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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

April 18, 2012 at 10:47 AM

Lower Columbia River spring chinook catches at midweek are the best of the season

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Good news has finally come to those who’ve been fruitlessly fishing for spring chinook in the Lower Columbia River.

Catch rates began to increase last week with about a fish per every other boat, and by last Saturday to Monday it climbed to close to a fish per boat.

Now it appears that spring catches this morning have even gotten better.

“We’ve seen quite a few fish caught (Wednesday morning) around the I-5 Bridge, and there has been pretty constant action and not a really big crowd of boats out on the water,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist in Vancouver who caught one nice 13 pound hatchery spring chinook just above the Portco Marine Park ramp in Vancouver.

“We changed up the baits we were using, and started to get some action,” said Hymer whose boat also had two other chances but the fish did stick to the hooks.

“The checks from Monday on the Washington and Oregon side was about one fish per boat average all up and down the lower river,” Hymer said. “Bank anglers also caught good numbers of fish, so if you plan to fish now is the time to go.”

Hymer says fishing conditions are excellent with warmer water temperatures and the river flow has dropped slightly. The water below the mouth of the Willamette River could get dirty in the days ahead as more mud and silt are starting to spew out.

Through Tuesday, 235 spring chinook had been counted at Bonneville Dam, which according to Hymer is still kind of down, and the day before (Monday) it was about half of last year’s count.

Still this latest surge of spring chinook has got folks more optimistic about what is expected to be the fourth largest return since 1980.

The upriver Columbia River spring chinook forecast is 314,200 compared to a forecast last year of 198,400 and an actual return of 221,200. The largest return of 440,300 happened in 2001.

The second largest occurred in 2002 when 335,000 upriver springers returned, and the third largest was 315,000 in 2010.

Anglers on the Lower Columbia took 17,100 trips and caught 2,817 adult spring chinook (2,462 kept and 355 released) last week.

Through April 15, almost 79,000 angler trips were taken with 4,789 chinook kept (3,261 were of upriver origin) and 839 released, including 1,493 steelhead kept and 460 released. The ceiling catch for the sport fishery below Bonneville Dam is 12,700.

Many anglers have also switched over to targeting spring chinook in the Willamette River on the Oregon side.

Fisheries managers will meet Thursday, April 19 to review the spring chinook returns.

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