By Alix Soliman, Operations Manager
January 15, 2021
T oday, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to extend the popular two-rod fishing endorsement for the lower Willamette River from March 1 to August 15 this year. The amended rule, which passed with a five-to-one vote, allows anglers to use two rods or lines while fishing for all game and non-game fish, except sturgeon, downstream of Willamette Falls. This includes the Multnomah Channel and the portion of the Clackamas River downstream of the Highway 99 bridge (just upstream of the confluence with the Willamette).
After the proposal for a permanent two-rod endorsement rule on the Willamette was stymied over a year ago, Northwest Steelheaders lobbied the Commission to reconsider and played an instrumental role in influencing this temporary endorsement. To our surprise, the only “no” vote was from Chairwoman Wahl, who has historically been a strong advocate for fisheries conservation and recreation.
The basis for this rule is clear-cut. According to ODFW, the forecasted return in the Willamette River for 2021 is 52,400 fish (including 38,260 hatchery spring Chinook), which results in a projected harvest surplus of over 15,000 fish.
To comply with the Willamette Fishery Management Plan, fishing impacts are not allowed to exceed 15% on the Willamette wild spring Chinook run. During the 2017-2019 seasons, the two-rod validation resulted in total Endangered Species Act impacts of between 1.9% and 2.7% on wild spring Chinook—well below the allowable impact.
In fact, the two-rod validation will increase funding to ODFW’s fisheries conservation efforts, increasing their capacity to study spring Chinook and implement effective protections. In other words, this amended rule will have an extremely low impact on wild fish, can increase conservation capacity, is supported by ODFW staff, and is strongly favored by recreational anglers.
“We’re very pleased the Commission and ODFW approved the two-rod endorsement,” said Northwest Steelheaders Board Member Brian McLachlan. “It has broad support in the recreational community as revenue to the state budget, and as ODFW staff explained, it presents virtually no risk to the conservation of wild spring Chinook.”
“This is a victory for recreational anglers in the Willamette Valley,” said Chris Hager, Northwest Steelheaders executive director. “What’s more, this is a textbook example of what we already know: when we increase opportunities for anglers, we increase opportunities for conservation.”