VANCOUVER, Wash. – Starting Oct. 2, anglers will be required to release any chinook salmon they intercept on the Cowlitz, Green and North Fork Toutle rivers due to low returns of hatchery chinook.
State fishery managers at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) said the closures are necessary to ensure that enough fall chinook return to those rivers to support hatchery production during the coming year.
All three rivers will remain open to retention of other fish species, as listed in the 2017 Sport Fishing Rules.
“This was a tough decision for fishery managers, but we can’t ignore the lagging chinook returns,” said Dan Rawding, acting WDFW regional fish manager. “We have to think about producing fish for next year too.”
According to the pre-season forecast, 3,900 hatchery fall chinook were expected to cross Barrier Dam this year, with a goal of collecting 1,900 fish for hatchery broodstock. So far, only 700 chinook have returned to the river, and Rawding said fish managers are now hoping to get 1,400 back to the hatchery.
The Cowlitz River remains open to fishing for coho salmon, summer steelhead, and sea-run cutthroat trout.
On the Green River, only 400 chinook have been collected this year out of an expected return of 1,000 hatchery fish. The broodstock goal is 800 fish at the hatchery, which produces chinook returning to the Green and North Toutle rivers.
Two other large Columbia River tributaries – the Kalama and the Washougal – will remain open to fishing for chinook salmon. There, too, chinook returns are lower than expected, but fishery managers still expect to meet hatchery broodstock goals on those rivers, Rawding said.
Rawding said WDFW will continue to monitor salmon returns in area rivers, and will consider reopening rivers to chinook fishing if returns improve in the coming weeks.
More information about these rule changes can be found on WDFW’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/