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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

September 9, 2010 at 2:01 PM

Lower Columbia River fall chinook fishery heating up

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News flash from the Columbia River region indicates some pretty good fishing in the lower section below Bonneville Dam for fall chinook, and thousands of anglers are turning out daily to catch them.

As Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist puts it “Only” 1,400 salmon fishing boats were counted during the Saturday, Sept. 4 aerial flight count.

During the first five days of this month fisheries sampled 465 salmon bank anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line with 46 adult and one jack fall chinook, and 10 steelhead, for an average of one salmon kept or released per every 8.2 rods based on mainly incomplete trips.

In addition, fisheries sampled 1,541 salmon boat anglers (680 boats) with 458 adult and 15 jack fall chinook, plus 19 adult coho and 10 steelhead, for an average of one salmon kept or released per every 3.1 rods based on mainly completed trips.

Starting Sunday, Sept. 12, chinook retention will be prohibited from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point Line upstream to a line projected from Warrior Rock Lighthouse on the Oregon shore to Red Buoy 4 to the orange marker atop the dolphin on the lower end of Bachelor Island. This area remains open for hatchery coho, hatchery steelhead and hatchery sea-run cutthroat trout.

At the furthest point near the Lower Columbia River mouth at Buoy 10, during the first full week of this month private and charter boat anglers averaged one coho kept per every nine rods at the ports of Chinook and Ilwaco. A reminder that anglers must release all chinook caught in the Buoy 10 area.

Elsewhere, bank anglers downstream from the weir on Grays River were catching some stray hatchery Select Area Bright fall chinook.

Boat anglers on the Lower Cowlitz River were catching some fall chinook. Look for this river to heat up soon.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 236 fall chinook adults, 17 jack fall chinook, 176 summer-run steelhead, 132 spring chinook adults, eight jack springers, 27 mini-jack springers, 13 coho, one jack coho, one sockeye and nine sea-run cutthroat trout during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

Tacoma Power employees released 82 spring chinook adults and five jack springers into the Cispus River, 27 spring chinook mini-jacks into Riffe Lake at Mossyrock Park, 39 spring chinook adults, two jack springers, and four coho into Lake Scanewa, and 234 fall chinook adults, 17 jack fall chinook, and two coho into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton during the week.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 3,590 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010. Water visibility is 12 feet.

In the Kalama River it has been generally light effort and catch.

As for the Lewis River, bank anglers near the salmon hatchery were catching some coho and steelhead.

There was pretty good effort in the Washougal River, but light catches of fall chinook on the lower river.

In tributaries above Bonneville Dam, places like Drano Lake have seen effort and catch decrease, although boat anglers were still catching some fall chinook and steelhead.

The bulk of steelhead appear to be headed up the Columbia River based upon the 7,000 to 8,000 fish counted daily the past few days at The Dalles Dam.

In the White Salmon River, bank anglers were catching some steelhead. Bank and boat anglers on the Lower Klickitat River were catching fall chinook.

In Bonneville Pool boat anglers at the mouth of the tributaries were catching some fall chinook and steelhead.

Catches have increased in the Hanford Reach area where state Fish and Wildlife staff sampled 48 boats with 117 anglers that had 20 fall chinook and five steelhead during the holiday weekend.

Steelhead may now be retained from the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. Daily limit two hatchery steelhead with a mandatory retention rule in effect.

As for Mr. Sturgy, the Lower Columbia River below Bonneville Dam saw light effort, and no sturgeon anglers were sampled. The area from Marker Number 82 upstream to the sturgeon deadline below Bonneville Dam is now open for catch-and-release.

In the Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam boat anglers in the Camas/Washougal area averaged nearly a walleye per rod when counting fish released.

(Photo taken by Mark Harrison, Seattle Times staff photographer)

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