ODFW explains salmon fishing shutdown on Siuslaw

The Siuslaw River at Cushman (Courtesy photo)

Decision stands to close river from August to end of 2022

June 10, 2022 — On Tuesday, June 7, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) held a webinar to update the public on the methodology and results used to determine the appropriate catch limits for fisheries in the coastal districts.

ODFW announced on May 26 that all salmon fishing on the Siuslaw River and its adjacent estuaries will be curtailed for almost the entire second half of 2022.

The ODFW had scheduled an in-person meeting at the Florence Events Center to discuss the plan for salmon in coastal rivers such as the Siuslaw. Just one day after reserving the spot, the body cancelled the meeting and indicated the June 7 webinar would serve a similar purpose to the originally planned meeting.

John North, the interim assistant administrator of the Fish Division for ODFW, said, “Unfortunately, we have been experiencing a pretty tough period in recent years. The ocean conditions have ranged from poor to fair for six consecutive years and during this time frame we also experienced several marine heat waves, starting with the massive 2014 wave. These warmer conditions triggered harmful algae blooms which shifted marine life and reduced the beneficial upwelling conditions that are important to west coast salmon. This caused changes in the marine food web. We also experienced some tough conditions to our fresh water eco-systems with severe droughts in in 2015 and again in 2021.”

The webinar was held as an additional informational tool for anglers and fisheries to further explain the reasoning behind reduced bag limits in many districts, a shorter fishing season and, in the case of the Siuslaw River, a complete elimination of all types of salmon fishing this year.

John Spangler is the ODFW Fish Biologist for the Mid-Coast District which includes the Siuslaw River.

“On the Siuslaw, we have a problem. It’s certainly bad news. We’ve been below the critical abundance (threshold) three out of the last four years and this year’s forecast is again below critical abundance. So, our critical abundance threshold is 3,987 fish. Our closing metric, which is the average of the 2021 observed returns and the 2022 forecast, is 3,126 fish. The regulations for this year are the Siuslaw is closed this year to all salmon angling,” he stated.

The presentation began with an overview of the of the environmental factors which influence coastal salmon abundance and the specific conditions which have negatively impacted salmon stock.

The information provided the context for the agency’s positions on the need for limits and elimination of salmon retention, all of which are available to view at www.dfw.state.or.us/mrp/salmon/.

The period for public comments will be open for the next week and can be found at odfw.wufoo.com/forms/2022-fall-coastal-salmon-seasons/ .

According to the presenters and the information gathered by National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which underpins the work done by ODFW, the changing climatic conditions are a major factor in diminishing fish stocks.

The combination of warmer oceans and reduced fresh water in rivers and estuaries has dramatically impacted salmon lifecycles and has led directly to the unwelcome closures of the Siuslaw and adjacent marine locations.

Most of the determinations made regarding limits and closure dates fall under the “Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds,” which is a comprehensive plan for the conservation and preservation of fish habitats and coordinates the actions of all state agencies that effect aquatic resources.

One of the key factors in ODFW’s calculations is the idea of “Critical Abundance.” This is the number of individuals deemed necessary to maintain the health and viability of a particular species.

In its May announcement, ODFW said, “Forecasts for wild chinook in several coastal tributaries have fallen below closure criteria identified in the 2014 Coastal Multi-species Conservation and Management Plan, which guides ODFW’s management of coastal fall Chinook. … Unfortunately, this means the Siuslaw River and Floras Creek/New River will be closed to all salmon angling from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31 and the Coquille River will be closed to all salmon angling from July 1 to Dec. 31.”

Other coastal river systems will remain open for wild fall Chinook under permanent rules, although daily/seasonal bag limits will be reduced in the Coos, Sixes, Hunter Creek, Pistol, Chetco and Winchuck rivers, as specified in ODFW management plans. These temporary regulations will take effect on Aug. 1 in most systems, but as early as July 1 for some.