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The Ocean Salmon Management Program - Project Overview

The Ocean Salmon Management Program (OSMP) monitors ocean commercial and recreational salmon fisheries, and conducts ocean and coastal river's investigations for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). The program uses data from these and other sources to develop management recommendations for the best use of Oregon's salmon resources, and to evaluate proposed ocean salmon fishery regulations.

The Ocean Sampling Project collects and analyzes data on Oregon's commercial ocean salmon fishery, including catch and fishing effort, recovers coded wire tags (CWTs), and gathers average weight data from commercial salmon landings.

The Ocean Sampling Project also conducts the Ocean Recreational Boat Survey (ORBS) to estimate effort and catch in the ocean recreational boat fishery. The ORBS estimates total ocean sport effort by boat type (charter and private), and interviews are conducted randomly of ocean boats to generate estimates of catch for both salmon and non-salmon species.  All sampled salmon are examined for the presence of a CWT.  Additional biological data are collected from salmon and non-salmon species, and anglers are also interviewed regarding released fish species and other specifics about their trip.

The OSMP sampling project is staffed by a project leader and an assistant project leader at Newport, and two sampling coordinators; one each at Tillamook and Charleston. The sampling coordinators serve as liaison between field samplers, fishery participants, and program staff at Newport; deliver data and coded wire tags to Newport; and also provide additional sampling when needed. We regularly sample fishery landings at all primary Oregon coastal ports, utilizing approximately 20 to 30 seasonal samplers.


The commercial salmon troll fishery was developing off the Oregon Coast by the year 1912. By 1919, there were between one and two thousand boats trolling off the mouth of the Columbia River. The State of Oregon began recording troll landings separately from gillnet fisheries in 1925.

Landings of ocean troll caught coho salmon remained relatively stable from 1925 to 1941, with landings between 2,000,000 and 4,000,000 pounds (dressed weight: head-on, viscera removed) for most years. From 1942 to 1950 catches remained near 1,000,000 pounds annually, but by 1957 landings had climbed back up to 3,400,000 pounds. The El Niño of 1958-59 resulted in landings dropping back below 1,000,000 pounds or 200,000 fish. During the 1960s and early 1970s, improved hatchery production and rearing techniques, a growing troll fleet, and good ocean survival rates of smolts to adults resulted in record landings that peaked in 1976 with 1,800,000 coho landed. From the mid 1970s and continuing into the 1990s, Oregon's ocean coho fishery has been characterized by continuing poor ocean environmental conditions and poor overall survival, increasing management restrictions, and reduced ocean harvest opportunities. Most recently, ocean conditions have shown improvements, and changes in management approaches for coho salmon have began to provide modest increases in fishing opportunity for recreational anglers.

Although chinook harvest by the Oregon troll fishery has also seen dramatic fluctuations, the long term trend was one of increasing landings. The troll chinook fishery had record harvests in 1987 and 1988. The late 1980s and early 1990s have seen a decline in harvest due to decreases in many stocks, concern for critical natural stocks under both state and federal management and the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), together with increasing allocation conflicts between river and ocean user groups. From 2006-10, there were major declines in first Klamath River fall Chinook and then Sacramento River fall Chinook that resulted in near complete closure of Chinook harvest in several years. By 2012, the situation had done a complete turn around with Sacramento Chinook back to average numbers and the Klamath coming in with a near record abundance.

Historically, coho salmon predominated in the landings, but for since the mid-1980's Chinook landings have equaled coho, and in many years made up the majority of the catch. This is primarily due to lower coho survival rates and much higher chinook survival rates and catch in the late 1980s. The commercial troll fishery has not had any significant coho opportunity to the South of Cape Falcon since 1992, and Chinook will predominate in the landings unless coho populations recover substantially to allow directed coho fisheries to resume coast wide.

Entry into the troll fishery was unrestricted until 1980 when a permit moratorium was adopted. Although 4,311 vessels already had Oregon troll permits, a goal of 2,400 vessels licensed to troll for salmon in Oregon was established. At the request of the troll industry, the Legislature reduced the permit cap to 1,800 then to 1,200 and finally to 1,000. In 2012, the permit cap was eliminated, but no means to re-issue permits was provided. This will result in a continued slow decline in the number of permits in the fishery. In most recent years, approximately 40-60% of the issued permits have actually fished in any given season.


Oregon's ocean recreational salmon fishery originated with boats fishing in the bays on stocks returning to freshwater in the fall. A few boats would venture out into the ocean on favorable days. The late 1940s and early 1950s marked the beginning of increasing effort by both the charter and private boat fleet in the ocean. Better and safer equipment plus the development of small boat basins and launching ramps and other support facilities in many coastal towns encouraged ocean fishing.

The primary targeted species of the Oregon recreational fleet has traditionally been coho salmon with chinook a distant second. The fishery has been sampled by ODFW's Ocean Salmon Management Program since the early 1960s. Ocean creel data was supplemented by salmon/steelhead tag license data through the 1980 season. An extensive statistical creel data collection program began in 1979, and that data has been the sole source since 1981.

The peak catch and effort year was 1976 when 538,400 angler trips resulted in a catch of 79,300 chinook and 501,300 coho. The daily bag limit in 1976 was 3 salmon and the season lasted from April 10 to December 31. In 1996, the seasons and catch quotas were very limited; and resulted in an ocean catch of only 11,210 chinook and 7,176 coho from 43,962 salmon angler trips.

Beginning in 1994, Oregon's ocean recreational fishery was limited to chinook salmon.  In 1998, the first selective hatchery coho (fin-clipped) fisheries were authorized off Oregon.  These selective fisheries have allowed limited, but successful, targeted coho salmon fisheries to resume. In 2011, small scale non-selective coho seasons were opened along the Central Coast in September. A result of strong recovery of the Oregon Coastal Natural (OCN) coho; this opportunity in September has proven to be an effective management option to target the abundant OCN coho while limiting fishery impacts on other coho populations of concern. These September seasons have also been very popular with the angling public.


Eric Schindler
Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife
2040 SE Marine Science Drive
Newport, Oregon 97365
(541) 867-4741


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