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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

April 9, 2010 at 1:29 PM

Lower Columbia River spring chinook fishery heating up

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Got the latest word that the Lower Columbia River below the I-5 Bridge was lights out for spring chinook fishing this morning and yesterday with some getting close to a fish per rod.

Can’t get any better than that since the daily catch limit is one hatchery-marked chinook per person.

Best bite has been around Hayden Island, Davis Bar, Frenchman’s Bar and Sauvie Island.

Water conditions below remained a bit dirty from all the muddy runoff spewing out of the Willamette River so areas from Kalama down to Longview haven’t seen much action.

The Willamette River itself has also been good at times.

The sport fishery in the Lower Columbia River is open from the mouth at Buoy 10 up to the I-5 Bridge through April 18.

The commercial fishery went in the water on Wednesday, and according to Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist, “got what they expected which was 6,000 spring chinook (3,200 the week before).”

“They are now done fishing until further notice,” said Hymer.

Here are some factoids on the Columbia River spring chinook fishery:

Through April 4, the preliminary total catch of spring Chinook (all stocks) in the Columbia River downstream of Bonneville Dam is estimated at 11,100 fish (9,600 kept) from 90,600 angler trips.

The February effort of 7,600 angler trips was the highest since 2004 (9,500), and February kept catch of 128 fish was the highest since 2003 (209).

The March effort of 63,400 angler trips was the highest since 2003 (65,800), and the March kept catch of 6,800 fish was the highest since 1990 (9,000).

Of the total catch through April 4, about 7,700 have been upriver stock. The total kept and release mortality for upriver fish (“catch balance”) is estimated at 6,900 fish, or 40 percent of the 17,200 available to sport anglers. A balance of 10,300 upriver fish (kept and release mortalities) remains available for the recreational fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam from April 5 until a run update.

Catch rates and effort downstream of the Willamette have been relatively low over the last week due to high turbidity from lower river tributaries.

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Angler effort has increased upstream of the Willamette River, where water conditions are still favorable and recent catch rates have been very high. A total of 900 boats were counted on April 7 between Sauvie Island and I-5 Bridge, representing 75-percent of all boats counted on the lower Columbia.

Based on catch through April 4 and current catch rate information, no changes to the ongoing fishery are anticipated at this time.

With the increase in angler effort and catch the fishery below I-5 is scheduled to remain open through April 18, but if they go over the 17,200 ceiling then fisheries officials could shut it down earlier.

The Technical Advisory Committee will meet early next week to make a decision and get an update on the sport catches from this coming weekend.

(Photos take by Mark Harrison, Seattle Times staff photographer)

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