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December 21, 2006 The Columbian, by Allen Thomas

An estimated 78,500 spring chinook salmon will enter the Columbia River destined for waters upstream of Bonneville Dam in 2007, the smallest upriver run in seven years and one likely to result in curtailed sport and commercial fishing.

Forecasts and run updates mean everything in this era of salmon management under the federal Endangered Species Act, where fishing opportunities are contingent on the strength of the various returns.

A year ago, the forecast was for 88,400 and the actual return was 132,100.

Under a plan negotiated between the state and federal fishery agencies and Columbia River treaty tribes, non-Indians are allowed to kill no more than 1.5 percent of the wild upper Columbia spring salmon run in the process of catching hatchery-origin chinook.

Washington and Oregon then split the allowable non-Indian upper Columbia catch 57 percent for sportsmen and 43 percent for the commercial fleet.

In 2006, sport fishermen had taken their allocation in the lower Columbia by April 14 and fishing closed.

The tipping point where the non-Indian harvest jumps to 2 percent is 82,000. If the run forecast is upgraded to 82,000 or more, angling could reopen after a closed period.

In 2006, commercial fishing resumed May 16 and sport fishing on May 17.

Updating of the run is not possible until about April 25, when half the fish typically have passed Bonneville Dam. In 2006, the run was the latest on record, and the 50 percent point was not reached until mid-May.

"A fishery similar to 2006 is certainly with the range of possibilities for 2007,'' said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia


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