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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

May 9, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Spring chinook count looks to be on par with preseason forecast, and sport fishery in lower river could reopen soon

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Just ask anyone who fished the Lower Columbia River back in the chilly and rainy (even snowy) days of late March and early April how spring chinook fishing was, and you’d probably get an egg thrown or worse yet a tire iron at your face.

My how times have changed since the lower sport fishery closed on April 19.

The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met today (May 9) to review the upriver spring chinook run status and agreed to the following statement:

“TAC is comfortable that the upriver run size will be at least at the preseason forecast of 198,400 at the Columbia River mouth.”

The TAC plans to meet sometime later this week, and the sport fishery for hatchery spring chinook on the Lower Columbia River could reopen on May 16 when the hatchery steelhead and shad fishery gets underway.

That would be the sixth-largest return since 1979.

Bonneville Dam fish counts in recent weeks have soared with 10,131 spring chinook counted on May 6; 7,870 on May 7; and 5,839 on May 8. That brings the total number counted so far this year to 106,536.

While it falls well under last year’s forecast of 470,000 (315,000 was actual return), it is now providing some stellar fishing moments in tributaries above Bonneville Dam such as the Wind River and Drano Lake, and the 163.5 miles of Columbia mainstem above Bonneville which is open through Tuesday, May 10.

“It was really good for spring chinook with about two-thirds of a fish per rod at Wind and Drano,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “They also caught a bunch of fish in the pools, but it was pretty crowded out there.”

The largest return was 437,900 in 2001, and the 10-year average is 219,000.

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