Early commercial fall fishing began last week for both commercial non-treaty gillnetters and Native American treaty gillnetters on the Columbia River mainstem.

For commercial gillnetters, the limited opening was for five nine-hour fishing periods, all upstream of Warrior Rock at St. Helens, Oregon. Due to poor steelhead returns, this early fall commercial gillnetting fishery is the only fishery this fall that Lower Columbia River gillnetters can expect.

For commercial treaty gillnetters, the opening is for three four and a half day periods through early September.

The two-state Columbia River Compact met in Kelso, where it made the decision for the commercial openings.

The Compact did not rule on recreational fishing, which is already open under two-state rules from Buoy 10 at the Columbia River mouth to the Highway 395 bridge at the Oregon and Washington border on the east side of both states.

The 2017 forecast for fall Chinook in the Columbia River is 613,800 fish, about 96 percent of 2016’s actual return of 642,400 fish and 84 percent of the 2007-2016 average return of 727,600 fish. Bonneville Dam passage is expected to total nearly 403,600 upriver fall Chinook for the season. Passage at the dam through Aug. 28 was 40,144 adult fall Chinook and 5.738 jacks. Last year on that date, some 98,450 adults and 11,956 jacks had passed. The 10-year average is 67,349 adults and 10,762 jacks.

Passage at the dam is typically 50 percent complete by Sept. 9.

The expected catch for non-treaty commercial gillnetters is 45,900 adult Chinook, 350 coho and 525 white sturgeon. The treaty commercial impacts are estimated to be 54,300 fall Chinook of which 23,900 are expected to be upriver brights, and 1,700 steelhead of which 170 are expected to be B-run steelhead.

Upriver steelhead are faring much poorer. The Bonneville count on Aug. 28 was 72,090, compared with 110,571 last year and the 10-year average of 237,529.

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