Thursday, July 25, 2024

Brewster Pool off limits for derby as Okanogan and Similkameen chinook stocks struggle to recover

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BREWSTER – The boundaries for the upcoming 18th annual Brewster King Salmon Derby have been adjusted after the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced the 2024 seasons for the Columbia and Snake Rivers. A favorite chinook anchorage will be off limits this year after a crippling weather event dealt a blow to juvenile fish four years ago.

WDFW Regional Fish Program Manager Chad Jackson said the popular Brewster pool at the mouth of the Okanogan River will be off limits for Chinook to protect brood stocks.

“For the fishery above Priest Rapids Dam which we call the Upper Columbia the only change we had was closure of the Brewster pool only between the Brewster Bridge upstream to a line drawn between Pelican Point and Gunn Club Road just above the confluence above the Okanogan River,” said Jackson. “We are not anticipating very many hatchery or wild summer chinook returning to the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers.”

Sport fishermen will still be able to pursue chinook below the Brewster Bridge and above the Pelican Point/Gunn Club Road boundary.

Derby organizer Mike Mauk, owner of Brewster Bait and Tackle, said the sockeye run predicts 400,000 fish this year, and some big chinook are available outside the pool boundaries.

“One year, a 40-pound king was caught above Wells,” Mauk recalled.

Jackson cited “some pretty catastrophic events that occurred in 2021 with the juvenile salmon. The fish that were out-migrating experienced a 1,000-year flood event in the Canadian portion of the Similkameen River.”

Jackson said the water conditions were so severe that the juveniles had to be released in an emergency in December to avoid being lost in the acclimation ponds.

What Jackson described as the “weird rain on snow event” that caused the loss was localized to the Okanogan and Similkameen system.

“The hatchery fish are pit tagged, and there was minimal detection downstream,” said Jackson, who added that wild stocks suffered similar losses. “We are not confident that the adult returns this year are going to be very large.”

Jackson said the closure is all about restoring the health and numbers of future runs.

“The outlook is grim,” said Jackson. “We want to provide some relief for those fish returning to the Okanogan and Similkameen that hold in the Brewster pool.”

The Okanogan and Similkameen rivers will be closed to salmon fishing as well.

“The Colville Tribe is closing its season,” said Jackson. “The tribe will not be harvesting fish for food in the Okanogan River or at the confluence. They will be using the purse seiner to collect chinook and sockeye for broodstock.”

Mauk said that about 50 of the 330 derby tickets available this year have been sold. Tickets can be purchased online at brewstersalmonderby.com. Ticket sales will end at midnight on July 30.

More information about the Columbia and Snake River 2024 North of Falcon Salmon and Steelhead Seasons is available online at youtube.com/watch?v=98wGkWYVftc.

Mike Maltais: 360-333-8483 or michael@ward.media.

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