The game is back on in the Lower Columbia River for hatchery-marked spring chinook fishing beginning Friday (April 8) through April 15 after fishery managers determined enough fish remained in the catch guideline.
The fishery closed April 4, but fishing conditions have been terrible on the Lower Columbia River for a good number of days since early last month.
The eight-day extension will give anglers another chance to catch hatchery-reared spring chinook still available for harvest, Cindy LeFleur, a state Fish and Wildlife Columbia River policy coordinator said in a news release.
“Fishing conditions have been pretty rough in recent weeks, leaving the sport catch well below the harvest guideline,” LeFleur said. “These extra fishing days will give anglers some time to make up for the high water and turbid river conditions that have undercut catch rates to date.”
Through April 4, there have been an estimated 82,340 angler trips with 4,510 adult spring chinook kept and 1,333 released. Of those spring chinook kept 3,538 (78-percent) were upriver origin based upon Visual Stock Identification. Slightly less than half of the 7,750 upriver catch guideline has been taken. There were also 590 steelhead kept and 437 released.
The preseason expectations were: Total angler trips, 85,300, and expected kept catch, 10,100 fish (all stocks).
Officials will meet again April 14 to see if more fishing is possible.
The area set to reopen for spring chinook fishing April 8 extends from Buoy 10 up to Rooster Rock for boat and bank anglers, and to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam for bank anglers only. When the fishery is open, anglers can retain one marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon as part of their daily limit.
Anglers may also retain shad and hatchery-reared steelhead when the spring chinook fishery is open. However, all wild salmon and steelhead not marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin must be released unharmed.
Along with the eight additional fishing days, lower-river anglers could get another chance to catch spring chinook in May, once fishery managers update the run forecast. While the preseason forecast projected a return of 198,400 upriver fish, the fishery has been managed with a 30 percent “buffer” to guard against overestimating the run.
“If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look toward providing additional days of fishing on the river later in spring,” LeFleur said.
The fishing extension starting April 8 does not affect the spring chinook season above Bonneville Dam, which is open daily through April 24 between the Tower Island powerlines below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank fishing is also allowed from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines located about 6 miles below The Dalles Dam through April 24.
Anglers fishing above Bonneville Dam can retain up to two marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon or hatchery steelhead as part of their daily limit.
(Photo taken by Mark Harrison)