Corrected Version -- June 8, 2009
Commission approves coastal coho, fall chinook seasons
SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday approved a wild coho salmon season for four coastal rivers this fall based on predictions of a large coho return to the coastal rivers and streams.
Under the Endangered Species Act, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration must approve the wild coho seasons prescribed by the Commission which should happen in August.
At the same time, the Commission adopted emergency regulations for the fall chinook salmon that close some rivers and reduce the harvest limits on many others. For the second year in a row biologists are predicting poor returns of fall chinook to Oregon’s coast.
Wild coho fisheries opening in September
Starting Sept. 1, anglers will be allowed to retain adult wild coho caught in the tidewaters of the Nehalem, Yaquina, Coos and Coquille rivers.
The new fishery is a culmination of good ocean conditions and strong conservation efforts that have improved salmon habitat over the past 15 years, according to Robert Buckman, ODFW district fish biologist.
Wild coho are still listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, but conditions have improved enough that biologists believe modest harvest by sport fisherman will not put the population at risk.
“We think this strategy is consistent with conservation and sustainability of wild coho,” Buckman said, noting that a similar approach to coho fishing at Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes has worked well since it began in 2003. “The biology is very convincing that projected harvest rates do not present any significant risks to these coho populations.”
Anglers may retain up to one wild adult coho and one jack coho (between 15 and 20 inches in length) per day, with a maximum of five adults for the season, which runs through Nov. 30 or until a harvest quota of 4,000 fish is achieved.
Each river has its own quota, ranging from 500 to 1,500 fish, and will close if that number is reached. The harvest limit is 6 percent of the total number of coho biologists expect will return to the four rivers this fall.
Chinook anglers will face reduced bag limits
While returns of coho salmon appear strong, biologists are predicting weak returns of fall chinook to coastal rivers and streams. In response, the newly adopted regulations were crafted to try to maximize fishing opportunity while protecting weak stocks.
“During the public comment period we heard over and over that people wanted us to keep as many rivers open as possible, even if it meant reduced bag limits,” said Ron Boyce, ODFW ocean salmon/Columbia River program manager. “We’ve been able to keep a full salmon season in most areas but anglers will have to pay special attention to the bag limit for the river they’re fishing.”
The coastal fall chinook season begins Aug.1 and continues through the end of the year.
This year, ODFW biologists have set river-by-river daily and seasonal bag limits based on the relative strength of the predicted return to that river. Harvest limits range from one wild adult chinook per day and two fish for the season on rivers with weak stocks, to two fish per day and 10 for the season on rivers with more robust populations.
In addition, there is a seasonal limit of 10 non fin-clipped chinook salmon for all waters (Northwest and Southwest coastal rivers and open ocean terminal areas at the Elk and Tillamook rivers).
Three fisheries, the Nehalem and Winchuck rivers and the Chetco terminal area, will be closed to the harvest of chinook salmon.
Rivers with a bag limit of one per day and two per season: Siletz, Yaquina, Yachats, Alsea, Floras, Sixes, Hunter Creek, Pistol and Chetco.
Rivers with a bag limit of one per day and five per season: Necanicum, Tillamook Basin, Tillamook ocean terminal area, Nestucca, Salmon, Siuslaw, Umpqua, Coquille, Elk River and Elk ocean terminal area.
Rivers with a bag limit of two per day and 10 per season: Coos and Rogue.
The Commission approved the appointment of Jeff Oveson to the Fish Screening Task Force. Oveson, from LaGrande, is the executive director of the Grande Ronde Model Watershed. He will represent fishing or fish conservation interests in promoting fish screen installation.
In the final agenda item, the Commission approved 36 restoration and enhancement projects totaling $1,711,470 to improve or enhance fishing opportunities. These projects ranged from $23,473 for a study on redband trout on the Crooked River to $121,497 for a McKenzie River creel and angler preference survey to determine catch rates of native and hatchery trout, fishery impacts to native fish, and angling preferences. More information about the R&E program and projects is available on the R&E website.