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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

January 27, 2011 at 3:27 PM

More spring chinook caught in Lower Columbia River

The silver lining of spring chinook now connects from the ocean clear up into the Columbia River as additional fish have been caught in the past couple of days.

“I’ve got a case of “springer” fever on a nice day like today,” Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist in Vancouver said in an e-mail.

Hymer says two more springers were accounted for in Wednesday’s commercial fishery bringing the total to four fish.

In addition, a spring chinook was counted at Bonneville Dam Wednesday.

“Definitely a chinook, bright but small,” Hymer said. “I’m trying to get a copy of the video for confirmation of a winter or spring chinook.”

A second spring chinook was caught in this week’s non Indian commercial white sturgeon fishery. A 24.5-pounder was caught in Zone 4, which runs from the mouth of the Lewis River up to the Clark/Skamania county line.

Hopefully this is the start of another good spring chinook return that generates a lot of income in the sport fishing industry as salmon anglers pursue them in the Big C.

The Upper Columbia spring chinook return forecast of 198,400 fish is the sixth largest since 1979. It is well under last year’s forecast of 470,000 (315,345 was actual return). The largest return was 437,900 in 2001, and the 10-year average is 219,000.

The 2011 return will host quite a few larger-sized 5-year-old fish, about 40,000 of them, are expected. The bulk of the annual returns are comprised of 4-year-old fish.

Another popular spring chinook fishery on the Oregon side of the Columbia is the Willamette River, where a forecast of about 104,000 (62,400 are expected to be brawny five-year-olds) is expected, compared to a forecast last year of 63,000 (110,000 was the actual return).

The height of the spring chinook return is March and April. Sport angler trips in the Lower Columbia have averaged 129,000 since 2002.

Those looking to get a jump start on the sport fishery can go now since spring chinook fishing is currently open on the Columbia River below the I-5 Bridge, where the daily limit is two adult fish. Anglers may also retain two adult springers dailyy in the Cowlitz and Deep rivers, but are limited to one adult fish a day on the Lewis and Kalama rivers.

Hymer says the Cowlitz River and waters near the Willamette River are probably the best bets early in the season, because spring chinook usually start showing up there first.

Spring chinook fishing seasons will be announced by representatives of Washington and Oregon fisheries at a Feb. 8 meeting of the Columbia River Compact in Oregon City.

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