COLUMBIA RIVER - The fishing season sizzled, initially, but the return of upriver summer Chinook salmon has fizzled to this point, forcing Oregon and Washington fishery managers to end lower Columbia River mainstem pursuit of the prized "June hogs."
The Columbia River Compact on July 5 rescinded a 10-hour non-tribal commercial outing scheduled last week that would have targeted upriver summer Chinook from Bonneville Dam down to near the river mouth.
The summer Chinook sport season in the same 140-mile stretch of river ended June 30 as scheduled and the sport fishery scheduled to run through July 31 in the area between Bonneville and Priest Rapids dams was closed July 3. The fall salmon season in the river, tied to Buoy 10, is unaffected.
The fisheries were called off because the upriver summer Chinook return appears to be smaller than forecast in preseason and because lower river anglers hauled in more than twice the number of fish allocated for that fishery.
The Technical Advisory Committee two weeks ago updated the preseason forecast for the upriver summer Chinook and sockeye salmon runs, dropping its expectations from the 45,600 preseason estimate to 40,000 as measured entering the Columbia.
Under an agreement between tribes and states, fisheries are managed to allow 20,000 hatchery and naturally produced spawners to escape over central Washington's Priest Rapids dams.
With the revised forecast, the lower river sport fishery's share of the harvestable surplus over the desired escapement dropped from 1,250 to 900, and the lower river gill net fleet's allocation fell from 1,650 to 1,100. The Bonneville-to-Priest Rapids sport allocation was reduced from 400 to 200.
Staffers for Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife departments estimate that the sport catch below Bonneville totaled 2,105 summer Chinook - 1,200 over the new catch limit. In two June outings, the gillnetters landed 1,034 upriver summer Chinook, just within their limit. The Bonneville-Priest sport fishery produced a catch of about 100 Chinook.