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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

February 18, 2010 at 5:30 PM

Spring chinook fishing seasons in Columbia River finalized

A potential record return of 559,900 spring chinook has allowed state Fish and Wildlife to provide anglers with a wide range of fishing in the Columbia River during March and April.

If the run of highly prized and tasty spring chinook, that rivals Alaska’s Copper River chinook, comes back as predicted it would be the largest return since at least 1938.

Last year, 222,000 spring chinook returned to the Columbia.

While many are excited about the robust return others are still holding their breath after returns the past two years fell below their predictions.

If the forecast proves accurate, both recreational and commercial fisheries will get additional time on the lower river, Guy Norman, a state Fish and Wildlife regional director said in a news release.

“This approach gives us the flexibility to match fishing opportunities to the actual size of the run,” Norman said. “As we’ve seen in the past two years, it can create real problems when runs fall short of expectations.”

Both Washington and Oregon fisheries managers set a 40 percent buffer on the estimated run size is designed to ensure that enough spring chinook pass upstream to meet obligations to tribal and non-tribal fisheries upriver from Bonneville Dam.

It will also help to keep down the catches of wild chinook listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act within allowable limits.

As in previous years, only hatchery-reared fish marked with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained.

Norman said an update to the run forecast will likely be completed in early May, or when about half the fish have passed Bonneville Dam.

Until then, the sport fishing seasons for spring chinook are:

Lower Columbia River from Buoy 10 to the I-5 Bridge is open daily March 1 through April 18, except closed on March 9, 16, 23 and 30.

Areas from the I-5 Bridge to I-205 Bridge is open daily March 1-14, except closed on March 9. Beginning March 18 to April 3, fishing will be open Thursdays through Saturdays only.

Areas from I-205 Bridge to Bonneville Dam is open daily to bank angling only March 1-14, except closed March 9. Beginning March 18 to April 3, fishing will be open Thursdays through Saturdays only.

Areas from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam will be open daily March 16 to May 31. Bank fishing only from Bonneville Dam to the Tower Island power lines, located six miles downstream from The Dalles Dam.

Anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam will be allowed to keep one adult hatchery spring chinook daily, while those fishing above the dam can keep two daily.

Although spring chinook do not begin to enter the Columbia River in large numbers until mid-March, some catches have already been reported.

Until March 1, the spring chinook fishery is open under regulations in the 2009-10 reulation pamphlet.

As outlined in the rule pamphlet, anglers may retain shad and hatchery steelhead when fishing is open for spring chinook salmon.

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