Plethora of salmon is great news for fishermenBuoy 10, the popular salmon fishery just inside the mouth of the Columbia River, will likely remain open through the end of the year.
Steve King, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's statewide salmon fishery manager, said he is fairly certain an in-season adjustment to the bag limit - anglers are limited to one chinook salmon - has slowed the take enough to leave the fishery open through the end of the year. This is good news for fishermen who have seen early closures for the last three years in a row.
Andy Betnar, owner of Oregon and Costa Rica Adventures, said in past years he's had customers cancel guided trips after they found out they couldn't take a chinook salmon because the fishery had closed.
The news is good, too, for area businesses that get a boost from the August rush of fishermen dropping lines in Buoy 10.
Dan Aarow, manager of the Buoy 9 Restaurant and Lounge in Hammond, said lines out the door have been a regular occurrence this August.
"It's been extremely busy," Aarow said. "In the last three years, every year has just been busier and busier, crazier and crazier."
His business isn't all fishermen.
"We get a good mixture of locals, fishermen, summer locals and campers," he said.
Even if not everyone at Buoy 9 is fishing, Buoy 10 is packed.
"We've started off with a lot of angler effort: 3,000 to 5,000 anglers a day," King said. "A lot of economics poured into lower Columbia communities."
However, not all of those salmon stalkers are taking home a prize. Catch rates indicate only one salmon caught for every three fishermen, King said.
"We do have some disappointed people," he said. "Some people thought it would be limit fishing for everybody on chinook salmon and that is simply not the case."
King said he's also heard grumbling about the high frequency of tule chinook salmon in the catch.
The tule, a nickname given to less-desirable lower Columbia River hatchery chinook, tend to have darker skin and don't taste as good as the so-called upriver brights. The brights get their name because "they're chrome as a silver dollar," Betnar said. Also, the meat of the brights is much higher quality, he added.
Betnar said he was catching almost exclusively the tule chinooks in the early part of the season.
"The last couple days it's been at least 50-50 with the brights versus the tules," he said.
The increase in brights in the river is one factor that could make fishing over the weekend some of the best so far this season. Another factor is favorable tides.
"Over this weekend you're gonna have two hours of incoming tide on Saturday and Sunday (mornings) and then all day of outgoing tides to fish," Betnar said. The bite is better when the tide is going out, he said.
As of Tuesday, King said, 14,650 chinook salmon had been caught. He expects the chinook catch to climb above 20,000 before the season is out. Fish counts at Bonneville Dam broke records for the date this week, topping 15,000 chinook salmon a day.
Crowds have dwindled slightly this past week, but huge numbers are expected Labor Day Weekend for what King described as "the last big hurrah."