So the latest word is that the Lower Columbia River could open as soon as June 12 for hatchery summer steelhead, jack chinook and sockeye salmon.
The lower river steelhead fishery, which was supposed to open back on May 16, has been closed because of concerns about the incidental catch of upriver spring chinook. That run was updated earlier this week to 165,000 spring chinook enough to possibly allow reopening the lower river. However, it is nowhere near the pre-season forecast of 298,000.
“It isn’t a big increase, but it may be enough to restore some fishing time for steelhead in the lower river,” said Cindy LeFleur, a state Fish and Wildlife Columbia River policy manager said in a news release. “We told anglers we’d take a close look at the numbers, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Word on the final decision of opening the lower river could happen soon.
In the meantime, beginning June 16, the Columbia River will be open to retention of hatchery steelhead, jack chinook and sockeye salmon from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco.
Anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam can retain up to two adult summer chinook (adipose fin clipped or not) as part of their daily limit from June 22 through July 5. The retention period for adult summer chinook above Bonneville begins July 1.
“Anglers can look forward to a slew of great fishing opportunities on the mainstem Columbia River in the next couple of months,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “On any given cast, you might reel in a summer chinook, a sockeye, a steelhead or a shad.”
Hymer noted that fishery managers are forecasting a return of 70,700 summer chinook this season, up from 55,400 fish last year. They also anticipate a return of 183,200 sockeye, most ranging from 3.5 to 4 pounds apiece.
Last year, fishery managers predicted that 75,600 sockeye would return to the Columbia River, but the actual run came in at about 214,500 fish, he said.
Sockeye numbers are building at Bonneville Dam with nearly a thousand fish counted on June 9. So far counts are tracking slightly ahead of last year.
About 330,000 upriver summer steelhead are also expected this year, following an early-run fish already migrating into several Lower Columbia River tributaries.
Hymer said fishing for hatchery summer-run steelhead should continue to improve in the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, Washougal and Klickitat rivers in the weeks ahead.