NEWPORT, Ore. - The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday approved new fees for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon fishing in the Columbia River Basin.
The fees are part of Gov. John Kitzhaber's plan to end non-tribal commercial gill netting in the Columbia River channel. It allows recreational anglers to catch more salmon in the Columbia River channel by moving commercial gill-netters into off-channel areas.
But it also requires recreational anglers to pay a new set of fees – $9.75 a year or a dollar a day. The fees are expected to generate $1 million a year. Most of that money will be used to boost the production of hatchery fish for commercial gill-netters to catch in off-channel areas.
Hobe Kytr of the gill-netting group Salmon for All said that funding won't make the gill-netters whole once they are barred from fishing on the Columbia River channel.
"If it helps further the concept so we can have something to catch, then I guess that's fine and dandy," he said.
But he said the river's off-channel areas don't have enough capacity to support the gill-net fishery.
"We have opposed this plan from the get-go," Kytr said.
Commissioners said they were surprised to learn that the fees would have to apply to sport fishing in tributaries of the Columbia River as well as the main channel. That means people fishing for salmon in the Deschutes River or the John Day or even the Oregon stretch of the Snake River will have to pay the fees as well.
That was unwelcome news to Commissioner Laura Anderson of Newport. She was the sole board member to vote against the new fees. Anderson said she thought the fees would be limited to sport fishers in the Columbia River channel, or main stem.
"I really don't feel good about what I feel is a switcheroo," she said. "I think the intent was for a main stem to main stem commercial-recreational deal."
Commissioner Bobby Levy asked Oregon Fish and Wildlife Fish Division Administrator Ed Bowles whether the meeting would be packed "with people screaming their heads off" if more recreational anglers knew the fees applied to fisheries in tributaries to the Columbia River and not just the main channel.
Bowles said organized sport fishing groups helped negotiate fees but most of the public is still unaware of them.
"The public blowback is probably still to come," he said.
Washington state already imposes a surcharge for fishing on the Columbia River.