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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

September 12, 2013 at 5:21 PM

Record fall chinook run, the largest in 75 years, will extend Lower Columbia fishing season

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The Columbia River upriver fall chinook salmon run has been a record setting season – the largest in the past 75 years – and catches have been one for the memory books.

The latest forecast is somewhere between 664,000 to 835,000 adult chinook, and much larger than the record 420,000 set in 1987.

More than 48,700 chinook set a new single-day record count at Bonneville Dam last Saturday, Sept. 7, and was then broken Monday, Sept. 9 when 63,870 hit the fish ladder followed by 56,044 on Tuesday, Sept. 10, and 42,506 on Wednesday, Sept. 11.

This will allow state Fish and Wildlife to allow a more liberal fishing season in the Lower Columbia River below Bonneville Dam starting Friday, Sept. 13 as the fishery was originally planned to close after Thursday, Sept. 12.

Both Washington and Oregon fisheries have decided on these new rules:

Allow anglers to continue fishing for chinook salmon through the end of the year in all areas of the mainstem Columbia River below Bonneville Dam open to salmon fishing.

Expand the area open to chinook retention by moving the lower boundary from Rocky Point 16 miles downstream to Buoy 10 near the mouth of the Columbia.

Allow anglers to catch and keep up to two adult chinook salmon per day as part of their catch limit below Bonneville Dam. Through Sept. 30, only hatchery chinook with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar may be retained downstream from the Lewis River.

Allow anglers aboard a vessel in the Columbia River from Buoy 10 to the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco to continue fishing until the daily limit of salmon/steelhead for all anglers aboard is achieved.

A rule that anglers release unmarked wild chinook below the Lewis River is specifically designed to protect wild chinook salmon now returning to tributaries of the Lower Columbia. Anglers fishing the big river are required to use barbless hooks to facilitate the release of fish that must be returned to the water.

Starting Oct. 1, anglers fishing that area may retain either marked or unmarked chinook after most of the wild tule chinook have moved out of the mainstem Columbia.

Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist noted in a news release that 92,000 fall chinook have already crossed McNary Dam south of the Tri-Cities and 26,000 have been counted at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River.

Anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam can retain two adult salmon, two adult steelhead or one of each as part of their daily limit. Fishing rules vary further upriver and anglers should check at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

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