Harvest Managers Set Columbia Summer/Fall Salmon, Steelhead Seasons With Restrictions To Protect Low Numbers Of Returning Upriver Wild Steelhead

Oregon and Washington fishery managers recently finalized seasons and regulations for 2023 Columbia River summer and fall recreational salmon and steelhead fisheries. The harvest would come amidst the potentially lowest return of upriver summer steelhead to the Columbia since 1938.

Forecasts for summer and fall Chinook, sockeye, and coho will allow opportunity for anglers to target these fish. However, added protections are necessary for ESA-listed Lower Columbia River fall Chinook and summer steelhead.

Naturally-producing populations of upper Columbia, Mid-Columbia and Snake River steelhead have been listed under the Endangered Species Act for nearly 25 years. These fish are heading for spawning grounds at the same time anglers are pursuing hatchery salmon (clipped) and stocks not listed under the ESA.

–CBB, April 27, 2023, COLUMBIA RIVER BASIN UPRIVER SUMMER STEELHEAD RETURN FORECASTED TO BE FAR BELOW PAST YEARS; ANGLING RESTRICTIONS, CLOSURES LIKELY https://columbiabasinbulletin.org/columbia-river-basin-upriver-summer-steelhead-return-forecasted-to-be-far-below-past-years-angling-restrictions-closures-likely/

This year’s forecasted return for Snake River sockeye, one of the most imperiled fish in the Columbia/Snake river basin, is 2,600 fish. Last year 2,329 returned. Harvest must be managed to protect these fish.

The forecast for summer Chinook is 85,400 adult fish, which is larger than last year’s actual return, and the forecast for sockeye is 234,500 fish, which is higher than last year’s forecast but significantly less than last year’s record return.

For the summer season, retention of adult hatchery Chinook, hatchery steelhead, and sockeye will open June 16 and is expected to continue through July 31 from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco, WA. The bag limit is two adult salmonids, but only one may be a hatchery steelhead, and all sockeye are considered adults.

This year’s adult fall Chinook forecast of 554,000 fish is smaller than last year’s actual return. The 2023 Columbia River coho return is forecasted at 595,300 adults, which is similar to last year’s actual return. Chinook and coho retention seasons start Aug. 1 and vary by river section. This year’s regulations include additional measures, such as mark-selective (adipose fin-clipped only) retention rules for Chinook in the Buoy 10 fishery and salmonid angling closures upstream of west Puget Island when Chinook retention is prohibited.

These are intended to help manage fishery impacts to ESA-listed stocks and to increase the stability of the planned season structure.

If accurate, the preseason forecast of 67,800 fish would be the lowest return for upriver summer steelhead since counting started at Bonneville Dam in 1938.

In recognition of the expected low abundance, anglers will see extremely conservative retention regulations again in 2023, similar to recent years. Hatchery steelhead retention will be allowed June 16 to July 31 from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to The Dalles Dam and June 16 through Aug. 31 from The Dalles Dam upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco, WA with a reduced bag limit of one fish. After retention of summer steelhead closes in each area, it is expected to remain closed through at least the end of the year.

“The summer steelhead forecast this year, especially for B-Index steelhead destined for the Clearwater and Salmon rivers in Idaho, is bleak and I’d encourage everyone to do what they can to avoid them once the area-specific retention seasons close,” said Tucker Jones, ODFW Ocean Salmon and Columbia River Program Manager.

(For more information on summer steelhead returns and management in the Columbia River Basin visit https://myodfw.com/articles/steelhead-management-columbia-snake-river-basins )

Protective regulations will also include Thermal Angling Sanctuaries in Eagle Creek, Herman Creek, and the Deschutes River as well as in the Columbia River near the mouths of these tributaries.

Detailed regulations are available at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/index.asp

(see Summer and Fall Columbia River Recreational Fishery Regulations)

For more information about Columbia River fishing seasons, visit ODFW’s online fishing reports at https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/columbia-zone. Summer and fall season regulations will also be posted at this link before the season begins.


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