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Joint Staff report on current status of Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead fisheries

One June 25 both Washington and Oregon closed the Columbia river for Sockeye and Steelhead retention from the mouth all the way to McNary Dam. Harvest goals were met forcing the closure.

At 1pm on Tuesday the Washington/Oregon joint (PRC) committee held a compact hearing is regards to treaty summer commercial fisheries and the recreational salmon/steelhead fisheries. Here are the results of that hearing.




Upper Columbia Summer Chinook

  • Upper Columbia summer Chinook pass Bonneville Dam during June 16 through July 31 destined for areas above Priest Rapids Dam. These Chinook are not listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the population is considered healthy.
  • The 2020 preseason forecast of 38,000 adults to the Columbia River mouth is similar to the 2019 actual return (34,619), and less than the recent 10-year average return of 72,000 adults.
  • Bonneville passage during June 16–29 totals 32,424 adult Chinook which is 172% of expected based on the preseason forecast and 5-year average run timing. The run is typically 50% complete by June 29 (5-year average).
  • The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met on Monday, June 29 and updated the summer Chinook return expectation to 65,000 Chinook at the Columbia River mouth. TAC’s next scheduled meeting is Monday, July 6.

Summer Steelhead

  • Upriver stocks of summer steelhead migrate past Bonneville Dam during April 1 through October 31. Summer steelhead passing Bonneville Dam prior to July 1 are considered Skamania stock, and steelhead passing between July 1 and October 31 are classified by length as either A-Index or B-Index.
  • Summer steelhead handled in Columbia River fisheries downstream of Bonneville Dam are considered lower river stock during May-June and upriver stock during July-October.
  • Bonneville Dam passage during April 1-June 29 totals 3,831 summer steelhead, which is less than expected based on the forecast (4,400). Only one day remains in the Skamania counting period. A total of 95,500 upriver summer steelhead are expected to pass Bonneville Dam this year during July through October, which is 44% of the 2010-2019 average of 219,400 fish. 2


  • The 2020 preseason sockeye forecast of 246,300 fish returning to the Columbia River is about 78% of the recent 10-year average (316,950). The forecast includes 39,400 Wenatchee stock, 201,800 Okanogan stock, 2,800 Yakima/Deschutes stock, and 2,300 Snake River stock.
  • Bonneville Dam passage through June 29 totals 176,559 sockeye, which is slightly ahead of expectations given the forecast and 5-year average run timing. The average 50% passage date is June 24 (recent 5-year) and June 26 (recent 10-year).
  • During their meeting yesterday, the U.S. v. Oregon TAC reviewed sockeye passage to date and maintained the preseason forecast of 246,300 sockeye returning to the Columbia River.




Management Agreements

  • The 2018-2027 U.S. v Oregon Management Agreement (MA) provides specific fishery management guidelines for treaty Indian and non-treaty summer season fisheries.
  • Washington’s Upper Columbia Management Agreement (UCMA) provides additional harvest and management guidelines for sharing of upper Columbia summer Chinook among non-treaty recreational and commercial fisheries and non-treaty tribal fisheries.

Summer Chinook

  • Mainstem Columbia River Chinook fisheries occurring from June 16 through July 31 are managed based on an escapement goal of 29,000 hatchery- and natural-origin adult upper Columbia summer Chinook, as measured at the Columbia River mouth.
  • For 2020, guidance from the directors of WDFW and ODFW allocates sharing of harvestable summer Chinook as 80% to recreational fisheries and 20% to commercial fisheries for nontreaty fisheries downstream of Priest Rapids Dam (PRD).
  • Based on the preseason forecast, the harvest rate schedule in the MA, and guidelines in WA’s UCMA there were not enough summer Chinook allocated to consider targeted summer Chinook fisheries downstream of PRD in 2020.
  • Given the improved return expectation, substantially more fish are available for harvest in non-treaty fisheries, including those downstream of PRD (see table below).
  • Recreational fisheries upstream of PRD are scheduled to open July 1 for sockeye retention. Summer Chinook is closed but Washington may consider opening due to the increased allocation.


2020 Upper Columbia Summer Chinook Allocations

 Preseason In-season
Run  Size

Non-treaty Ocean Harvest

Total Abundance (w/ocean harvest)

Available Treaty Indian Harvest

Available Non-Treaty Harvest (in-river)











Below Priest Rapids Dam Allocation

Recreational below Bonneville

Recreational BON to PRD

Non-treaty Commercial









Above Priest Rapids Dam Allocation

Wanapum Tribal

Colville Tribal

Recreational PRD to Chief Joseph Dam











Summer Steelhead

  • The non-treaty ESA impact limit on wild summer steelhead is 2% during January through July. For non-treaty fisheries occurring during May and June below Bonneville Dam, wild steelhead impact rates are expected to be 0.51% for 2020 recreational and commercial fisheries combined.
  • Due to the low projected returns for upriver summer steelhead, additional protective regulations have been implemented in 2020. In summer-season fisheries in the mainstem between the Astoria/Megler Bridge and the Highway 395 Bridge (near Pasco, WA) the daily bag limit cannot include more than one hatchery steelhead. Sockeye
  • The management goal for upper Columbia River sockeye is 65,000 fish at Priest Rapids Dam, which under average migration conditions requires passage of 75,000 fish over Bonneville Dam. The escapement goal for the Wenatchee River system is 23,000 sockeye.
  • The impact limit on the Columbia River return of ESA-listed sockeye is 1% for non-treaty fisheries and 7% for treaty Indian fisheries. For 2020, Commission guidance allocates the non-treaty impacts approximately 20% to commercial and 80% to recreational fisheries.




Columbia River Recreational Fisheries

  • Recreational fisheries opened for sockeye and hatchery steelhead on May 16 downstream of the I-5 Bridge and June 16 upstream. Harvest rates for sockeye in the lower river were consistent with expectations through mid-June but increased during June 16-21, resulting in an estimated 2,721 sockeye kept and 95 released downstream of Bonneville Dam through June 21. The resulting 2,735 sockeye mortalities in the lower Columbia recreational fishery was 111% of the 1% allowable ESA-take limit (2,463 fish) for combined non-treaty fisheries, 4 requiring closure of summer recreational fisheries effective June 25. The combined handle rate during the open period was approximately nine times the 2012-2018 average. Total estimated sockeye catch through June 24 in the fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam is 3,344 kept and 108 released.
  • Additionally, the recreational fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam handled an estimated 1,856 steelhead (1,481 kept and 375 released) and 427 adult Chinook (all released) through June 24.
  • Recreational sockeye handle upstream of Bonneville Dam has been minimal with a total of 22 kept and 24 released through June 28. No catch of steelhead or Chinook has been observed in this fishery to date.
  • With the in-season run-size upgrade of summer Chinook, recreational harvest potential in fisheries downstream of PRD exists; however, fishery planning needs to account for ESAlisted Snake River sockeye given the exceedance of allowable impacts.
  • The 2020 Snake River sockeye return is forecasted to be 0.93% of the aggregate sockeye run. The recent 5-year average run timing indicates that 84% of the run passes Bonneville Dam by July 4. Due to the condensed migration timing of these fish, abundance is expected to diminish rapidly throughout July.



Joint Staff Recommendation – 2020 Mainstem Columbia River Recreational Fishery


Effective Saturday July 4 through Wednesday July 8, retention of hatchery steelhead and hatchery Chinook (adults and jacks) is allowed in the mainstem Columbia River from the Tongue Point-Rocky Point line upstream to the Highway 395 at Pasco, WA. The daily bag limit includes two adult hatchery salmonids (Chinook and steelhead only) of which only one may be a steelhead. All sockeye must be released. All other permanent regulations, including bag limits for jack Chinook, apply.



  • Catch projections for adult summer Chinook downstream of Bonneville Dam are for a handle of approximately 515 fish with 335 kept. When combined with release mortalities from the prior steelhead/sockeye fishery the total summer Chinook mortality is expected to be 606 fish, or 24% of the available guideline. Harvest from Bonneville Dam upstream to Priest Rapid Dam is expected to not exceed 100 adult Chinook which is well within the available guideline for that river section.
  • Staff expects that anglers will shift their focus to Chinook, however some handle of sockeye may still occur. The expected sockeye handle of 285 fish should not result in any additional mortality to ESA-listed Snake River sockeye.
  • The staff recommendation is a cautious approach to opening Chinook and steelhead fisheries that allows for a review of fishery results from the Fourth of July weekend prior to considering additional opportunity. Handle rates observed in this timeframe will inform expectations for a potential extension.





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