Oregon and Washington fishery managers recently announced seasons and regulations for 2020 summer and fall Columbia River fisheries.
Although sockeye and fall Chinook returns show improvement from 2019, below average projections for summer Chinook, coho and upriver summer steelhead will require another year of reduced or closed seasons and bag limits.
The summer season will be limited to sockeye and steelhead retention. The weak summer Chinook forecast of 38,000 fish returning to the Columbia River would be slightly better than the 2019 return but still too small to provide for directed harvest in non-treaty fisheries downstream of Priest Rapids Dam. The improved sockeye forecast of 246,300 will allow for a retention season.
The fall seasons are based on a projected return of 420,400 fall Chinook, which is about 12 percent higher than the actual return of 375,800 last year. This year’s forecast includes 227,600 upriver bright Chinook, compared to a return of 212,200 in 2019. To reduce the chance of exceeding the ESA limit allowed for non-treaty fisheries as occurred in 2017 and 2018, the states intend to manage the fishery based on an allowed harvest rate of 15 percent on the upriver bright stock — but only allocate 8.25 percent prior to the in-season run update.
This conservative approach complicates setting pre-update fisheries but will hopefully result in some good opportunity post-update for some parts of the river.
“The fall fishery planning process was very challenging this year,” according to John North, fisheries manager for ODFW’s Columbia River Program. “Considering the Covid-19 situation, multiple ESA-impact constraints, and uncertainty related to the upriver bright forecast, we struggled to design fisheries that would meet public expectations.”
Due to the low projected returns for upriver summer steelhead, protective regulations are needed again this fall including a one steelhead daily bag limit in June and July, area-specific steelhead retention closures beginning in August, and Thermal Angling Sanctuaries associated with Eagle Creek, Herman Creek, and the Deschutes River.
These collective actions are intended to reduce take of both hatchery and wild fish.
For more information about upcoming Columbia River seasons, including regulation updates, visit ODFW’s online fishing reports at www.myodfw.com.