2020 Lower Columbia Springer Season Set

Editor’s note, 10:10 a.m., Feb. 20, 2020: Updated at bottom with Willamette River info

Spring Chinook fishing on the Lower Columbia will be open every day in March then switch to a Thursday-Saturday schedule for April’s first two weeks, if the sport quota of 2,899 fish isn’t filled beforehand.

BRENDA SKINNER SHOWS OFF A COLUMBIA RIVER SPRING CHINOOK CAUGHT DURING A PAST FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Oregon and Washington salmon managers made that decision today during a joint meeting in Portland.

Another meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 15 to determine if additional days can be opened, a source confirms.

For the second year in a row, fishing on the lower end of the big river will be limited to the waters from Bonneville Dam down to Warrior Rock, at the north end of Sauvie Island.

That is due to low returns of springers expected back to Washington’s Cowlitz and Lewis Rivers and which are being used to reintroduce the year’s first returning salmon higher into each watershed.

The forecast calls for 1,400 to each system and to meet hatchery broodstock goals requires 1,337 and 1,380 adults, respectively.

Back on the Columbia, angling from Bonneville down to Beacon Rock is again bank only.

Barbless hooks will be required throughout the open waters.

The daily limit is two adult hatchery salmonids, but only one of which can be a king.

“Inseason management may occur prior to mid-April, as is always the case,” the source cautioned.

This year’s quota prior to the May runsize update is about 800 fish fewer than 2019’s. It’s based on a forecasted run of 81,700 above-Bonneville springers, minus the 30 percent preseason buffer.

The 2,889 figure represents kept catch plus release mortalities.

The Columbia’s upriver springer run has seen better days.

Over the past decade at the mouth of the river it has averaged 188,600, with a range from 73,000 in 2019 to 315,000 in 2010.

This year’s is 43 percent of average, and if it comes to pass, it will join the previous three runs as the four lowest returns since 2010.

Ocean conditions in recent years are being blamed for poor returns.

ODFW and WDFW staffers had proposed a 41-day fishery from March 1-April 10, but ultimately decided to go with the three-day late-week opener approach. Catches typically ramp up in mid-April.

The recreational-commercial spring Chinook allocation for this season is 75-25, down from 80-20 last year, a result of a recent agreement between the directors of both state agencies. Only tangle nets can be used during any mainstem netboat openers.

THE NEWS IS A BIT BRIGHTER on Oregon’s Willamette, where more hatchery fish should be available for barbecues.

“Managers from the ODFW believe if the Willamette run comes in as expected sport anglers could harvest as many as 10,000 fin-clipped spring Chinook,” says Buzz Ramsey.

Already a few have been caught around Portland, with others looking at turbidity gauges in anticipation of clearing water.

The forecast calls for 40,800 Willamette adults back to the Columbia mouth, which is slightly fewer than last year’s forecast but also more than actually returned, 27,292.

Daily limit is two hatchery kings and each angler can use only one rod as the second-rod endorsement is not in place, at least to start the season, per ODFW.

Unlike the Columbia, barbed hooks are allowed.

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