The Yakima River spring chinook fishery opened with high hopes, but the snowmelt runoff has dashed the optimism temporarily.
“There is not very much fishing going on right now, and we had some hot weather and now the rain which has kept the river very high and muddy,” said John Easterbrooks, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
When the Upper Yakima opened on Saturday (May 19), the state Fish and Wildlife checker sampled 20 anglers with no fish, and by Sunday (May 20) that number dropped to nine diehard anglers.
“Many realized the river was high and dirty so they didn’t bother coming back on Sunday,” Easterbrooks said.
The Yakima below Roza Dam is running about 4,400 cubic feet per second (cfs), which has come down a bit since the weekend. The area below Prosser is at 8,900 cfs, and that is still pretty high.
Despite the high water conditions the spring chinook are coming through the Prosser area with about 3,200 fish counted there and averaging close to 500 fish per day.
Last Saturday the count was 485 spring chinook; Sunday it was 567; and Monday it shot up to 673. The first fish was also counted at Roza Dam this past Sunday.
The Yakima is expecting a return of 5,000 hatchery spring chinook.
“We’re getting some good counts at Prosser, which means there are quite a few fish down below,” Easterbrooks said. “If the river keeps dropping and turns that nice green color, then there should be some fish caught possibly heading into Memorial Day.”
Easterbrooks says that was around the time when anglers turned the corner last year, and they didn’t see any fish caught until the first week of June.
“June was the biggest month for fish caught last season, and we extended the fishery all the way into the third week of July up by Roza,” Easterbrooks said. “It might be the same deal this year. Early to late June will be the time to be out there fishing and it might even go into late June.”
The Lower Yakima River is open for hatchery spring chinook from the I-182 Bridge in Richland to the Grant Avenue Bridge in Prosser. This section is expected to remain open through June 30.
The Upper Yakima River from the I-82 Bridge at Union Gap to the railroad bridge below Roza Dam is also open for hatchery spring chinook. This section is expected to stay open through July 31.
The daily limit is two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery chinook. All wild salmon and all steelhead must be released. Anglers must have the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement, plus a fishing license. Anglers may also use two-poles by purchasing a “two-pole endorsement.”