Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist reported the first spring chinook of the year returned to Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery on Wednesday (Feb. 26), which comes on the heels of what is expected to be a huge return to the Columbia River.
Washington and Oregon fisheries managers in late January agreed on Columbia River hatchery spring chinook fishing seasons with anglers getting 36 days below Bonneville Dam and 55 days above Bonneville.
The seasons came to light on the heels of a 2014 upriver Columbia River spring chinook prediction of 308,000 compared to a forecast last year of 141,400 and an actual return of 123,100. If the run actually pans out then it would be the fifth-largest return since 1980.
The Lower Columbia River up to Bonneville Dam would be to open sport fishing from this Saturday (March 1) through April 7, and closed for commercial fishing on March 25 and April 1. The Lower Columbia kept catch would be 12,400 adult fish.
When fishing opens on the lower river this Saturday, the fishery for boat and bank anglers will expand upriver to Beacon Rock, and bank fishing also allowed from Beacon Rock upriver to the fishing boundary just below Bonneville Dam.
The Columbia River from above Bonneville to the Washington-Oregon border upstream 17 miles above McNary Dam would be open from March 16 through May 9. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville up to the Tower Island powerlines during this time frame. The kept catch would be 1,325 adult fish.
The daily limit will be one hatchery chinook in all open sections. Barbless hooks are required, and wild unmarked salmon and steelhead must be released.
The lower river is currently open for hatchery spring chinook below the I-5 Bridge.
The breakdown is the Upper Columbia portion of the spring chinook forecast is 24,100 in 2014 compared to a forecast last year of 14,300 and an actual return of 18,000.
The Snake River spring/summer component of the spring Chinook forecast is 125,000 in 2014 compared to a forecast last year of 58,200 and an actual return of 67,300.
The Snake River wild spring chinook forecast is 42,200 in 2014 compared to a forecast last year of 18,900 and an actual return of 21,900.
The Wind is expecting 8,500 spring chinook compared to a forecast last year of 3,000 and an actual return of 3,600. At Drano the tally is 13,100, up considerably from 4,900 and 7,300. The Klickitat will see a slight bump with 2,500 compared to 2,200 and 1,800.
In the Lower Columbia, the Willamette River on the Oregon side, is expecting 58,700 spring chinook (59,800 was forecasted in 2013 and the actual return was 47,300). The Cowlitz forecast is 7,800 (5,500 and 9,500); Kalama is 500 (700 and 1,300); and Lewis is 1,100 (1,600 and 1,800).