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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

December 19, 2011 at 9:56 AM

Look for early spring chinook fishing action in Willamette River in Oregon

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It might be time to pick up some frozen herring sooner than later, and start tuning up the salmon fishing gear.

The Willamette River is expecting a fairly good return of 83,400 spring chinook, but what’s got anglers jumping for joy is the more than 20,000 five-year-old fish in that mix.

This is likely to get many anglers heading to the Lower Willamette, a tributary of the Lower Columbia River on the Oregon side, right after the New Year and into March as they tend to migrate back earlier.

These fish will go after an anglers presentation more aggressively, and are usually much bigger than the four-year-olds, which normally make up the bulk of the return figure.

“Spring chinook fishing was good in February (last season) for five-year-old fish,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist, although last year the upriver returnees saw a good number of five-year-olds as well and this year’s forecast of 314,200 is expected to be made up of mainly four-year-olds.

Last year, the Willamette had an actual return of 80,254 with a forecast of 104,000.

Fishing the Lower Columbia River opens Jan. 1 and will be open through March 31, and possibly longer once seasons are decided at a meeting on Jan. 26 in Oregon City.

(Photo by Mark Harrison, Seattle Times staff photographer)

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