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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

May 21, 2009 at 12:56 PM

Icicle River opens tomorrow for spring chinook fishing, but it might be on the early side to go

The Icicle River spring chinook fishery opens tomorrow [May 22], but don’t hold your breath on catching any fish just yet.

“The run seems to very late,” said Art Viola, a state Fish and Wildlife in Wenatchee.

That is an understatement as many who have followed this year’s Columbia River spring chinook run can attest to that.

In order for the Icicle fish to make it up to the river itself they must first navigate past seven Columbia mainstem dams. The final two mainstem dams are Rock Island and Wanapum. As of yesterday there was about 2,000 spring chinook in transit somewhere in between there that could be headed to the Icicle.

“We’re not seeing anything yet,” said a spokesman at the Wenatchee state Fish and Wildlife District Office. “We had some hot weather and I know a couple of days ago the river was pretty muddy from the snowmelt runoff. I am not sure if it has cleared up since then.”

In other words it’d be better to wait before hitting up this popular late-spring/early summer fishery located just outside of Leavenworth in Chelan County.

Fishing will be open May 22 through July 31 from the closure signs located 800 feet upstream of the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam. Daily limit is two salmon with a minimum size of 12 inches.

The in-season run analyses predict that about 5,000 salmon are currently en route to the Icicle River. Although upper Columbia River spring chinook have been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the salmon returning to the Icicle River are not listed under the ESA.

About 1,000 salmon are needed to meet hatchery broodstock. The 2009 return ensures that the hatchery will meet its escapement needs; the remaining fish will be available for harvest.

Other rules include a night closure will be in effect. Release fish with one or more holes (round, approximately ΒΌ” in diameter) punched in the tail of the fish (caudal fin). These fish are part of a study and have been anesthetized; the FDA requires a 21 day ban on consumption of these fish.

This year’s opener is later than previous years due to a delayed salmon run. Listed steelhead spawning activity on the Icicle River also appears to be late. The delayed opener will ensure that the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery will be able to collect the needed salmon for broodstock and that most steelhead have finished spawning and cleared the river before the season opener.

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