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NW Fishletter #393, May 6, 2019
 Columbia Closes To Chinook, Sockeye Fishing This Summer
The Columbia River will be closed through the summer to sockeye and summer Chinook fishing, including jacks, but there will be more opportunities to fish for coho when they return in the fall.
Developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and tribal co-managers, 2019 salmon fishing seasons throughout Washington state were finalized on April 16 during a Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting.
The Columbia isn't the only place where forecasts for Chinook returns have resulted in fishing closures. Puget Sound Chinook returns are also expected to be low in the Stillaguamish, Nooksack and mid-Hood Canal areas; and notable closures include the San Juan Islands in August, Deception Pass and Port Gardner in December and January, and Admiralty Inlet in January. Both commercial and recreational fishing will also be closed on the Fraser River through most of the summer, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun.
Kyle Adicks, WDFW's salmon policy lead, told NW Fishletter that Chinook runs have been poor--and fishing seasons scaled back--for the past three years, likely due to continuing impacts of the Blob of warm water in the Pacific Ocean. There have been other poor years and fishing closures dating back to the 1970s, he said, although things appeared to turn around in the early 2000s.
In a news release, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind acknowledged that the reductions in salmon fishing are difficult for fishermen and local communities. But the agency also noted that limiting fisheries to meet conservation objectives will indirectly benefit southern resident killer whales by minimizing boat presence and noise and decreasing competition for Chinook--their favorite prey.
Portions of the Columbia River will open in the fall, under various regulations, beginning Aug. 1. Steelhead fishing seasons in the Columbia and Snake rivers will be similar to those in 2017, when similarly low runs were projected.
Changes in this year's fishing season will be detailed in the 2019-2020 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, published in June. Highlights of changes are available in an agency summary.
Adicks said all signs are pointing to a good return of coho to the Columbia River this year. "We'll still have rules in place to try to protect as many of the summer Chinook as we can, and rolling block closures up the river for steelhead. But the coho should be pretty good," he said. -K.C. Mehaffey
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