For the third year in a row, predicted coho salmon returns are high enough to open some rivers and lakes to the harvest of wild fish. In 2011 these include the Nehalem, Tillamook Bay, Nestucca, Siletz, Yaquina, Alsea, Siuslaw, Umpqua, Coos, and Coquille rivers and Tenmile Lakes. Established wild coho fisheries will continue in Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the seasons in June but, because coastal coho are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, fishery managers also needed approval from NOAA Fisheries, which came on Aug. 24.
The daily bag limit for wild coho will be one fish on all water bodies, but seasonal limits, harvest quotas and angling deadlines will vary with each river. For a complete description of the 2011 wild coho seasons go to http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing/docs/2011_Coastal_Fall_Chinook_Seasons_table.pdf
In order to allow some wild coho harvest while still allowing enough fish upriver to spawn, biologists have set conservative harvest quotas for each river basin. Quotas range from 200 to 1,300 fish.
According to Mike Gray, ODFW fish biologist in Charleston, the wild coho fisheries have been gaining popularity among anglers.
“When that first season opened in 2009, the fishery was relatively new and anglers didn’t even catch the quota on the Coquille,” he said. By the second year, he added, anglers had started to figure things out and the fish were cooperative so the quota was reached quickly and the season closed early.
“By now, people up and down the coast are excited about being able to keep wild coho and look forward to the season,” Gray said.
In addition to providing angling opportunity, biologists also see the wild coho seasons as a sign that salmon recovery efforts are paying off. Agencies, watershed councils, and private landowners have expended significant effort and resources into restoring watersheds and salmon habitat, and the momentum is paying dividends for fish.
“We may not be exactly where we want to be in removing the coastal coho from the threatened and endangered species list,” Gray said. “But the fact that we can now fish for wild coho means many local populations have made a significant comeback.”