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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

April 30, 2012 at 5:17 PM

Columbia River anglers above Bonneville get extra days to fish for hatchery spring chinook

A predicted late spring chinook return will allow anglers four extra days to fish on a stretch of the Columbia River above Bonneville Dam.

Fishing for hatchery-marked spring chinook will remain open through May 6 from the Tower Island powerlines to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish from the powerlines downriver to Bonneville Dam.

While state fishery managers are saying the run is late this year, in a Technical Advisory Compact meeting today it was disclosed that the upriver spring chinook run will unlikely meet the preseason forecast of 314,200 fish at the river mouth, which would have been the fourth largest return on record.

Fish counts at Bonneville Dam in recent days looked promising for spring chinook, but have since plummeted.

Here is a look at the dam count numbers: April 23, 4,376 spring chinook; April 24, 4,873; April 25, 2,427; April 26, 1,382; April 27, 781; April 28, 603; April 29, 823 for a total return to the dam of 21,558.

“Flows are the likely reason why we’ve seen a drop in the numbers at Bonneville,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.

Water flows have been over 400,000 cubic feet per second during April 26-29, with 46-percent of the flow coming from spill, the committee reported.

Based on the 10-year average, the 50-percent passage date is May 6 (range April 24-May 12).

It is projected sport anglers above Bonneville in the Columbia mainstem will catch about 232 of 1,689 spring chinook through May 2, the original closing date.

“Fishing above Bonneville Dam has been slow, with the bulk of the run yet to arrive,” Cindy LeFleur, a state Fish and Wildlife Columbia River policy manager said in a news release. “Both states agree we can safely give anglers an additional four days of fishing above the dam with little risk to the resource.”

“We’ll have a better idea of the actual size of the run once more fish have passed Bonneville Dam,” she said. “That assessment will also determine whether we can give anglers additional time to fish.”

Many Columbia River tributaries above and below Bonneville are open for spring chinook fishing. Some include the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, Wind, Klickitat rivers, and Drano Lake. The Willamette River in Oregon is also open for fishing.

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