pre-season expectations, retention of adult summer Chinook will close on the Columbia River mainstem downstream of Priest Rapids Dam (PRD) as of Saturday, July 1.
Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon made the decision during a Joint State Hearing today.
Retention of sockeye salmon, hatchery steelhead and jack Chinook remains open from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to the Hwy 395 Bridge (Pasco, WA). The daily adult bag limit is two adult salmonids (only one may be a hatchery steelhead) and five hatchery jack salmon. All sockeye are considered adults.
Upper Columbia summer Chinook pass Bonneville Dam from June 16 through July 31 destined for areas in the Columbia River Basin upstream of PRD, and fishery management policy prioritizes summer Chinook fisheries in these areas by allocating them most of the harvestable surplus. With summer Chinook abundance lower than expected, the number of fish available to harvest in lower river recreational fisheries decreased by more than half, making a Chinook closure in areas downstream of PRD necessary.
THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
Summer Chinook retention to close July 1 on much of Columbia River
OLYMPIA – With summer Chinook salmon returning to the Columbia River in lower-than-expected numbers so far in 2023, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon announced Wednesday that recreational fishing for adult summer Chinook will close on much of the Columbia River mainstem beginning Saturday, July 1.
Fishery managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) said Wednesday that the current return of upper Columbia summer Chinook is tracking about 30 percent below the preseason forecast of 85,400 fish.
As a result, retention of adult summer Chinook will close from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to Priest Rapids Dam.
Fishing for sockeye and jack Chinook (defined as Chinook between 12 to 24 inches in length) remains open from the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. Fishing also remains open for sockeye, hatchery jack Chinook, and hatchery steelhead from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge.
“We’ll continue monitoring the return, but all current indications suggest this closure is necessary for us to meet our allocation and conservation objectives for summer Chinook on the Columbia River,” said Quinten Daugherty, Columbia River fishery biologist with WDFW.
The mainstem Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam will still open July 1 for adult summer Chinook retention.
The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee, which forecasts and monitors salmon and steelhead returns to the Columbia River, is expected to formally update the forecast for summer Chinook on Thursday.