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States close Columbia River spring Chinook season

CLACKAMAS, Ore. – The departments of fish and wildlife from Oregon and Washington declined to set additional spring Chinook salmon fishing on the mainstem Columbia River.

In a public hearing on May 20, fisheries managers from the two states were presented information on the current status of upriver spring Chinook and fisheries to date. Although sufficient ESA impacts to wild spring Chinook were available to allow for the consideration of additional mainstem recreational and commercial spring Chinook fishing opportunity, there were also concerns about hatcheries throughout the interior basin being able to meet broodstock collection targets. After being presented with this information, and hearing public testimony from recreational and commercial interests which overwhelming supported keeping fisheries closed, managers decided not to set additional fishing time.

Preseason, the 2020 upriver spring Chinook return was forecasted to be very poor, and in-season information is showing that is the case. On May 18, the run was downgraded by 12 percent to 72,000 Chinook adults. While this forecast is within management buffers applied by managers, this would be the lowest return since 1999, and significant concerns about the overall return and brood stock collection efforts remain.

“With an already depressed run and broodstock concerns where they are, I’m ready to err on the side of the fish and not set additional spring Chinook salmon fishing seasons on the Columbia,” said Tucker Jones, manager of ODFW’s Columbia River and Ocean Salmon Program, adding, “sometimes the best action is no action.”

Recreational steelhead and shad fishing remain open on portions of the Columbia under permanent rules, and the fishery managers again made a plea to anglers to stay close to home, to observe social-distancing, avoid crowding and maintain sanitary conditions.


As an alternative Northwest walleye fishing guides are offering guided Columbia River walleye fishing trips for those looking for some catch and keep fishing opportunities. 

WDFW Commission to take public input on hatchery reform and salmon management policies


OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will take public input on various topics – including hatchery reform, salmon management in Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay, and several land transactions – during an upcoming meeting in Olympia.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will meet Feb. 8-9 in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. SE, Olympia. The meeting will begin at 8 a.m. both days.

A full agenda is available online at

WDFW staff will provide an update on a review of the state’s hatchery and fishery reform policy, which is intended to improve hatchery effectiveness, ensure compatibility between hatchery production and salmon recovery plans, and support sustainable fisheries. Staff will discuss the process they will use to review the policy and the science behind it. The public will have the opportunity to comment during the Friday meeting.

WDFW fish managers will also provide an update on the progress of the Willapa Bay Salmon Management Policy comprehensive review. That policy, approved by the commission in 2015, prioritizes recreational chinook fisheries in Willapa Bay while focusing commercial fishery opportunities on coho and chum salmon. 

To meet conservation objectives, WDFW requires the release of any wild chinook salmon in these fisheries and manages fishing seasons to hold mortality rates for those fish within a prescribed limit. WDFW staff will seek guidance from the commission on priorities for the 2019-20 season.

Also at the meeting, state fishery managers will provide an overview of last year’s salmon fisheries in Grays Harbor, including an assessment of harvest levels and conformance with conservation objectives.

After staff presentations, the commission will take public input on both the Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor policies.

In other business, commissioners will consider three transactions, including the acquisition of 1,100 acres to protect waterfowl habitat in Grays Harbor County, an 80-acre conservation easement to protect Mazama pocket gopher habitat in Thurston County, and an easement to Ferry County for wellhead protection.

Additionally, the commission is scheduled to take action on proposed wildlife-rehabilitation rules and will hear a briefing on the Lower Columbia River sturgeon population and proposed 2019 fisheries.




States set sturgeon season closures in Bonneville, John Day pools


CLACKAMAS, Ore. – Recreational sturgeon seasons in Bonneville and John Day pools will close in February under rules announced today by fishery managers from Oregon and Washington.

The states decided to close recreational white sturgeon retention effective Sunday, Feb. 4 in Bonneville Pool and effective Monday, Feb. 12 in John Day Pool.

Columbia River recreational sturgeon retention seasons between Bonneville and McNary dams open at the beginning of the year and operate under area-specific harvest guidelines. The closure in John Day Pool is based on harvest data that indicates recreational sturgeon fishermen have kept 64 legal fish through Jan. 28, and are on track to approach their harvest guideline of 105 fish by the closure date. The closure of Bonneville Pool is intended to reserve a portion of the annual 325 fish area-specific harvest guideline for a short summer sturgeon retention season in June or July. Sturgeon retention in The Dalles Pool closed Jan. 20.

Following the sturgeon retention closure in The Dalles Pool, the annual harvest guideline for that pool was modified from 100 to 135 fish based on the 2017 population assessment. The revised guideline should provide some additional retention opportunity for 2018. Staff is considering options which could include providing a summer retention season, similar to the Bonneville Pool fishery.

Under permanent fishing regulations, sturgeon retention is currently closed below Bonneville Dam and below Willamette Falls. However, catch-and-release sturgeon fishing remains open in all of these waters. At the February 9th 2018, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, staff will provide a lower Columbia River white sturgeon status update; guidance from the Commission regarding 2018 retention fisheries is anticipated.

No recreational smelt fishing on the Sandy

In other business, ODFW announced that it is not recommending a recreational smelt fishery in the Sandy River at this time. Smelt have been listed under the Endangered Species Act since 2010, and though some limited fisheries have occurred since then, abundance indicators are generally unfavorable for 2018. Staff will determine if a fishery is warranted after additional freshwater abundance indicators become available, including catch data from the research-level commercial fishery. Minor tribal fisheries for smelt may occur in the Sandy River for ceremonial and subsistence use.

For more information, see the Columbia River Zone Regulation Updates at

The next scheduled Columbia River Compact/Joint State Hearing will take place at 10 a.m. Feb. 21 at the Portland Airport Shilo Inn, 11707 NE Airport Way, Portland, OR 97220. The primary purpose of this hearing is to set recreational spring salmon and steelhead seasons.