CLACKAMAS, ORE. -- Oregon fishery managers decided yesterday to close sport fishing for spring chinook in the Willamette River and tributaries above Willamette Falls effective 12:01 a.m. Monday, June 2.
Beginning June 2, the Willamette River and tributaries above Willamette Falls will close to the retention of hatchery spring chinook salmon, with the exception of the Molalla River which will remain open to the retention of one adult adipose fin-clipped spring chinook as part of the daily bag limit. The Upper Willamette and most tributaries are typically open to retention of adipose fin-clipped chinook salmon all year under permanent regulations.
“This year’s Upper Willamette chinook run does appear to be returning late,” said Steve Marx, South Willamette watershed manager. “To date, about 5,100 chinook have gone over the Falls. If substantial numbers of chinook cross the Falls in the next few weeks, we may be able to re-open some limited chinook fishing opportunities.”
“We expected the run over Willamette Falls would be low,” added John North, ODFW Columbia River fisheries manager. “But unfortunately, the run is tracking even lower than expected.”
High water levels and low temperatures this spring have delayed chinook returns throughout the region, North said. However, at this point even optimistic projections indicate that hatchery returns are not going to meet expectations.
“Unfortunately, this means we need to close down the fishing opportunity in order to protect broodstock, which are critical for the future production of hatchery chinook,” North said.
While following the same overall downward trend as the hatchery fish, wild chinook numbers have been more stable.
Fishing for hatchery steelhead remains open in the mainstem Willamette and tributaries upstream of Willamette Falls with a three fish daily bag limit. Fishing for hatchery chinook and steelhead in the Molalla River remains open with a daily bag limit of three adipose fin-clipped salmon or steelhead, of which only one may be a chinook. All other permanent rules for the area upstream of Willamette Falls remain in effect.
About 90,000 hatchery spring chinook smolts are released in the Molalla each year, and since there is no collection facility or hatchery in the system these returning adults are not needed for hatchery use.