Overall, Oregon salmon anglers can expect another season similar to last year, fishery managers say, with the ocean outlook a bit brighter than in 2012, but prospects for in-river fishing down slightly.
Hatchery-reared coho salmon are expected to be more abundant in Oregon coastal waters this year, allowing the sport-fishing harvest quota for that species to be increased.
Also, thanks to the projected return of 1.55 million chinook salmon bound for the Sacramento and Klamath rivers, chinook fishing on the central and southern coast looks especially promising for both recreational and commercial fishermen.
On the other hand, the Willamette River run of spring chinook salmon – already well under way in the Portland area – is expected to total about 60,000 fish this year, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists. That’s down about 5,000 fish from the run observed last year.
Of the total spring chinook run, “somewhere around 36,000 or so” should make it through the fish passage at Willamette Falls, said Jeff Ziller, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fish biologist in Springfield.
He said that means “an OK run” in the upper Willamette watershed.
“That’s certainly enough to provide a decent fishery in all the locations up here — the South Santiam, the North Santiam, the McKenzie and the Middle Fork Willamette. But it’s not going to be lights-out fishing, though, I wouldn’t think.”
Ziller is more optimistic about the local outlook for the spring chinook’s smaller cousin, summer steelhead. Early steelhead counts at Willamette Falls have been good and another run of 20,000 to 30,000 steelhead is expected, he said. Good numbers of fish are already being caught in the South Santiam River.
The biologist is curious to see if a steelhead fishery develops near the Belt Line Bridge over the Willamette River, as 30,000 steelhead smolts were released from the gravel bar below the bridge two years ago and returning adults from that release might congregate near the release point.
They could help supplement the “in-town” steelhead fishery created by the release of smolts at several other spots within Eugene-Springfield.
The Pacific Fisheries Management Council set ocean seasons and regulations for 2013 at a meeting earlier this month.
For the popular coho salmon fishery, the council again adopted a split season for south of Cape Falcon, near Tillamook.
The first segment, July 1-31, will be an “all salmon mark-selective coho fishery” in which anglers will be allowed to retain only coho with a clipped adipose fin. A maximum harvest of 10,500 silvers will be allowed between Cape Falcon and the Oregon-California border. Fishing will be halted if that quota is met before Aug. 1.
Last year’s July quota was 8,000 coho. The second phase of coho season will be a “non-mark-selective coho fishery” held in early September. During that portion of the season, anglers will be permitted to retain any legal-size coho caught, without regard to fin-clip status.
Coho fishing will be allowed Sept. 1 and 2, then Thursdays through Saturdays for the balance of September, or until the quota is filled.
A harvest quota of 16,000 fish will be in effect from Cape Falcon to just south of Humbug Mountain.
Last year, the quota for the September portion of the season was 11,800 - and it was that large only because the harvest during the July segment was less than half the target, so some of the quota was carried over to September.
Ocean fishing for chinook and all other salmon species except coho runs from mid-March through the end of September south of Cape Falcon. Sport and commercial fishermen alike have been reporting good success from Newport to Bandon, according to Chris Kern, ODFW salmon manager.
Meanwhile, anglers along the Oregon Coast north of Cape Falcon also can expect good returns of chinook to the Columbia River, but quotas will be similar to last year.
There will be a two-week recreational season for fin-clipped chinook north of Cape Falcon starting early in June.