Tag Archives: spring chinook

Oregon Lawmakers Hear Dire Warning About Willamette Salmonids, Fish Passage Work

Oregon lawmakers heard grim news about the future of Willamette Valley salmon and steelhead runs unless plans to increase fish passage around the Corps of Engineers’ so-called “Big 4” dams are expedited and fully implemented.

ODFW’s Bruce McIntosh warned that the stocks otherwise will go extinct, “likely within our lifetime,” if the federal agency and Congress doesn’t better connect the large amount of fish habitat available in the upper watersheds of the North and South Santiams, McKenzie and Middle Fork Willamette to the rest of the system.

Even as some projects to do that are years behind schedule, important funding to finish the work has been zeroed out starting this fall, he said.

WATER FLOWS THROUGH FLOOD GATES AT LOOKOUT POINT DAM DURING A 2013 TEST TO DETERMINE HOW BEST TO AID THE DOWNSTREAM MIGRATION OF LISTED SALMON AND STEELHEAD STOCKS. A STATE MANAGER SAYS THAT 70 TO 90 PERCENT OF SMOLTS DIE AT THE DAMS. (MARY KAREN SCULLION, CORPS OF ENGINEERS RESERVOIR REGULATION & WATER QUALITY SECTION)

The Corps has operated 13 dams in the watershed starting with the first 50 years ago for hydropower and flood control — preventing $1 billion in damage this spring, it touted — and has provided hatchery mitigation since Congress authorized it in 1951. They’ve also built adult collection facilities.

But the problem is getting young fish hatched in redds in the mountain reaches safely down past the dams. McIntosh says 70 to 90 percent die as they try to navigate through the facilities.

It’s more and more important with listed wild returns at Willamette Falls decreasing since at least the turn of the millennium, from 20,000-plus spring Chinook in the first years of the 2000s to 5,000 last year, and from 16,000 winter steelhead in 2002 to 2000 in 2018.

“Frankly, when you look at that, you can hear the battle drums of endangered species, not just threatened species. That’s the crossroads we sit at now,” McIntosh, the state’s deputy fish chief, told members of the House Committee on Natural Resources in a televised work session (starts at about 1:12:30) yesterday.

Increasing the number of returning wild fish could mean that fishery restrictions can be eased, but if runs continue to plummet, they will only get tighter due to the Endangered Species Act.

Pointing to a slide in his presentation that also showed Grand Ronde Tribe members dipnetting for the first time, McIntosh said, “There’s a whole fleet and economy around the fisheries at Willamette Falls and the Lower Columbia that is at stake here.”

McIntosh did acknowledge the “new actor on the stage” affecting returning salmonid numbers — sea lions that arrived at Willamette Falls in the past decade and which feast on returning salmon and steelhead at the chokepoint.

But he also reported that since ODFW received the OK from the National Marine Fisheries Service last fall to kill pinnipeds there, 34 have been euthanized.

A SEA LION FLINGS A SALMONID AT WILLAMETTE FALLS. (ODFW)

McIntosh said that most of what federal engineers need to do further up in the watershed is included in a 2008 federal biological opinion.

“Frankly, the Corps needs to get about the business of modifying those dams and operations, and Congress must fund them. That’s where we sit today,” McIntosh said.

He allowed that the Corps’ task was not easy, given the nature of the reservoirs, predation in them and how young fish prefer to travel at the surface of the lakes, and that some work has been accomplished.

Adult fish are being trucked around Detroit Dam on the North Santiam and Foster on the South Santiam, for instance, but there’s no way to collect smolts that otherwise have to go over the spillway or through the turbines and hope for the best. However, an “extreme draining” test on Fall Creek Reservoir showed promise for flushing fish and ridding the impoundment of nonnative fish.

THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS FISH COLLECTION FACILITY BELOW COUGAR DAM, ON A MCKENZIE TRIBUTARY. (ACOE)

He also said that other improvements are several years behind schedule, with the completion date at Lookout Point Dam on the Middle Fork — behind which is an estimated 94 percent of the highest quality spawning and rearing waters for springers in that system — now “unknown.”

Eighty-five percent of the best habitat on the South Santiam is behind Foster and Green Peter Reservoirs, 71 percent on the North Santiam is behind Detroit Reservoir, and 25 percent is behind Cougar Dam on a tributary of the McKenzie, he said.

And what’s even worse, according to McIntosh, is that the Trump Administration’s construction budget for Willamette basin work has been “zeroed out” starting this October.

McIntosh also highlighted how the Corps has been backing away from mitigating its dams with hatchery fish and is now producing 20 percent less than in past decade.

“And we frankly suspect there are more reductions to follow,” he said.

He claimed that the feds consider putting out their 4.6 million salmon and steelhead and 750,000 trout to be “discretionary” rather than a line item in their budget.

As the Corps has recently mulled turning over hatchery production in the basin to private vendors, McIntosh said he’s joked with federal staffers that they should turn over their dams to PGE, which saw “significant increase in survival” after it installed upstream and downstream fish passage at its Clackamas River dams.

At a cost of $90 million, 97 percent of juvenile salmon and steelhead now safely pass the facilities, according to the Portland-based utility.

ODFW’S BRUCE MCINTOSH SPEAKS BEFORE THE OREGON LEGISLATURE’S HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES, CHAIRED BY REP. BRAD WITT. (OREGON LEGISLATURE)

“What’s at stake? It’s our legacy. While we fully support the Corps and federal government efforts to restore wild fish to sustainable levels in the valley, they also have a mitigation responsibility, and our message to them is, we will not accept paper fish in exchange for real fish,” McIntosh said.

“When they get about the business of recovering wild fish, we can talk about reducing that mitigation responsibility,” he said.

At the end of the work session, Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) said that he intended to have a letter drafted supporting construction work on the Willamette system to aid fish passage.

SW WA Fishing Report (5-21-19)

THE FOLLOWING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Elochoman River– 5 bank anglers kept 2 steelhead.

FISHING HAS NOW CLOSED AT DRANO LAKE WHERE LAST WEEK ROUGHLY ONE OUT OF EVERY THREE BOATS HAD A FISH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 21 bank rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  9 bank rods had no catch.  7 boats/14 rods kept 3 steelhead.

Tacoma Power employees recovered 49 winter-run steelhead adults, one winter-run steelhead jack, 140 spring Chinook adults, four spring Chinook jacks and 20 summer-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released eight winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and they released 22 spring Chinook adults, one spring Chinook jack and six winter-run steelhead adults into Lake Scanewa located in Randle.

Tacoma Power employees recycled 20 summer-run steelhead this week.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,970 cubic feet per second on Monday, May 13. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 51.1 F.

Kalama River – 5 bank anglers had no catch.  4 boats/9 rods had no catch.

The hatchery spring Chinook escapement goal is about 500 adults. Return as of May 20 is 348 adults including 16 natural origin.

Lewis River – 1 bank angler had no catch.

The hatchery spring Chinook escapement goal is about 1,350 adults. Return as of May 20 is 472 adults including 8 natural origin.

Wind River– 31 boats/85 rods kept 9 Chinook.

The Carson National Fish Hatchery fish ladder was opened May 3 and 79 spring Chinook have returned. The hatchery escapement goal is 1,500 fish.

Drano Lake – 10 bank rods had no catch.  115 boats/309 rods kept 37 Chinook, 1 jack and released 1 Chinook.

Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery fish ladder was opened on April 29 and 1,587 spring Chinook have returned.  The hatchery escapement goal is 1,000 fish.

Klickitat – No anglers sampled.

Through May 17, a total of 40 spring Chinook adults have been counted at the Lyle Falls trap. The hatchery escapement goal is 1,100 fish.

 

  •      Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

 Pikeminnow Sport – Reward Fishery Program:

The program operates from May 1 to September 30 in the lower Columbia River (mouth to Priest Rapids Dam) and the Snake River (mouth to Hells Canyon Dam).  http://www.pikeminnow.org/

Columbia Springer Run Downgraded To 75,000

File this one under Unsurprising News, but the Columbia upriver spring Chinook forecast has been cut by a quarter as the return begins to flag.

The U.S. vs OR Technical Advisory Committee, also known as TAC, yesterday estimated that only 75,000 adult kings will return to the mouth of the big river this spring, down from the preseason prediction of 99,300.

A FISH PASSAGE CENTER GRAPH SHOWS THE 2019 UPRIVER SPRING CHINOOK RUN AT BONNEVILLE DAM (RED LINE) COMPARED TO 2018 (BLUE LINE) AND THE 10-YEAR AVERAGE (BLACK). (FPC)

If it comes to pass, it would be the fewest springers since 1999’s 43,067.

As it has become apparent this year’s run won’t meet predictions — the count at Bonneville Dam through yesterday is 46,653, more than 80,000 fewer than the 10-year average — managers throughout the watershed tightened the clamps on this year’s fisheries even more, closing waters or announcing they wouldn’t open for angling.

Idaho scrubbed the two-day-a-week Clearwater River fishery because it didn’t look like enough salmon would return to meet broodstock needs and Washington helped out by cancelling the weekends-only opener at Clarkston on the Snake and later today at Little Goose Dam.

Oregon stated that its Snake, as well as the Wallowa and Imnaha Rivers and Lookingglass Creek also would not open, then WDFW put out an e-reg shutting down the popular Wind River and Drano Lake fisheries after this past Sunday to collect broodstock for hatcheries elsewhere, such as Leavenworth, an important facility powering sport and tribal fisheries on Icicle Creek.

While the Lower Columbia fishery saw three weekend-only extensions after its April 10 last scheduled day, the overall 1,471 upriver Chinook kept plus release mortalities accrued through the season between Warrior Rock and Bonneville should be covered by the run.

In a fact sheet out a couple weeks ago when managers mulled an April 27-28 opener said that a runsize of 53,300 would cover up to 1,691 mortalities.

The Columbia below Warrior Rock down to Buoy 10 was kept closed this year to protect weak returns of Cowlitz and Lewis springers. Hatcheries on those two systems need 1,337 and 1,380 fish to meet goals and as of last Tuesday, 416 and 421 had returned.

A total of 4,700 are needed for Idaho’s Clearwater system and analysis of passive integrated transponders placed in a portion of the run show that 3,500 had been counted at Bonneville as of last week.

A SPRING CHINOOK COMES ABOARD A BOAT FISHING AT THE MOUTH OF THE WIND RIVER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The Willamette Falls springer count of 11,922 through May 16 is about 4,500 fish fewer than the 10-year average for the date but still much better than 2017’s 4,156.

As for this year’s new May lower Skagit Chinook sport fishery, only an estimated 22 had been caught through the 12th, though a better gauge of the run might be hatchery return.

If there is any bright spot to this year’s poor Columbia springer run, it might be that if this is the bottom of the salmon stock’s up-and-down cycle, it’s a whole lot better than the last big crash.

Only 24,095 and 12,792 entered the big river in 1994 and 1995, an era when there was no directed fishery on above-Bonneville-bound fish in the lower river.

Since that time, state, tribal and federal dollars have been poured into hatcheries, habitat and passage improvements, notes WDFW’s Ryan Lothrop.

The numbers of jacks — a potential indication for future runs — this year isn’t great, but it’s better than any time during the 1990s and during a downturn in the middle of this millennium’s first decade too.

SW WA Tribs, Columbia Estuary Sturgeon Fishing Reports (5-15-19)

THE FOLLOWING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Elochoman River– 6 bank anglers kept 3 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 16 bank rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  3 bank rods had no catch.  5 boats/10 rods had no catch.

JULIE McCLELLAN-JOHNSON SHOWS OFF A 45.5-INCH FORK LENGTH STURGEON SHE KEPT ON MONDAY’S COLUMBIA ESTUARY OPENER. (MD JOHNSON)

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 49 winter-run steelhead adults, one winter-run steelhead jack, 140 spring Chinook adults, four spring Chinook jacks and 20 summer-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released eight winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and they released 22 spring Chinook adults, one spring Chinook jack and six winter-run steelhead adults into Lake Scanewa located in Randle.

Tacoma Power employees recycled 20 summer-run steelhead this week.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,970 cubic feet per second on Monday, May 13. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 51.1 F.

Kalama River – 42 bank anglers kept 2 Chinook.  5 boats/13 rods kept 1 Chinook.

The hatchery spring Chinook escapement goal is about 500 adults. Return as of May 14 is 223 adults including 9 natural origin.

Lewis River – 1 bank angler had no catch.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

The hatchery spring Chinook escapement goal is about 1,350 adults. Return as of May 14 is 404 adults including 7 natural origin.

Wind River– 2 bank anglers had no catch.  107 boats/311 rods kept 68 Chinook, 3 jacks and released 1 Chinook and 1 steelhead.

The Carson National Fish Hatchery fish ladder was opened May 3 and 34 spring Chinook have returned. The hatchery escapement goal is 1,500 fish.

Drano Lake – 4 bank rods had no catch.  140 boats/423 rods kept 68 Chinook and released 2 Chinook.

Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery fish ladder was opened on April 29 and 660 spring Chinook have returned.  The hatchery escapement goal is 1,000 fish.

Klickitat – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Through May 10, a total of 15 spring Chinook adults including 1 natural origin have been counted at the Lyle Falls trap. The hatchery escapement goal is 1,100 fish.

  •  Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Pikeminnow Sport – Reward Fishery Program:

The program operates from May 1 to September 30 in the lower Columbia River (mouth to Priest Rapids Dam) and the Snake River (mouth to Hells Canyon Dam).  http://www.pikeminnow.org/

IDFG Halts Clearwater Springer Fishery; WDFW Closes Clarkston Area Of Snake

Editor’s note: Updated 2:50 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Idaho salmon managers are closing the two-day-a-week spring Chinook fishery on the Clearwater system because not enough fish are returning to cover eggtake needs, and Washington followed suit in the Clarkston area.

A FISH PASSAGE CENTER GRAPH SHOWS THE 2019 SPRING CHINOOK RUN AT BONNEVILLE DAM (RED LINE) SO FAR. BLUE LINE IS 2018 AND BLACK LINE IS THE 10-YEAR AVERAGE. OVER THE PAST DECADE, AN AVERAGE OF 111,686 SPRINGERS HAVE BEEN COUNTED AT THE DAM AS OF MAY 13, BUT THIS YEAR’S TALLY IS JUST 38,415. (FPC)

IDFG says it’s possible that the season could reopen later in May depending on dam counts, but returns at Bonneville took a downturn the past seven days after reaching a high of 4,807 last Tuesday.

So far, only 38,415 springers have been tallied at the first blockage of the Columbia, just 35 percent of the 10-year average.

“Based on the number of PIT tagged fish passing over Bonneville Dam, fisheries managers are projecting that not enough Chinook will return to hatcheries in the Clearwater River basin to meet brood needs. However, dam counts and PIT tag detections have been fluctuating and there’s some uncertainty to the actual size of the run,” IDFG said in a press release out today.

The agency said that typically by May 22 four-fifths of the Clearwater run should have gone over the dam and by then officials should know if enough are returning to reopen the season.

“Currently, the number of fish returning to Rapid River Hatchery is projected to be high enough for the fisheries to remain open in the lower Salmon River and Little Salmon River,” IDFG states.

Eric Barker of the Lewiston Morning Tribune broke the news that WDFW was also considering closing the Clarkston area of Washington’s Snake, and that has come to pass.

“This section of the Snake River is adjacent to the Clearwater River. Spring chinook salmon returns to the Clearwater are lower than preseason estimates, and this closure is necessary to protect hatchery brood stock within the Clearwater,” the agency said in an emergency rule-change notice.

That part of the river has only been open one weekend so far.

The waters near Little Goose Dam remain open, per the e-reg,

Last week, Oregon and Washington salmon managers granted two more days of fishing in Columbia Gorge pools up to the state line, but at the urging of anglers, guides and upstream tribes did not add any more time on the lower river.

They planned to provide an update on the run tomorrow.

2 More Days Of Springer Fishing Approved Above Bonneville

Columbia salmon managers OKed a two-day spring Chinook opener for the gorge pools upstream to the Washington-Oregon border this weekend.

While ODFW’s Tucker Jones expressed confidence given yesterday’s big 4,807-fish jump at Bonneville that the lower river could have also been opened, there was no support for it among the recreational advisors, guides and members of the public during a conference call this afternoon.

A GUIDE REACHES FOR A SPRING CHINOOK AT WIND RIVER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Upriver tribes also expressed concern about potential high catch rates that fishery might have and that a federal hatchery in Leavenworth was only expected to get half the broodstock it needed.

Jones’ WDFW counterpart Bill Tweit said he was hopeful for additional opportunity below the dam too, but was less optimistic about the run, which at 25,073 is the second lowest in the last 10 years and just 28 percent of the 10-year average.

A technical committee says it’s still too early to provide a reliable runsize update; the forecast was for 99,300.

Downriver test fishing this week saw Chinook catches drop compared to the previous week too.

With anglers expected to land about 113 springers a day, Jones and Tweit approved a Saturday-Sunday fishery on the Columbia from the Tower Island powerlines below The Dalles Dam upstream to the state line, plus bank fishing from Bonneville to the powerlines.

It had been proposed by state staffers as a Saturday -Monday opener, but Tweit was nervous about how close that would bring the catch to the 492-fish quota and suggested two days instead, which Jones agreed with.

He anticipates the run will come in strong enough to cover fisheries so far and Tweit noted that every day’s dam counts provided crucial information on the return.

It’s likely that a fact sheet will come out next Wednesday to just update the run size and gorge pools’ catches.

Under the preseason forecast and 30 percent buffer, the lower river quota of above-Bonneville springer mortalities is 3,689, of which 40 percent or 1,471 have been taken during the March, early April and three weekend openers.

2 Sections Of WA’s Snake Opening On Sat., Sun. Schedule For Springers

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Snake River spring chinook fishery to open two days per week

Action: Spring chinook salmon fishery opens two days per week (Saturday and Sunday) beginning May 11, 2019 in sections of the Snake River.

WITH LITTLE GOOSE DAM IN THE BACKGROUND, JEFF MAIN OF SPOKANE HOLDS A 25-POUND SPRING CHINOOK CAUGHT OUT OF THE SNAKE RIVER A FEW SEASONS BACK. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date:  May 11, 2019 until further notice.

Species affected: Salmon.          

Locations:

  1. A) Below Little Goose Dam: The Snake River from Texas Rapids boat launch (south side of the river upstream of the mouth of Tucannon River) to the fishing restriction boundary below Little Goose Dam.  This zone includes the rock and concrete area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility (includes the walkway area locally known as “the Wall” in front of the juvenile collection facility);
  2. B) Clarkston: The Snake River from the downstream edge of the large power lines crossing the Snake River (just upstream from West Evans Road on the south shore) upstream about 3.5 miles to the Washington state line (from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch in Clarkston northwest across the Snake River to the Washington/Idaho boundary waters marker on the Whitman County shore).

Reason for action:  The 2019 Columbia River forecasted return of upriver spring chinook salmon is sufficiently abundant enough to allow for harvest opportunity on the Snake River based on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission Policy C-3620.

Additional information: 

Salmon: Daily limit 4, of which up to 1 may be an adult; min. size 12 inches. Only hatchery chinook, as evidenced by a clipped adipose fin with a healed scar, may be retained. Release all other salmon. The Snake River opens for steelhead fishing on May 25. Anglers may not continue to fish for salmon or steelhead once the adult salmon daily limit has been retained. Any chinook over 24 inches is considered an adult. Night closure is in effect.

On days and in areas open for salmon, barbless hooks are required for all species.

When open for retention, anglers cannot remove any salmon or steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily bag limit.

WDFW will monitor this fishery and the returns of spring chinook throughout the season and may close the fishery at any time due to harvest levels, impacts fish listed under the Endangered Species Act, in-season run adjustments, or a combination of these things. Please continue to check emergency rules if you are planning to fish for spring chinook in the Snake River.

Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2018/2019 Fishing in Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including safety closures, closed waters, etc. Through June 30, anglers are required under state law to obtain a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement to fish for salmon or steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries.

Southwest Washington Fishing Report (5-7-19)

THE FOLLOWING REPORTS WERE TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Elochoman River– 1 bank angler released 1 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 26 bank rods kept 3 steelhead.  1 boat/ 4 rods released 1 Chinook.

SKYLER BRODERS OF ST. HELENS SHOWS OFF A DRANO LAKE SPRING CHINOOK, HIS FIRST SALMON EVER. HE WAS TROLLING A BRINED HERRING WHILE FISHING WITH HIS COUSIN TROY BRODERS. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Above the I-5 Br:  14 bank rods had no catch.  5 boats/13 rods had no catch.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 161 winter-run steelhead adults, two winter-run steelhead jacks, 118 spring Chinook adults, five spring Chinook jacks and one cutthroat trout during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 17 winter-run steelhead adults and one cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and they released 22 winter-run steelhead adults, 17 spring Chinook adults and one spring Chinook jack into Lake Scanewa located in Randle.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,990 cubic feet per second on Monday, May 6. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 50.0 F.

Kalama River – 67 bank anglers released 4 Chinook and 3 steelhead.  13 boats/23 rods kept 1 Chinook jack and released 7 steelhead.

Lewis River – 8 bank anglers had no catch.

Wind River– 65 boats/172 rods kept 46 Chinook and released 2 Chinook.

Drano Lake – 20 bank rods had no catch.  215 boats/594 rods kept 148 Chinook and released 12 Chinook.

Klickitat – No report.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Trout:  

No report on angling success.

Catchable Trout Plants:  

Lake/Pond                           Date Species Number    Fish/lb Hatchery

Battle Ground (CLARK)          April 24, 2019 Cutthroat    3,000 2.50 Skamania

Klineline  (CLARK)              April 24, 2019 Cutthroat       2,110 2.50 Skamania

Horseshoe (COWLITZ)           April 22, 2019 Rainbow    3,000 2.13 Goldendale

Sacajawea (COWLITZ)           April 26, 2019 Rainbow    3,360 2.80 Mossyrock

Carlise (LEWIS)                       April 16, 2019 Rainbow 10,000         2.00

Mineral (LEWIS)                     April 23, 2019 Rainbow 2,875           2.50 Mossyrock

Pikeminnow Sport – Reward Fishery Program:

The program operates from May 1 to September 30 in the lower Columbia River (mouth to Priest Rapids Dam) and the Snake River (mouth to Hells Canyon Dam).  http://www.pikeminnow.org/

SW WA, Lower Columbia Fishing Report (5-1-19)

THE FOLLOWING REPORTS WERE TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Preliminary Washington lower Columbia River mainstem sport sampling summary

April 27-28, 2019

Bonneville bank anglers: 135; kept adult Chinook: 9
Camas area banks anglers: -; kept adult Chinook: –
I-5 area bank anglers: 2; kept adult Chinook: 0
Vancouver area bank anglers: 15; kept adult Chinook: 0

Bonneville boat anglers: 4; kept adult Chinook: 0
Camas area boat anglers: 11; kept adult Chinook: 0
I-5 area boat anglers: 20; kept adult Chinook: 0
Vancouver boat anglers: 62; kept adult Chinook: 0

BEST FISHING THIS SPRING IN SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON MIGHT JUST HAVE BEEN DURING LATE APRIL’S LOWLAND LAKES TROUT OPENING WEEKEND. THE RAMSEY BOYS, BLAKE AND WADE, SHOW OFF STRINGERS CAUGHT AT ROWLAND LAKE THIS PAST SUNDAY, WHEN THE WINDS WERE MUCH CALMER THAN SATURDAY. PA BUZZ REPORTS THEY WERE TROLLING 2.0 SIZE MAG LIP PLUGS AND USING A CRAWL RETRIEVE WITH 3-INCH SCENTED BERKLEY WORMS. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Salmon/Steelhead:

Lower Columbia mainstem from Warrior Rock line to Bonneville Dam– 48 salmonid boats and 89 Washington bank rods were tallied during last Saturdays flight count.  Despite the not so perfect conditions over the weekend, some fish were caught with most of the catch being on the Washington bank in the Gorge.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 22 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  11 bank rods had no catch.  13 boats/34 rods released 1 Chinook.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 302 winter-run steelhead adults, 19 spring Chinook adults, one spring Chinook jack and two cutthroat trout during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 19 winter-run steelhead adults and two cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and they released 14 winter-run steelhead adults and three spring Chinook adults into Lake Scanewa located in Randle.

Tacoma Power tagged and recycled 26 winter-run steelhead adults to the lower river.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,960 cubic feet per second on Monday, April 29. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 49.5 F.

Kalama River – 32 bank anglers had no catch.  13 boats/26 rods released 1 steelhead.  15 adult Chinook have returned to the hatchery as of April 29th.

Lewis River – Little to no effort during the current steelhead season.  1 bank angler had no catch.

Wind River– Light effort due to the mud line from the Columbia pushing its way into the normal trolling areas. 18 boats/31 rods kept 6 Chinook and released 1 Chinook.

Drano Lake – Effort has been ramping up each week along with the catch.  Creel samplers still have not checked a Chinook off the bank this season but the boats have been producing some fish.  80 boats/174 rods kept 40 Chinook.

Klickitat River- 4 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead.

Trout:

Klickitat County:

Horsethief Lake- 15 anglers kept 30 Rainbow trout and released 4.

Rowland Lake- 37 anglers kept 108 Rainbow trout and released 68.

Spearfish Lake- 8 anglers kept 22 Rainbow trout and released 3.

Lewis County:

Carlise Lake- 55 anglers kept 34 Rainbow trout and released 224.

Mineral Lake- 88 anglers kept 189 Rainbow trout and released 239.

Catchable Trout Plants:  

Lake/Pond                           Date Species Number    Fish/lb Hatchery

Battle Ground (CLARK)          April 24, 2019 Cutthroat    3,000 2.50 Skamania

Klineline  (CLARK)              April 24, 2019 Cutthroat       2,110 2.50 Skamania

Horseshoe (COWLITZ)           April 22, 2019 Rainbow    3,000 2.13 Goldendale

Sacajawea (COWLITZ)           April 26, 2019 Rainbow    3,360 2.80 Mossyrock

Carlise (LEWIS)                       April 16, 2019 Rainbow 10,000         2.00

Mineral (LEWIS)                     April 23, 2019 Rainbow 2,875           2.50 Mossyrock

How To Fish The Lower Skagit For May Spring Chinook

For the first time since the birth of the Kingdome, Seahawks and Microsoft, the lower Skagit will be open for Chinook fishing in May.

And that raises the question, so, uhhhhhh, does anybody remember exactly how to catch these things in the big North Sound river next month anyway?

“You need to find a guy with a Skagit scow to answer that question,” jokes Brett Barkdull, the WDFW district fisheries biologist. “If he’s under 70, he’s just a poser!”

For the uninitiated — which included yours truly up until a very recent search of the interwebs — a Skagit scow is a rather unusual-looking watercraft from back in the day.

They’re like what might happen if, say, in the weedy backyard of some Sedro-Woolley sportsman, a Livingston and a flat-bottom duck boat shacked up and had a kid and then decided the kid would actually look a lot better with that old custom pickup truck camper over by the burn barrel plopped down on top.

IN THE EARLY DECADES OF SETTLEMENT, SCOWS — A TYPE OF WIDE-BOTTOMED, OPEN-TOPPED BOAT — WERE USED PRIMARILY AS FERRIES AND TO SHIP LUMBER AND OTHER GOODS, BUT DECLINED IN USE AS COMMERCE MOVED ONTO ROADWAYS. DOWNSIZED VERSIONS CAN STILL BE SEEN IN THE FORM OF FISHERMEN’S SKAGIT RIVER SCOWS, LARGELY HOMEMADE AND WHICH CAN INCLUDE A COMFY CABIN WITH ALL THE AMENITIES OF HOME. THIS 16-FOOTER BUILT IN 1982 WAS RECENTLY SOLD FOR $2,200. (CHRIS POLLINO)

“Yep, not a very pretty-looking combo, but functional,” notes Barkdull. “The boats were designed to be comfortable, i.e. you could anchor up in a spot and stay for a weekend. Common accessories included wood stoves, beds, fridges, etc.”

They’re essentially a much downsized version of the open-top ferries, cargo and lumber haulers and other work boats of the early days of settlement here and elsewhere in Pugetropolis.

Someone who might have not only brought a few Chinook over the gunnels of Skagit scows but perhaps sold one or two over the years is Larry Carpenter.

He’s a longtime Mount Vernon-area angler and retired local boat dealer who is pretty excited about the May 1-31 fishery on the Skagit between the Highway 536 Bridge in town and Gilligan Creek.

Carpenter recalls a range of successful approaches from back in the day.

“We used to troll the lower river with red (small) herring. Worked well for springers and big Dollies,” he says, Dollies being a name sometimes used for river-running bull trout.

“Just above the Mt. Vernon Bridge up to Avon, I trolled big Canadian Wonders upstream and was successful,” adds Carpenter, who is also the chair of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. “Sometimes anchoring with big Winner Spinners was also a good technique.”

That last one is what local fishing sharpie Kevin John of Holiday Sports in Burlington says the diehards will be running.

“It’s going to consist of tee beads in green, red or chartreuse, a 50/50 Indiana blade (likely 7s and 8s, 6 if the river gets low) and in this case a 2/0 treble hook,” he says. “It’s a great way to enjoy the fruits of our local brewing industry since you’re just going to be on anchor.”

In your scow (or jet sled), of course.

No word on whether John is partial to products from the Skagit, La Conner, Kulshan or Chuckanut swillhouses, but for the above setup he does recommend an 18- to 30-inch dropper line with a heavy, 12- to 16-ounce cannonball “so the lure stays put when the fish backs off.”

He adds that Spin-N-Glos with shrimp and/or eggs, as well as bait-wrapped Kwikfish will be popular, especially given the high likelihood the glacial Skagit will be on the cloudy side.

JACK LYNCH, A SALES ASSOCIATE AT HOLIDAY SPORTS IN BURLINGTON, STOCKS THE SHELVES AHEAD OF THE MAY 1 LOWER SKAGIT RIVER SPRING CHINOOK OPENER. (KEVIN JOHN, HOLIDAY SPORTS)

Herring behind an inline flasher would be another choice for the water conditions, John says.

Barkdull says that half-and-half Dick Nites used to be used too.

The Skagit is known for having some of the bigger Chinook in Puget Sound, but we probably won’t catch any springers the size of the one that Northwest Sportsman contributor Doug Huddle remembers hanging in the truck-stop diner of restaurateur-angler Harold Crane he worked for as a teen (very briefly in the kitchen, more remuneratively mowing the lawn).

Huddle said it was a 68-pounder and perhaps was caught on something called a Wells Spoon, made by a Mount Vernon nursery owner, and a favorite of hogliners who would run it behind lead, drop it back 40 or 50 feet and “sip coffee, McNaughtons or the soup of the day.”

“I kinda like to be actively hunting them myself,”John notes, “so I’d really look at Mag Warts in chrome, flame and chartreuse varieties.”

Mag Warts are famed from another spring Chinook fishery at the other end of Washington’s Cascade Range, but for this one this season WDFW is forecasting a total of 6,116 springers back to the Skagit system, with 4,113 of those being harvestable hatchery fish.

They’ve primarily been fished on in the upper Skagit, from Rockport to Marblemount, and in the lower end of the Cascade since 2005 and 2006, respectively.

The last time the lower Skagit was open for spring kings was 1989, but that fishery didn’t start until a month later, June 1, according to Barkdull.

He says that he had to go through old fishing pamphlets all the way back to 1976 before he found one that listed Chinook as open in May around Mt. Vernon. The season was open year-round for kings then.

(For the record, the 2009 lower river Chinook fishery was for summer/fall fish, but returns haven’t been strong enough since then to hold another season on that stock.)

This season’s daily limit is two hatchery kings, and depending on ocean feeding conditions they will likely weigh on average 10 to 12 pounds. Per WDFW’s emergency regulation change, a night closure is in place.

Gilligan Creek, the upstream boundary, drains into the Skagit on the river’s south side 3 1/2 miles west of the tiny community of Day Creek.

State salmon managers say they will be monitoring the fishery so that the “encounter” guideline isn’t eclipsed and are asking anglers to cooperate with creel samplers.

Barkdull says WDFW relies on accurate catch stats to manage opportunities and maintain ESA coverage from federal overseers.

Unfortunately, some anglers insist on being sneaky, perhaps because they think it will help extend the season or bear some grudge, but in the case of saltwater fisheries it only results in the cash-strapped agency having to operate test fishing boats to the tune of $20,000 a month and which prevents the opening of other opportunities.

“If we have to send out test boats on the Skagit we just won’t have the fishery” next year, says Barkdull.

THE SUN RISES OVER THE SKAGIT DELTA. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

If you don’t have a Skagit scow or other watercraft, don’t worry, you can still try your luck for May springers.

“For the bank guy it’ll pretty much be a plunking show, likely with a heavier rod and lead in the 6- to 10-ounce range,” tips John at Holiday Sports. “Shrimp is always most popular, but it’s hard to beat hot eggs wrapped in spawn netting.”

Bank spots begin at Youngs Bar just above the lower deadline and include off Whitmarsh Road, along the soccer fields in Burlington, River Road in Sedro-Woolley, pull-offs along South Skagit Highway, and the mouth of Gilligan Creek.

And whether you’re fishing of the shore or from a boat, he has two final suggestions.

“Biggest thing for me is scent and noise,” says John. “We’re likely going to have limited vis for much of the fishery and you have to give them something to key in on.”