Salmon fishing opened Aug. 1 on a large section of the Columbia River, where several new regulations are in effect to conserve wild chinook runs that are falling short of federal recovery goals.
Those wild chinook, sometimes known as "tules," are early-returning fish that spawn in tributaries to the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam.
In April, at the direction of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), fishery managers from Washington and Oregon adopted additional conservation measures to protect tule runs listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The new rules to protect tule chinook salmon were established by Washington and Oregon fishery managers during the annual North of Falcon season-setting process, said Bill Tweit, Columbia River policy leader for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Those measures also included smaller catch quotas in the ocean fishery and new limitations on commercial fishing in the lower Columbia River.
All new regulations affecting recreational fishing are reflected in WDFW's Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet, available at fishing-license vendors throughout the state, he said.
"Most anglers who fish the Columbia River Basin have known about these new rules for some time," Tweit said. "But these regulations to increase protection for tule runs are a change from previous years, and we want to make sure everyone is aware of them."
A federal recovery plan released by NMFS in 2006 sets goals for tule returns to the Coweeman, Lewis and Grays rivers totaling nearly 8,000 spawners per year. In recent years, less than a thousand tules have returned to those three rivers combined.
"The new rules are specifically designed to reduce the harvest of the lower Columbia River tules, while maximizing fishing opportunities for harvestable hatchery fish, upriver brights and other abundant salmon and steelhead stocks," Tweit said.
Below are summaries of two fishing seasons opening Aug. 1 in the Columbia River Basin.
Bonneville Dam to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco:
Anglers may retain six salmon, of which no more than two can be adults. Any chinook, fin-clipped or not, may be retained. Anglers must release any wild coho they encounter from Bonneville Dam to Hood River Bridge and any chum intercepted downstream from The Dalles Dam. Night closure and non-buoyant lure restrictions will be in effect in the Bonneville Pool through Oct. 15.
Anglers will be able to retain chinook salmon, adipose clipped or unclipped, on the Deep, Green, Toutle (including North Fork), Washougal, Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, (including North Fork), Wind, White Salmon and Klickitat rivers plus Drano Lake. Wild coho must be released on all these tributaries except for the Klickitat.
Non-buoyant lure restrictions will be in effect on the Wind, White Salmon, Klickitat rivers and Drano Lake.