Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon today approved an initial sport fishery for spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River that reflects a lower projection of returning fish but a larger share of the catch than in previous years.
Initial catch guidelines set by the two states will allow anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam to catch up to 6,905 upriver spring chinook through April 6, before the early season closes until mid-May for a run assessment.
Under the preseason forecast, approximately 160,400 upriver spring chinook are expected to return to the waters above Bonneville Dam this year, which represent about 80 percent of the 10-year average. Spring chinook returns to the Willamette River and other tributaries are also expected to be lower than in recent years.
On the other hand, 80 percent of the allowable catch of upriver spring chinook will be allocated to the sport fishery – up from 70 percent in previous years – based on policies recently adopted by the Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions.
The allocation for the commercial fishery will be reduced accordingly and no commercial fisheries will be considered before the run update in mid-May, said Ron Roler, a Columbia River fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
As in previous years, both states will manage the recreational fishery with a 30 percent buffer on the upriver chinook forecast until the results of the in-season run update are known, Roler said.
“We’ll continue to take a conservative approach in managing the fishery,” he said. “If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look toward providing additional days of fishing on the river later in the spring.”
The following fishing regulations will be in effect below Bonneville Dam from March 1 through April 6:
Fishing area: The fishery is currently open downstream from the Interstate 5 Bridge, but will expand upstream starting March 1 under the new rules. Fishing will then be open to boat and bank anglers daily from the mouth of the Columbia to Beacon Rock. Bank anglers can also fish upriver to Bonneville Dam.
Daily limit: Anglers are allowed one marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon as part of their daily limit of two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each. Any chinook or steelhead without a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar must be released unharmed.
Lewis River area closure: An area of the Columbia River will be closed to all fishing near the mouth of the Lewis River, as defined by the fishing rule posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/attach/feb2317a.pdf. Anglers must also release any spring chinook in the Lewis River itself downstream from Merwin Dam.
The two states also approved a sport fishery between Bonneville Dam and the Washington-Oregon border, east of Umatilla, to open March 16 and run through May 5. The early season allocation for that area is 921 spring chinook.
Roler said river conditions could pose a challenge to anglers this season, noting that the Columbia River is currently running high and off-color with a substantial snowpack remaining in the Cascade Range.
“We ask anglers to keep watch for changing fishing rules, but it’s also important to keep a close eye on the river conditions,” he said. “Boat anglers, in particular, have a hard time catching fish when the river is running high and dirty, and personal safety has to be everyone’s first priority.”