It was bound to happen at any moment and it finally did on Sunday.
The first spring chinook was reported caught in the Lower Columbia off Caterpillar in Vancouver.
According to Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist in Vancounver, the springer weighed about 12 to 14 pounds, and it was an upriver four-year-old fish based on Visual Stock Identification.
The upriver Columbia River spring chinook forecast is 314,200 (plus about 100,000 more Willamette River and lower river tributary spring chinook) compared to a forecast last year of 198,400 and an actual return of 221,200. It would be the fourth largest dating back to 1980, with the largest return of 440,300 happening in 2001.
The second largest occurred in 2002 when 335,000 upriver springers returned, and the third largest was 315,000 in 2010.
Harvest guidelines adopted will allow anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam to catch and keep up to 14,500 hatchery-reared spring chinook before the run forecast is updated in May.
Spring chinook fishing is currently open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis from Buoy 10 near the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to the I-5 bridge.
Under the new rules, the sport fishery will expand upriver to Beacon Rock from March 1 through April 6. During that period, the sport fishery will close on three Tuesdays – March 20, March 27 and April 3 – to accommodate commercial fisheries.
Starting March 1, bank anglers will also be allowed to fish from Beacon Rock up to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam.
Above Bonneville Dam, the fishery will be open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis from March 16 through May 2 between the Tower Island powerlines six miles below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines during that time.
Starting March 1, anglers fishing downriver from Bonneville Dam may retain one marked, hatchery-reared adult spring chinook as part of their daily catch limit. Above the dam, anglers can keep two marked adult spring chinook per day effective March 16.
As in years past, only hatchery-reared spring chinook marked with a clipped adipose fin may be retained. Any unmarked wild spring chinook must be released unharmed.