The 2018 Lower Columbia spring Chinook fishery is not exactly off to a scintillating start.
“A little SLOW!” emailed Joe Hymer, a supervising fisheries biologist out of WDFW’s Ridgefield office this morning.
He was passing along bleak catch stats for March 1-4 gathered by ODFW’s Jimmy Watts.
During the month’s first four days, 710 anglers had zero salmon and just one steelhead (five others released), according to sampling results from Oregon and Washington creel checkers.
Here’s how that stacks up compared to extrapolated estimates from the last three early Marches:
March 1-5, 2017: 1,351 anglers with 12 kept springers and six hatchery steelhead, with no other steelhead released;
March 1-6, 2016: 4,400 angler trips yielding 183 kept springers (12 released) and 39 kept hatchery steelhead, with 75 other steelhead released;
March 1-8, 2015: 5,535 angler trips yielding 37 kept springers (33 released) and 111 kept hatchery steelhead, with 199 other steelhead released.
This year’s forecast is for 248,500 springers of all stocks back to the mouth of the Columbia, with 166,700 of those bound for rivers in Central Idaho, Northeast Oregon and Eastern Washington. That’s a bit more than 2017’s prediction, but down from 2016’s and well below 2015’s.
The river is now open from Buoy 10 to Bonneville, but so far the fish count at the dam shows just two Chinook so far in 2018. Their early January timing suggests late falls instead of springers.
Right now the Columbia at Cascade Island is running at 225,000 cubic feet per second, right around the 10-year average, but about 2 degrees colder than usual, 39.2 versus 41.9.
By next week, Watt says managers should have an estimated catch out for the month of February, which did see at least two hatchery Chinook headed for Lower Columbia tribs checked.