Sport fishermen will get a slightly bigger cut of the spring Chinook run this year as Oregon and Washington state work to keep regulations the same for both sides of the Columbia River.
A group made up of commissioners from both states’ fish and wildlife commissions had been meeting to review the Columbia River Reform Plan and reach greater consistency between the states regarding salmon fishing regulations on the river.
There were concerns that the plan — also known as the Kitzhaber Plan after former Gov. John Kitzhaber — had not met its economic goals, nor had any gear been found to replace the commercial gillnets the plan phased off the river’s main stem. But review efforts were suspended in Oregon in January.
Instead, the fish and wildlife commissions delegated the development of this year’s salmon fisheries to the directors of the state fish and wildlife departments.
Curt Melcher, the director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Kelly Susewind, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, announced last week that they had reached an agreement on gear types and allocations — the proportion of impacts allowed to wild fish allowed under the Endangered Species Act — for this year’s fisheries.
“Consistency in the regulations between our two states is always a top priority when talking about management on the Columbia River,” Susewind said in a statement. “This agreement is similar to what occurred last year, and brings Oregon and Washington in line with each other on some key issues.”
Anglers will have 75% of the spring Chinook — a 5% increase from the allocation outlined in Washington’s Columbia River policy. The remaining 25% will go to the commercial fishery. Oregon had considered an 80-20 split for the spring season.
Tangle nets will be allowed on the river’s main stem during the commercial spring fishery following a run size update in May. For the summer Chinook fishery, anglers and commercial fishermen will split the allocation 80-20. No gillnets will be permitted on the main stem.
The fall Chinook fishery will be the same as last year, with 70% allocated to the recreational fishery and 20% to the commercial fishermen. Gillnets will be allowed upstream of the Lewis River on the lower Columbia River.
Commercial fishermen are critical of the split. Jim Wells, a gillnetter and president of the advocacy group Salmon For All, noted that the sport fishery has not come close to using the entirety of its allocation, while commercial fishermen pushed close against the 20% last year.
Under the new agreement, the use of barbless hooks will be required in Columbia River salmon and steelhead fisheries on the river’s main stem from the mouth of the river to the Washington and Oregon state line upstream of McNary Dam effective March 1. Last year, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission had made barbless hooks voluntary after June 1.