Tribes, commercial gillnetters and sports anglers all begin fishing in August as the two-state Columbia River Compact met last week to set fishing times through the fall season that began Aug. 1.
Some 613,840 fall Chinook are forecast to return to the Columbia River, 96 percent of 2016’s actual return of 642,400 fish and 84 percent of the 10-year average (2007 to 2016). Of those, nearly 403,600 upriver Chinook will pass Bonneville Dam, a run that is typically half done by Sept. 9.
The forecast for coho salmon returning to the Columbia River is 319,300 fish, 93 percent of the 5-year average (2012 to 2016) of 344,500 fish. That includes an early run of 196,800 and a late run of 122,500. About 97,400 will pass Bonneville Dam this year, according to Fall Fact Sheet No. 1 prepared by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
Recreational anglers have been fishing for summer Chinook since July 7 from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to the Highway 395 Bridge near Pasco at the Washington/Oregon border.
In a decision that had been made earlier in the year, beginning Tuesday, Aug. 1, they could fish for fall Chinook from Tongue Point upstream to Warrior Rock near St. Helens, Oregon, until Sept. 7 for any Chinook, but the area will only be open for retention of hatchery Chinook Sept. 8 to 14.
Also opening Aug. 1 for Chinook retention is the popular Buoy 10 fishery at the Columbia River mouth. It is expected to remain open through Sept. 4, but will be closed for Chinook retention Sept. 5 to 30.
The Compact at its Tuesday, July 27 meeting in Ridgefield approved fall gillnetting in select areas of the Lower Columbia River estuary.
While Chinook and coho salmon runs are somewhat below average this year, upriver summer steelhead are arriving in record low numbers. The total A-Index run of steelhead (generally the smaller of the A- and B-index runs at less than 78 centimeters — about 31 inches in length, called fork length — and arriving earlier) is expected to be 54 percent of the 5-year average. The B-Index run of fish (larger than 78 cm and later arriving) is expected in numbers that are just 25 percent of the 5-year average.
“Counts of steelhead at Bonneville Dam during July 1-25 total 10,418 fish, which is much less than expected (about 20,800) and is the lowest cumulative passage since 1943,” the Fact Sheet says. “Passage at Bonneville Dam (July-October) is typically 50 percent complete by August 13. The count of unclipped steelhead from July 1 to 25 totals 6,025 which is the lowest cumulative count of unclipped fish since 1995.”
Commercial gillnet off-channel select area fisheries approved by the Compact this week are:
• Deep River, Washington: Monday through Thursday nights, 7 pm to 7 am, Aug. 21 - Sept. 1; Monday through Friday nights, 6 pm to 9 am, Sept. 4 – 23; and Monday through Thursday nights, 7 pm to 7 am, Sept. 25 - Oct. 13.
• Blind Slough/Knappa Slough, Oregon: Monday and Wednesday nights, 7 pm to 7 am, Aug. 28 – 31; Monday through Thursday nights, 7 pm to 7 am, Sept. 4 - 8, and 6 pm to 10 am, Sept. 8 - Oct. 27.
• Tongue Point/South Channel: Monday and Wednesday nights, 7 pm to 7 am, Aug. 28 - 31; Monday through Thursday nights, 7 pm to 7 am, Sept. 4 – 8 and 6 pm to 10 am, Sept. 8 – 27.
•Youngs Bay: 7 pm Tuesday to 7 am Thursday weekly Aug. 1 – 24; Monday through Wednesday, 7 pm to 7 am, Aug. 28 – 31; and 7 pm Monday, Sept. 4 to noon Tuesday, Oct. 31.