Tribes prepare for sizable chinook run

By Seattle Times staff

7/9/03

A strong salmon run up the Columbia River has prompted harvest managers to schedule the first tribal summer gillnet fishery in 38 years. The tribal commercial opening is scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. Monday and continue through 6 p.m. July 16.

The tribes will sell their catch of chinook as well as steelhead, shad, carp and walleye from sites along a 150-mile stretch of the river from Bonneville Dam to the McNary Dam near Umatilla, Ore.

This year's summer chinook run is expected to reach 120,000 fish. That would rank as the second-highest summer chinook run since 1960, when 125,700 fish returned, and is a big increase from 1995, when the summer run barely climbed above 15,000.

Stuart Ellis, harvest-management biologist for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, attributes the bigger summer runs to improved conditions in the salmon's ocean-feeding grounds.

Ellis said strong runs do not represent a recovery of the Columbia's salmon runs. But they do represent a significant rebound. "We're making progress, that's the message," he said.

Tribal officials expected about 150 to 200 gillnets to be in the river during next week's opening. Those nets are expected to catch several thousand fish.

Tribal commercial harvests already are under way from dipnet platforms at various spots along the river. The harvests involve the Yakama, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Nez Perce tribes.

 

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