Columbia River spring chinook and white sturgeon runs and sport fishing seasons will be smaller and shorter in 2013, Washington and Oregon fishery managers have announced.
The early king salmon return to the upriver Columbia is forecast at 141,400 fish, well under last year's 203,000 run and 25 percent lower than the 10-year average.
The anticipated decrease in chinook is likely to affect the length of the first half personal-use seasons.
For sport sturgeon fishers, an overall harvest cap of 7,790 for 2013 will seem close to last year's number, but it's the amount of expected effort to catch the white sturgeon that caused managers to tweak openings for the coming year.
The number of angling days both above and below the Wauna powerlines break, downstream from Longview, will be reduced this spring to reduce the first opening's take and maintain supply for fall openings.
Last year anglers caught so many whites that the fall keeper season had to be canceled.
OPTIONS FOR SPRING KINGS
Under the existing permanent regulations (2012-2013 FishWashington pamphlet), the lower Columbia River from Buoy 10 near the mouth upstream to the Interstate 5 bridge at Vancouver are open daily for the taking of marked chinook salmon, marked steelhead and other gamefish.
From March 1 through April 5, anglers will have another 32 miles to fish upstream from the I-5 crossing to Beacon Rock daily, except for several Tuesday closures for anticipated commercial opportunities.
Also during this period Washington side bank anglers can fish from Beacon Rock up to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam.
Above Bonneville Dam the personal use fishery is March 16-May 6 to both boat and bank anglers between the Tower Island powerlines six miles below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers only may also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the Tower Island break.
Effective March 1, a differential bag limit applies to the Columbia.
Anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam will be allowed to retain one hatchery-produced (adipose fin-clipped) adult spring chinook per day as part of their catch limit. Above Bonneville, when they begin fishing in the middle of March, anglers may keep two marked hatchery adult spring chinook per day.
All unmarked wild spring chinook possessing their adipose fins brought to hand anywhere on the Columbia must be released unharmed without being removed from the water.
Lower Columbia salmon and steelhead anglers are cautioned to stay abreast of fishing regulation changes, posted on Friday, Feb. 1, at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=1266.
Barbless hooks are a new angling order of the day on the Columbia below the regulations break at the Washington/Oregon state line 17 miles above McNary Dam.
Fishers heading for the lower Columbia also should check the department's emergency regulations Web page for any changes in openings or closings that might come along.
Because fishing for steelhead and spring chinook in the Columbia is governed by a special federal permit under the Endangered Species Act, managers have again instituted a buffer mechanism for their harvest projection formulae. Monitoring of the sport fishery also will provide real-time numbers on angler encounter rates with wild fish.
Both a lower than forecast run-size and an increase in angler interaction with wild fish can influence the duration of this fishery.
WHITE STURGEON OPPORTUNITIES
The Columbia's 2013 sport sturgeon fishery will be capped at 7,790 whites, somewhat less than last year's comprehensive catch limit.
Managers further split this allotment among three reaches: the estuary below Wauna powerlines (4,040 fish); the lower main Columbia above Wauna (2,020 fish); and the Willamette River (1,730 fish).
Sport fisheries for white sturgeon in the lower Columbia River will unfold as follows:
Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines: White sturgeon within size restrictions may be kept daily from Tuesday, Jan. 1 to Tuesday, April 30 and Saturday, May 11 through Sunday, June 30.
From Jan. 1 to April 30, sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. From May 11 through the end of the season they must measure 41 inches to 54 inches (fork length) to be retained.
Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited.
Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam: Retention of white sturgeon is allowed three days per week (Thursdays through Saturdays) from Tuesday, Jan. 1, through Wednesday, July 31.
Sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited.
The sturgeon sanctuary downriver from Bonneville Dam, described in the 2012-13 Fish Washington rules pamphlet, will be closed starting Wednesday, May 1.
Anglers should note that catch caps have been reduced for the reservoir pool above Bonneville, reflecting decreases in sturgeon numbers in that area with retention allowed only through Sunday, Feb. 10.
The Dalles and John Day pool remain the same.
RAZOR CLAM DIGS GREENLIGHTED
The next round of evening razor-clam digs will start Thursday, Feb. 7, and has been expanded to include four management sectors: Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Long Beach.
Digging is closed before noon on all razor-clam beaches.
Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald's outdoors correspondent, since 1983 has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that now appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at http://pblogs.belinghamherald.com/outdoors.