After shuttering coho and steelhead fishing on the Columbia River two weeks ago, the Washington-Oregon Columbia River Compact recently reversed course, giving the green light to fishing for the two species from Buoy 10 near the mouth of the river to the Highway 395 Bridge near Pasco, WA. The fall chinook fishery will remain closed.
“Effective 12:01 AM Saturday, November 5 through Saturday, December 31 angling for, and retention of, coho and steelhead is allowed from Buoy 10 to the Highway 395 Bridge near Pasco, Washington,” the Compact’s joint state action notice said. The daily bag limit is two salmonids per day, only one of which can be a hatchery steelhead.
According to the Compact, it ended fishing for all salmon and steelhead last month to protect the run of fall upriver bright chinook (URBs). But with the two-week no fishing period having concluded, and with most of the ESA-listed fall chinook run already upstream of Bonneville Dam, Compact staff said the chinook catch in recreational fisheries during November and December is minimal—even when chinook retention is allowed.
What the decision doesn’t reflect, however, is the fact mainstem Columbia steelhead runs remain dismal.
During this week’s Compact hearing, Dave Moscowitz of the Conservation Angler objected to allowing any more fishing for steelhead in the Columbia mainstem. The run size for all steelhead, he said, is 52 percent of the 10-year average and the run size for the wild component is just 41.2 percent of the 10-year average.
“There is no information about the impact to steelhead, the impact to wild steelhead and no information on the treaty harvest of wild steelhead in the staff report,” Moscowitz added. “The staff report is inadequate to support these actions.”