Columbia Springer, Sturgeon Seasons Set

We’ll be able to fish for springers a little higher up the Columbia from a boat this year and bankies again get their water below Bonneville, but Chinook season will only run into April’s earliest days.

That’s what two Oregon and Washington fishery managers decided during a meeting today in Oregon City.

After hearing testimony from sport, commercial and tribal anglers, ODFW and WDFW managers chose option one of two presented to them.

Their decision opens the river from Buoy 10 upstream to Rooster Rock for boat and bank anglers, and the water from Rooster Rock up to Bonneville Dam for bank anglers seven days a week from March 1 through April 4.

Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said fishing seasons for springers — as well as sturgeon which were also set — reflect the number of fish available for harvest within the states’ conservation guidelines.

“We’re expecting an average return of spring Chinook this year, with a fairly high number of large fish in the mix,” LeFleur said in a press release.

She adds, “If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look toward providing additional days of fishing on the river later in spring.”

Option 2 would have restricted all anglers to the water from B10 up to I-5 only, though given us two more days on the water, more angler trips and about 1,000 more fish.

(ALL RIVERS AND CHARTERS GUIDE SERVICE)

The upstream boat fishery boundary will be definied as “a true north/south line projected from Rooster Rock on the Oregon shore to the Washington shoreline.”

Rooster Rock is basically the mouth of the gorge, and is just below Crown Point.

It’s 16 miles above last year’s upstream boat fishery boundary, the I-205 bridge. Bank anglers, however, were allowed to fish from the bridge to the dam.

Above Bonneville Dam, spring Chinook will be open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis from March 16 through April 24 between the Tower Island powerlines six miles below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines during that time.

Anglers fishing downriver from Bonneville Dam may retain one hatchery-reared adult chinook per day as part of their catch limit. Above the dam, anglers can keep two marked hatchery chinook per day.

While the forecast is for 198,000 above-Bonneville-bound springers, until a run-size update in midspring, managers are running nontreaty seasons as if 30 percent fewer (or 139,000) fish actually show up, per an agreement last year with upstream tribes. That provides sports and comms a total of 11,527 Chinook to harvest. According to a fact sheet released yesterday afternoon, that breaks down thusly:

a. 7,750 fish for the recreational fishery below Bonneville Dam

b. 1,050 fish for the recreational fishery from Bonneville Dam to the OR/WA state line

c. 600 fish for recreational fisheries in the Snake River

d. 1,900 fish for the mainstem commercial fishery

e. 200 fish for Select Area commercial fisheries

The overall sport catch below Bonneville, including upriver, Willamette, Cowlitz and other stocks, is expected to be 10,100 under option 1, according to the fact sheet. Option 2 would have provided 11,000.

The Columbia below I-5 is open through March 31 under permanent regulations.

According to an ODFW press release, the Willamette is open to retention of adipose fin-clipped adult chinook salmon and adipose fin-clipped steelhead seven days a week the entire year, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is leaving that regulation in place based on an expected return of 104,000 spring chinook, which is comparable to last year. The bag limit on the Willamette below Willamette Falls is two adipose fin-clipped chinook. Above the falls, one additional adipose fin-clipped steelhead may be retained under regulations for the combined salmon/steelhead bag limit.

For more on some of the reasoning behind the decision, see reporter Bill Monroe’s account on Ifish.

COLUMBIA STURGEON FISHERIES SET

Fishery managers also agreed on new seasons for Columbia River white sturgeon that reflect mutual concerns about the declining abundance of legal-size sturgeon below Bonneville Dam.

New harvest guidelines approved today will limit this year’s catch in those waters to 17,000 fish, a 30 percent reduction from last year. That action follows a 40 percent reduction imposed during the 2010 fishing season.

“In practical terms, this year’s action is expected to reduce the amount of time sturgeon fisheries in the lower Columbia River will be open at the end of the season,” said Brad James, another WDFW fish biologist, in WDFW’s press release.

As in years past, 80 percent of the allowable catch will be allocated to the sport fishery and 20 percent to the commercial fishery. In addition, 60 percent of the sport catch will continue to be reserved for the estuary fishery below the Wauna powerlines and 40 percent for the fishery upriver from the powerlines to Bonneville Dam.

* Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines:   Retention of white sturgeon is allowed daily from Jan. 1 to April 30; May 14 through June 26; and July 1-4. From Jan. 1 to April 30, sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. From May 14 through the end of the season they must measure 41 inches to 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited.

* Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam: Retention of white sturgeon is allowed three days per week (Thursday through Saturday) from Jan. 1 through July 31 and from Oct. 8 until Dec. 31. Sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited. All fishing for sturgeon will be closed from May 1 through Aug. 31 in the sturgeon sanctuary downriver from Bonneville Dam described in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet.

At a previous joint state hearing, the two states took action to close the Sand Island Slough near Rooster Rock to fishing at least through April 30.

WILLAMETTE STURGEON

ODFW also announced that it will reopen retention sturgeon fishing on the Willamette three days a week beginning Thursday, Feb. 17 and continuing until a harvest guideline of 2,550 fish is achieved.

“There has been a great deal of interest on Willamette sturgeon,” said Steve Williams, who announced the Oregon action after the joint state hearing. “We saw a great deal of effort last fall on the Willamette that amounted to over 500 fish caught in three days. We expect the fishery to be good when it reopens on the 17th.”

Retention of white sturgeon is allowed three days a week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday Feb. 17 until the guideline of 2,550 fish is achieved. The daily bag limit is one white sturgeon with a fork length of 38 to 54 inches.

On the Willamette, angling for sturgeon is prohibited from the I-205 Bridge upstream to Willamette Falls May 1 – Aug. 31.

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