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Sep-21-2009 22:29printcomments

Wild Coho Season Closes in Yaquina, Nehalem Basins

Fin-clipped hatchery coho may be retained in both the Yaquina and the Nehalem basins.

Coho salmon
Courtesy: dfw.state.or.us

(TILLAMOOK, Ore.) - The first wild coho season in 15 years on two coastal river basins will close this week as anglers reach harvest limits designed to provide what biologists hope will become Oregon’s newest sustainable salmon fishery.

Retention of non fin-clipped coho will close on the Yaquina and Nehalem rivers at the end of the regular fishing day on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Both rivers will remain open to adipose fin-clipped hatchery coho through the end of the year. In addition, the Yaquina remains open for chinook salmon under 2009 temporary rules.

The Yaquina and Nehalem, along with the Coos and Coquille rivers, opened to the harvest of wild coho Sept. 1 under a pilot project of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Under this initiative, proposed by ODFW and approved by NOAA Fisheries, anglers were allowed to keep non fin-clipped coho for the first time since 1994 when they were listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

ODFW biologists, who have been monitoring the coho populations, believed ocean and habitat conditions had improved enough that a limited season could take place this year without putting the wild coho population at risk.

Prior to the season, ODFW set harvest limits of 500 adult coho for the Yaquina and 1,000 adult coho for the Nehalem. The Coos River basin has already reached its harvest limit of 1,000 fish and was closed to coho retention Sept. 18. The Coquille River, which has a harvest limit of 1,500 adult fish, will remain open until Nov. 30 or its limit is achieved. As of Sept. 20, anglers on the Coquille had caught 187 wild coho.

“Wild coho catch rates have increased each week of the fishery,” said Robert Bradley, assistant district fish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, who reported that the catch averaged 56 wild coho per day last week on the Nehalem. “Good catch rates, combined with generally increasing effort each week allowed anglers to harvest the quota quicker than we expected going into the season.”

Fin-clipped hatchery coho may be retained in both the Yaquina and the Nehalem basins. In the Nehalem basin, where large returns of hatchery coho are expected, the “bonus bag limit” of three hatchery fish remains in effect.

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