By Kate Prengaman
Despite the Columbia River’s record-shattering run of fall chinook salmon, Yakama Nation fishermen may not see a much larger harvest because steelhead and coho returns are below average.
Steelhead, considered threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, are sometimes caught accidentally by chinook fishers. Treaty rights allow tribal members to keep such steelhead, but “tribes have to count all the steelhead caught, and once they get to the limit, they stop all chinook fishing,” said Kathryn Kostow, a fish analyst for the Columbia River with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The Yakama Nation decided Friday to postpone its decision on whether gillnet fishing in the stretch of the Columbia between Bonneville and McNary dams will be open next week until the catch data from this week is in, said Emily Washines, spokeswoman for the Yakama Nation Fisheries. Things are on hold while they do the math.
“That’s why we set 48-hour notices and sometimes have to make emergency closures,” Washines said. “Mostly, the fishermen are pretty used to it.”
The fishery managers use the run forecasts to adjust the season lengths and catch limits. When fish are fewer than expected, fishing is ratcheted back. While it’s more fun to scale up a season in response to fish exceeding expectations, Kostow said the management adapts either way to keep harvest at healthy levels for the fish populations. More....