Even with a chance at late returning coho salmon, few commercial gillnet fishermen will be out with tangle nets on the Columbia River in the next two weeks.
The cost of testing the gear on the lower main stem comes out of fishermen’s pockets and many are skeptical if their investment will mean access to more fish in future years.
Tangle nets are being tested although they are not new to the Columbia River. While the commercial fleet has adapted and tested commercial gear allowed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), they could be asked to spend more money on different nets if Gov. John Kitzhbaber’s management proposal for the river becomes a reality. The proposal would further reduce gillnetting on the main stem of the Columbia.
Mike Wullger, a commercial fishermen for 37 years who was born in Astoria, went ahead with the pilot coho fishery. The tangle net he replaced his traditional gillnet with Tuesday was required to be 3.75-inch in mesh size to catch fish with their teeth instead of gills as they swim through and cost him $2,000. Although it’s a pilot program, the net will not be reimbursed by ODFW and might not be allowed for catching coho in future fisheries. For drift gillnets in the late fall fishery, the minimum mesh size is 8 inches.
“These other (gears) take so much more to implement and it’s very questionable whether its profitable for these guys,” said Steve Fick, owner of Fishhawk Fisheries and a board member with Salmon For All.
“We’ve gone to pretty great extents to adapt,” Wullger said, who also sits on the board for Salmon For All. “I think a lot of guys are waiting to see if it works.”