It's almost time for a
changing of the fishing seasons on the Columbia-Snake river
mainstem, and in the ocean and tributaries as well.
the soon-to-open fisheries is expected to draw more interest
than the Aug. 1 start of the Buoy 10 fishery in the Columbia
River estuary, according Heather Bartlett, a fishery manager
at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"Buoy 10 is probably the most popular salmon fishery in the
state -- and with good reason," Bartlett said. "This year,
we're planning for a catch of 10,700 chinook and 119,100
hatchery-reared coho right there in the last 16 miles of the
Columbia River. Fishing should be excellent."
In all, fishery managers are expecting more than 700,000
coho salmon to return to the Columbia River this year -- the
highest number since 2001. To keep hatchery fish off the
spawning grounds, anglers will be allowed to catch and keep up
to six hatchery coho per day on a number of Washington
tributaries to the big river. All wild coho, recognizable by
an intact adipose fin, must be released.
The Columbia River also opens Aug. 1 for chinook from the
mouth of the river upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge in
Pasco, and includes portions of all tributaries (except the
Snake River) in between.
Saltwater areas in Washington that open for salmon fishing
Aug. 1 include Marine Area 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island
and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and
Commencement Bay near Tacoma.
All Washington ocean fisheries from Neah Bay south to
Ilwaco will then be open for salmon fishing seven days per
Anglers will also get three more days (July 24-26) to catch
sturgeon in the lower Columbia between Buoy 10 and the Wauna
powerlines under an agreement reached Tuesday by Oregon and
Washington fishery managers. Another 2,400 fish are still
available for harvest under the catch guideline.
The daily catch limit is one white sturgeon, with a
fork-length measurement of 41 inches to 54 inches. All green
sturgeon must be released.
Based on a 2006-2008 management agreement, a total of
15,529 fish are available for 2009 fisheries below Wauna at
river mile 40 near Cathlamet, Wash.
An estimated 1,125 white sturgeon were harvested by anglers
from January through May. Based on preliminary data, an
estimated 10,412 fish were kept during June 1-July 5 to bring
the season total kept catch to approximately 11,537 as of July
With a balance of approximately 4,000 fish still available,
six additional retention days (July 10-12 and 17-19) were
added to the estuary season with an expected catch of 3,000
kept white sturgeon. But the catch during the first period was
well below expectations (averaging 178 kept fish/day) due to
reduced effort and inclement weather on July 12. Catch rates
improved during the second three-day period, averaging 334
kept fish/day which is similar to rates observed during
mid-June through July 5.
The preliminary estimated kept catch for July 10-19 is
1,536 fish, leaving a balance of 2,456 fish available for the
remainder of 2009.
"Fishing was generally good, but we didn't get the turnout
we expected because a lot of anglers decided to fish for
salmon off the coast," said Brad James, a WDFW fish biologist.
"That left room for some extra fishing days."
From the Wauna power lines upstream to River Marker 85
below Bonneville Dam, sturgeon retention is allowed as planned
through July 31. Retention of white sturgeon is permitted in
that section of the river on Thursday, Friday and Saturday,
with a fork length limit of 38 to 54 inches.
Above, River Marker 85, the Columbia is closed to sturgeon
angling through July 31. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, the area
from Wauna power lines upstream to Bonneville Dam is scheduled
to re-open to white sturgeon retention on Thursday through
Saturday of each week.
Anglers with constraints on their time will have to choose
their fishing days carefully in the weeks ahead. Anglers ready
to go out right now will find good -- and improving -- fishing
for hatchery steelhead from the lower Columbia River to the
Bonneville Pool tributaries.
The upriver summer steelhead run has begun to build steam.
The first count of more than 1,000 steelhead occurred on July
2 at Bonneville Dam's fish ladders and the first
2,000-steelhead count was on July 13. Bonneville, about 146
river miles from the ocean, is the first dam the fish pass on
their journey toward spawning grounds and hatcheries in Idaho,
Oregon and Washington.
Those counts have continued to mount with more than 4,000
passing Bonneville Sunday, more than 5,000 on Sunday, plus
6,000 on Tuesday and 7,517 clearing the dam Wednesday. The
year's total steelhead count there had climbed to 70,548
through midweek. That total includes an estimated 30,911 wild
Through Wednesday 15,475 steelhead had been counted passing
the Columbia's McNary Dam, the fourth hydro project in the
Columbia-Snake mainstem hydro system. And 13,962 had reached
the lower Snake River's Lower Granite Dam, the eighth dam the
fish must hurdle.
The 2009 preseason forecast is for a return of 351,800
upriver summer steelhead to Bonneville. That total includes
16,000 "Skamania" index fish, 278,900 Group A index fish, and
56,900 Group B index fish. The forecast for wild fish totals
of 89,900 steelhead and includes a strong Group B component.
Overall, the 2009 upriver summer steelhead forecast is
similar (99 percent) to the recent 10-year average of 357,000
fish. Group A and Group B index steelhead forecasts continue a
stable trend, with the Group B component expected to be
greater (121 percent) than the recent 10-year average,
according to the July 16 "2009 Joint Staff Report: Stock
Status and Fisheries for Fall Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon,
Chum Salmon, Summer Steelhead, and White Sturgeon" prepared by
the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.
Fish passing April through June are considered Skamania
stock steelhead destined mainly for tributaries within
Bonneville Pool. Steelhead counted at Bonneville July through
October are categorized as Group A index or Group B index
fish, based on fork length. Group B steelhead primarily return
to tributaries in the Salmon and Clearwater rivers in Idaho,
while Group A steelhead return to tributaries throughout the
Columbia and Snake basins.
The total adult return of fall chinook to the mouth of the
Columbia in 2009 is expected to number 532,900 adults, which
is greater (119 percent) than the 2008 return of 449,000
adults, and is similar to the average return observed over the
last 10 years.
"Bright" stocks represent 73 percent of the total forecast.
The upriver bright forecast is 269,700, which would be 44
percent more than last year's actual return and 46 percent
greater than the recent 10-year average, according to the
joint staff report. That average includes banner runs of
733,600, 893,100 and 799,000 in 2002-2004.
The 2009 forecast for Snake River wild fall chinook is
6,600 fish, which is comparable to the recent 10-year average
and significantly greater than the returns seen during the
1990s. The Snake River wild fall chinook run dipped as low as
722 to the mouth of the Columbia in 1998.
The Mid-Columbia bright fall chinook forecast is 98,000
adults. That would be 116 percent of the recent 10-year
average, and also greater than the 2008 return.
The "lower river wild" fall chinook forecast of 8,600
adults is 58 percent of the recent 10-year average, but
improved over the 2008 return. The "lower river hatchery"
forecast of 88,200 adults is similar to the average returns
observed during the recent 10 years and improved over the 2008
The "select area bright" forecast of 12,000 fish is a
significant increase over the recent 10-year average and
similar to the 2008 return. The 2009 forecast includes
adjustments for increased escapement due to reduced ocean
chinook fisheries along the Oregon coast.
"Now is the time to make plans about where to go, where to
stay and where to moor your boat," said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish
biologist. "A lot of fishing opportunities will be opening up
in the coming days, and a lot of anglers will want to get in
on the action."
Summer steelhead fishing has continued to heat up -- along
with water temperatures -- on the mainstem Columbia River and
tributaries stretching upstream to the Bonneville Pool. Boat
anglers fishing between Rocky Point and Bonneville Dam
averaged one fish for every two rods during the week ending
July 19. Bank anglers netted a fish for every four rods.
The best catch rates were observed from Kalama, Wash.,
downstream and in the gorge, where 178 bank anglers pulled in
53 steelhead and released 56 others July 21.
On Washington's Cowlitz River, boat anglers have been
reeling in hatchery steelhead from Mission Bar to Blue Creek.
As daily steelhead counts continue to climb at Bonneville Dam,
success rates have has also picked up at Drano Lake and on the
White Salmon River in Washington.
In all areas, anglers may retain only hatchery steelhead
with a clipped adipose or ventral fin and a healed scar.
"The good news there is that the proportion of marked,
hatchery fish below Bonneville has increased in recent days,"
Idaho anglers will have one more weekend of chinook salmon
fishing in the Salmon River this summer. The reach from the
city of Salmon upstream to the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery weir
will close at the end of fishing hours on Sunday, July 26. It
is the last part of the Salmon River to close to chinook
Fishery managers for Idaho Fish and Game estimate that, by
the end of fishing Sunday, anglers will have taken 100 percent
of the state's harvest share of adult hatchery chinook salmon
returning to the Sawtooth and Pahsimeroi hatcheries. Harvest
is estimated by weekly angler surveys.
Overall for the season, Fish and Game estimates that the
salmon fishery in the Salmon River drainage, which opened on
June 20, will generate more than 60,000 angler hours of
fishing effort and lead to the harvest of about 3,000 adult
and 1,000 jack chinook salmon.
A catch-and-release steelhead season opens in the Salmon
River Aug. 1; the retention of fin-clipped steelhead will be
allowed beginning Sept. 1. Catch-and-release seasons began
July 1 in the Clearwater and its tributaries. Retention will
be allowed beginning Aug. 1 from the Clearwater's mouth up to
Lewiston but not until Oct. 15 on the mainstem above Lewiston
or in the North or Middle forks.