OLYMPIA — Starting Saturday (July 1), anglers fishing the lower Columbia River must release any adult summer chinook salmon they intercept under new rules approved Wednesday by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.
By then, this year’s recreational catch is expected to reach the 2,656-fish harvest guideline established by those states from the Megler-Astoria Bridge to Bonneville Dam.
Anglers fishing those waters can still catch and keep sockeye salmon, hatchery steelhead and hatchery “jack” chinook as outlined in the current state fishing rules.
The new rule also does not affect summer chinook fisheries now underway – and just getting started – upriver from Bonneville Dam.
Ron Roler, a fishery manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the chinook fishery that opened June 16 below the dam went more quickly than in some years.
“One reason is that colder water in the Columbia helped to boost catch rates,” Roler said. “Another is that this year’s projected run is smaller than average, reducing the number of adult fish available for harvest.”
Fishery managers project that 63,100 adult summer chinook will return to the Columbia River this year, compared to the 10-year average of 72,100 fish. Last year, 91,048 summer chinook returned to the river.
Roler added that the two states will consider reopening the fishery if fish counts at Bonneville Dam show this year’s return is larger than expected.
“On average, half the run has passed the dam by July 1,” he said. “We’ll keep a close eye on how it goes from there.”
Washington state fishing rules are posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/