Starting today, anglers will be able to harvest Coho salmon in the Grande Ronde River for the second consecutive year.
Since Lostine River coho were reintroduced by the Nez Perce Tribe (NPT) and ODFW in 2017, Columbia River Coho returns have improved including the Lostine River stock. This has allowed the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) to open the first recreational fishery in 2020 and continue with that opportunity in 2021. Managers with ODFW and the NPT expect more than 4,000 Lostine River coho to pass Lower Granite Dam (LGD) on the Snake River, the last dam of eight, before returning to the Grande Ronde River Basin.
Coho salmon were reintroduced to provide for harvest in both treaty and non-treaty fisheries and to restore ecological function lost in their absence. Coho were extirpated in the early 1900s with multiple reintroduction efforts attempted up until the 1970s. Current pilot reintroduction efforts are aimed at assessing the success of reintroduction, using a lower Columbia River stock, prior to potential development a localized hatchery stock.
While the fishery is opening on Oct. 1, fish managers don’t expect to see fish being caught for a few more weeks. Fish have recently begun to cross LGD and will need just a bit of time to make their way up the Grande Ronde. Managers also expect that most coho catch will be incidental while anglers are targeting hatchery steelhead, and they don’t expect additional anglers on the river.
“While we didn’t see a lot of directed effort or catch of coho last year, it’s nice to give anglers the option for harvest when they do land one,” said Kyle Bratcher, District Fish Biologist. “With generally low catch rates of coho, we don’t see a lot of anglers targeting them specifically,” Bratcher added.
The regulations for the coho harvest on the Grande Ronde River are as follows: Open Oct. 1 through Nov.30, 2021, or until further notice from the Oregon-Washington border upstream to the Wildcat Bridge, approximately 7 miles upstream of the town of Troy, OR. The bag limit for adult coho salmon (>20 inches) will be two. For jack coho salmon (≤ 20 inches) the bag limit will be five with two daily limits in possession.
Creel clerks will be monitoring the fishery regularly to assess potential effects to wild fish and assess success of anglers. Information gained from creel surveys helps ODFW minimize impacts to wild fish populations and informs programs that can improve the fishery over time. Anglers are encouraged to engage with the creel clerks when they can, as they have their finger on the pulse of the fishery and can often provide anglers with beneficial information.
In addition to a strong coho return, Bratcher says that fall Chinook salmon and bull trout are also encountered on an annual basis during the Grande Ronde steelhead fishery.
“One of the great things about the Grande Ronde from a fish biologists view is the diversity of fish species,” said Bratcher. He added that “Anglers should remember that fall Chinook, bull trout, and wild steelhead cannot be harvested in the Grande Ronde and must be released unharmed.”
With a diverse makeup of fish species that anglers may encounter this year, Bratcher is encouraging anglers to brush up on their fish identification skills and to release any fish that they are unsure of the species.
Anglers should regularly check for updates to emergency regulations prior to fishing as they may change on short notice, see the angling zone in the Recreation Report at MyOFDW.com.
All other permanent Oregon sport fishing regulations remain in effect.