Plans to launch a first ever “dead end” Spring Chinook” run emanating from Yaquina Bay are still moving ahead. A final decision on it may come as early as December at an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Portland.
Driving the program is a partnership between the non-profit group Salmon for Oregon and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Salmon for Oregon’s Jim Wright says raising young Chinooks in net pens in Yaquina Bay and then releasing them to the sea is not a new idea . Such programs have grown and flourished on the Columbia River and at Young’s Bay. The Young’s Bay operation has been operating quite successfully for decades. In the grand scheme of things, salmon hatch from eggs, hang out for a couple of years in their “birth creek” to get bigger, then head for the sea. Once they fatten up offshore they then return to their birth creeks to spawn.
“Dead End” salmon are a whole different story. They’re hatched from eggs and raised to smolt size in a hatchery. When the time is right, they are released into some body of water that leads to the sea. Later they come back to their native bay where they are all caught by fishers since the salmon just wander about, not having been spawned in a particular creek. Hence the term, “Dead End” fish. Every year, they’re all caught by fishermen or are eaten by critters offshore.
The idea is to take advantage of when different fish species spawn and get ready to head for the open sea. ODFW’s Bob Buckman says the “dead end” technique can supplement fish catches for commercial fishermen, private charter operations and the general public. He said the program is quite tempting as long as the details can be worked out and they stay away from fish run mixing. They don’t want the wild fish mixing with fish raised in hatcheries. Buckman says with careful sequencing with other fish runs, “dead ending” can definitely work out.
Buckman says there are some technical challenges to solve and some other issues to work through but he expects the ODFW Commission will get its first big dose of information on it at its October 4th meeting, 8am in Newport. If everything goes smoothly, ODFW staff and Salmon for Oregon representatives can help draft a final plan for approval at the commission’s December 6th meeting in Portland.
Buckman says it will take some time to launch the 100,000 Spring Chinook smolt releases in Yaquina Bay. But even after that it’ll still take three to four years longer before the smolts come back as big Chinook. But where there’s big Chinook, there are big tourism dollars for Yaquina Bay, which, in no small way, is THE main motive to get a new “dead end” fishery going in the Newport area.
And this could be the year that the ball really gets rolling.