Editor’s note: Updated 4:55 p.m., August 25, 2021, with comments at bottom from Buzz Ramsey and press releases from ODFW and WDFW.
Columbia salmon managers closed Chinook retention in the Buoy 10 fishery starting Friday and anglers are being urged to switch to coho for what is expected to be good late summer fishing at the mouth of the Columbia.
More natural-origin lower hatchery kings, a stock known as LRHs, have been caught than expected and WDFW and ODFW staffers recommended closing the harvest during a joint-state conference this morning.
The decision from the agencies’ Dr. Charlene Hurst and Tucker Jones, respectively, was supported by members of the sportfishing industry and guides on the call as they looked ahead to the arrival of the bulk of a large hatchery silver return.
Some 1.5 million are expected to pass by Buoy 10 this summer and fall, the most in years.
Salmon fishing at the mouth of the Columbia up to the Rocky-Tongue Point Line has been good since the season opened August 1, possibly due to a thermal block keeping Chinook in the lower river or perhaps due to a larger return than expected, or both.
Either way, LRH kings, sometimes known as tules, have made up 38 percent of the estimated 17,740 Chinook kept at Buoy 10, well above the expectation of 24 percent, and those 6,800 fish represent 108 percent of the preseason forecast.
Public comment and manager discussion during the call, which lasted approximately half an hour or so, was pretty brief.
“I think things are pretty clear. I agree we should close (Chinook retention) as quickly as possible to protect coho opportunity,” said Jones.
He was buoyed to hear members of the sportfishing world say they would be telling their people to focus on silvers.
“I would encourage everyone to do the same. There’s still a lot of coho and angling opportunity. Everyone needs to do what they can to focus their efforts on coho and minimize handling of Chinook,” Jones said.
That point was echoed by Buoy 10 expert Buzz Ramsey.
“We need to lay off the Chinook to maximize the coho fishery,” he emphasized.
Ramsey had great good advice for targeting coho at Buoy 10 in our August column, including fishing shallower waters and higher up in the water column, and he offered some more this afternoon.
“Fish shiny, brightly colored stuff that gets those coho excited,” he said.
Good spots include the actual Buoy 10 and Buoy 12, not far upstream, especially on a good flood tide, but don’t overlook Desdemona Sands.
“Coho will push up on the sands on high tide,” Ramsey tipped.
He recounted running anchovies on 5-foot leaders behind 3-ounce weights in 10 to 12 feet of water on the Washington side of the sands below the Astoria-Megler Bridge with guide Bob Rees and knocking out quick limits.
Sometimes coho can also be found in dead-end coves, Ramsey added.
His August column featured another gear trick, tipping a cutplug herring with a small pink steelhead worm.
Running with four rods out, coho would bite the one with the bait and worm “every time,” he said.
While Chinook may still bite while using these tactics, fewer should too.
“Everyone wants to hone their skills on Chinook, but you can do that same thing with coho,” Ramsey stated.
THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
Chinook salmon retention on the Columbia River from the Buoy 10 line upstream to the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line will close effective Friday, Aug. 27.
State fishery managers from Oregon and Washington made the decision during a Joint State meeting today based on higher-than-expected catch rates and mortality of lower river natural tule Chinook. This ESA-listed stock is managed under strict harvest guidelines and a portion of the allowed impacts was allocated to the Buoy 10 fishery.
Hatchery coho retention remains open in the Buoy 10 fishery (Buoy 10 to Tongue Point/Rocky Point line) with a daily adult bag limit of two hatchery coho, which increases to three hatchery coho on Sept. 7. Retention of steelhead in the Buoy 10 fishery remains closed.
“There are a lot of coho out there, so we encourage anglers to focus their effort and attention on them and minimize their handling of Chinook so that we can keep the coho season open,” said Tucker Jones, ODFW Columbia River Manager. “With passage of upriver summer steelhead at Bonneville Dam at its lowest since counts began, anglers should also do all they can to avoid catching steelhead.”
Chinook retention for the fall Buoy 10 fishery opened Aug. 1 and was originally scheduled to continue through Sept. 6. However, Chinook catch rates and angler effort have been relatively high since Aug. 11 when the initial 10-day mark selective fishery ended. Environmental conditions may also be playing a role, as higher temperatures upstream may have concentrated Chinook in estuary. The combination of these factors resulted in a Chinook handle that is 62 percent higher than expected for this point in the fishery. In addition to higher overall Chinook handle, the tule Chinook portion of the catch was 38 percent, much higher than the expected preseason rate of 24 percent.
Through Aug. 23, an estimated 17,740 Chinook and 6,245 hatchery coho were kept from 56,370 angler trips. Released estimates include 6,917 Chinook, 5,829 coho, and 93 steelhead.
THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
The Buoy 10 fishery on the lower Columbia River will close to Chinook salmon retention beginning Friday, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon announced today.
Strong fishing effort at Buoy 10, combined with sustained high catch rates, meant the fishery reached its allowable impacts on Chinook earlier than expected, according to Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River fishery manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Previously scheduled to remain open until Sept. 6, the section of river from Buoy 10 to the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line will close to Chinook retention at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
That portion of river will remain open for hatchery coho fishing as outlined in the 2021-22 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.
“We were hopeful at the beginning of the season that fishing could remain open through Labor Day, but ultimately the number of Chinook caught at this point in the season is much higher than we expected,” Lothrop said. “This closure is necessary to make sure we’re meeting our conservation and management goals, allowing enough fish to pass upriver, and keeping the coho fishery open.”
In addition to the high fishing effort, another possible contributor to increased catches was warm water temperatures that may have kept Chinook closer to the mouth longer, as has occasionally occurred over the past several years. Passage of Chinook recently increased over Bonneville Dam as river temperatures have decreased.
Buoy 10 remains open with a 2 hatchery coho limit, and is scheduled to increase to 3 hatchery coho on Sept. 7. Chinook fishing remains open upriver of the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line as listed in the 2021-22 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.
All other permanent regulations remain in effect, including steelhead closures; view regulations at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.
Anglers should also check for any emergency rule changes at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ before heading out, as other fisheries may be modified or closed at any time.
For more information about Columbia River salmon and steelhead management, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/management/columbia-river. You can also subscribe to Columbia River fishery updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/lists.