by David Johnson
Officials have recently upgraded the Columbia fall Chinook run to 1.2 million fish and as I write it 861,841 Chinook have passed Bonneville Dam.
In response to this the limits have been upped to two salmon, clipped or un-clipped.
But wait, most of the fish have passed. Thanks for throwing the bone guys!
No wonder the fishing on the lower Columbia was the best that anyone has ever seen it. You would have been hard pressed to have 20 fish days on almost any river in Alaska this summer.
You know, they could have opened it up much sooner. But instead, they get nervous we are catching too many.
This happens with managers every time when the sport fleet is having an outstanding season and catching lots of fish. It's because there are lots of fish out there.
With a run of over a million we could have had a two fish limit, non-selective season with no closures.
On the flip side to that, every year the fleet has struggled to fill a quota, the run has come in under predicted levels. Case in point, this years coho run. All up and down the Oregon and Washington coast not one coho quota was filled. In response, managers increased the seasons and dropped the requirement to release un-clipped fish.
They should be saying to themselves, "Hey, there aren't as many coho out there. Maybe we should let these seasons run their course and give the remaining fish a break."
My thought is why not have the number of fish being caught (or not caught) factored into their formula?
That's probably asking too much though. To me, it doesn't even seem like they can get their act together with the fish checkers.
With the biggest run on record they only had something like three checkers for all four ports in Astoria. I never once got checked while in Hammond for the entire season. I only was fish checked three other times in all the other ports.
And why can't the checkers be instructed to identify and record the different sub-species? Lately the population of Lewis River tule Chinook has been the limiting factor in our harvest. Nearly every fishermen out there can tell you the difference between a tule and a bright. These checkers have college degrees, shouldn't they be able to tell too?
Lately I've been so disappointed with the quality of many of the checkers. I've seen bad attitudes, laziness, lack of care for the fishery, lack of knowledge of regulations and fish biology and identification. I used to be a fish checker and I would never dream of sitting in my car and reading a book and doing my interview with passers by. I used to meet every boat out there as they came into the dock. Willamette and some Columbia checkers have been the worst. Some of the best have been in Tillamook.
Managers rely on recovered coded wire tags to tell them the run composition. But if you only have four people check thousands and thousands of anglers, their sample size is pretty small.
Then there's the barbless hook rules. Is it really there to help the fish? Why, oh why is it in effect on hatchery rivers and in non-select fisheries? This doesn't make sens12e. It's rule to make gill netters and a very small minority of anglers feel good.
And what about all those Chinook that were released in the mark-selective season? I was hearing reports from the wobbler fishery of guys catching 8-15 Chinook just to get one to four clipped fish. Catching them in 70 degree water. We all know the survival rate on those fish isn't good. Someone told me that they were figuring a 40% mortality in that fishery.
If that's the case, wouldn't it have been better on the fish population if the first four fish were kept?
The same can be said about the ocean coho. There would be so many less fish handled and potentially killed if the first two were kept. Every angler with any experience out there knows this.
It makes me sick to think of all the waste to this precious resource.
And what happened to the coho? I'm sure the ocean conditions had something to do with their survival but if you look into how many less hatchery fish have been planted you'd get some idea. The only increase in hatchery plants have been by the Tribes. Unfortunatly for us many of those hatchery fish are not clipped, many of those un-clipped silvers you throw back are not wild. That's why the gill netters can keep them.
Is it that managers don't know what is really going on? I don't know.
Just throwing out some ideas here....
Some people are going to say I'm complaining, "Haven't you caught enough fish?" Well, no. Our fisheries could be so much more world class. People from around the country and the world should see Oregon as a destination. Oregon isn't really on people's radar. Outside of our area people should be looking to Oregon and Washington instead of Alaska. If only our limits were more liberal and our seasons didn't close early...
What are some of your thoughts?