Oregon's Department of Fish and Wildlife is beginning to ease restrictions on salmon and steelhead fishing on the Columbia River starting Tuesday.
Recreational salmon and steelhead fishing will reopen for four days in May under rules adopted by ODFW and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The river has been closed for recreational salmon and steelhead fishing since March 26 to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Fishing will only be permitted on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Wednesday, May 13.
ODFW’s Rick Swart says many factors went into the decision to reopen and for how long. Part of the decision was reducing the spread of coronavirus, the other part of it is fisheries driven.
“You have a technical advisory committee watching the ebbs and flows of the river and the fish that are moving through that and then calculating their forecast and adjusting them as they go and then changing the rules accordingly based on what they find,” Swart said. “If they’re short a fish then they shut the seasons down, if they’re long one fish then they can let the seasons go.”
Swart said this is the best time of year for recreational salmon and steelhead fishing but it is also regularly limited or shutdown due to the warm waters and how many fish are present in the river.
He worries that easing restrictions now might bring out so many people that it cold result in overfishing.
“There’s a lot of pent-up demand for getting out and getting a worm wet and given all of those factors, you’re going to see a fairly, maybe high harvest rate, although the projections are people aren’t going to get out anyway because of social distancing,” Swart said. “But if we’re wrong about that and everyone and their dogs shows up at the river with their boat, the fishing is going to be good and they could hammer them.”
Fishery managers said they are pleased to reopen the fishery and provide the additional opportunity for outdoor recreation. They urge recreationists to maintain vigilance and social distancing.
“We’ve been monitoring existing fisheries, and the majority of anglers have been doing a good job of social distancing,” ODFW’s Manager of Ocean Salmon and Columbia River Program Tucker Jones said. “I caution people to use good common sense and not try and crowd too many people in a boat or stand too close to each other on the bank. A conservative approach is warranted by all of us.”
The state also approved sockeye salmon fishing starting on May 16 from the Interstate 5 Bridge downstream to the Tongue/Rocky Point line east of Astoria.
It also lifted its ban on non-resident hunting and fishing effective Tuesday but crabbing and clamming will remain closed to non-residents due to concerns about increased travel to the coast while the COVID-19 pandemic continues. ODFW said Oregon residents who do not live on the coast, should not travel there to crab or clam as the stay at home order is still in effect.
The remainder of Oregon’s recreational fisheries remain open and are subject to monitoring for voluntary compliance with the governor’s order.
ODFW will continue to monitor ongoing fishing seasons and modify as necessary to remain within allowable take limits while achieving appropriate social distancing.