So what the heck sort of Chinook were they, those two salmon that zipped past the fish-counting window at Bonneville Dam last Wednesday afternoon?
Was the unclipped adult and jack right on its tail pilot fish for what’s forecast to be a big spring run?
Or were they woefully tardy fall brights, four months late to the spawning grounds on the Hanford Reach or the Snake River?
Or woefully misguided Lewis River falls?
That last stock has been found spawning in the wild as late as April, but that river is also downstream 60 miles.
Or woefully navigationally challenged Willamette springers or North Coast fall-winters?
“Inconclusive – tough photo to view,” is the official word out of WDFW Vancouver’s office this morning, which emailed pics of them out yesterday afternoon to the delight of time-wasting bloggers everywhere (in the 1200 block of 1st Ave. S., Seattle).
Have a guess for yourself — and cross your fingers they’re early springers which are open for angling below I-5.
Spring chinook fishing is currently open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis from Buoy 10 near the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to the Interstate 5 bridge. Under the new rules adopted today, the sport fishery will expand upriver to Beacon Rock from March 1 through April 6. During that period, the sport fishery will close on three Tuesdays – March 20, March 27 and April 3 – to accommodate commercial fisheries.
Starting March 1, bank anglers will also be allowed to fish from Beacon Rock up to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam.
Above Bonneville Dam, the fishery will be open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis from March 16 through May 2 between the Tower Island powerlines six miles below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines during that time.
Starting March 1, anglers fishing downriver from Bonneville Dam may retain one marked, hatchery-reared adult spring chinook as part of their daily catch limit. Above the dam, anglers can keep two marked adult spring chinook per day effective March 16.
This year’s forecast of 314,200 upriver spring chinook is up significantly from 2011, when 198,400 upriver fish were projected to enter the Columbia River. Although last year’s run exceeded that forecast, extremely high water conditions put a damper on catch rates for much of the season.
To guard against overestimating this year’s run, the states will again manage the fisheries with a 30 percent buffer until the forecast is updated in late April or early May.
Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon have already scheduled a meeting April 5 to review the catch and determine if the season can be extended. If the catch to that point has not reached the initial harvest guideline, the two states will consider an immediate extension, said LeFleur, the WDFW fishery manager.
“We’ve agreed to take a conservative approach until May, when we typically know how many fish are actually returning,” Le Fleur 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.”