4 More Days For Lower Columbia Springers

Editor’s note, 8:36 a.m., Friday, April 5, 2024: Updated at bottom with WDFW’s press release.

Lower Columbia spring Chinook managers extended the sport fishery below Bonneville Dam four more days through Tuesday, April 9, as ODFW and WDFW staffers had recommended yesterday, and will be watching whether more time might be added, but also warned about “inappropriate interactions” around a weekly test fishery collecting run data.


Like last year, catches of the year’s first salmon run up the big river have been slow so far, leaving plenty of room in the sportfishing allocation to provide more time on the water through this weekend and into next week.

“Kind of reminds me of last year, a lot of similarities, but not identical,” stated Ryan Lothrop, WDFW Columbia manager.

Both catch rates and sportfishing effort so far have been below preseason modeling, according to ODFW’s Jeff Whisler, but managers expect those to pick up.

“Conditions are good, river conditions are good. When the fish show up, we expect catch to increase,” Whisler said.

Just under 100 above-Bonneville-bound springers were caught on both April 1 and 2, below expectations, but that’s expected to rise to 340 a day over the coming days.

Yet given those rates and the potential to be over by just 217 fish over the preseason, prerunsize update sport allocation 3,906 for the lower river, ODFW manager Tucker Jones was interested in adding April 10, which he felt was “pretty low risk.”

After some back and forth, Lothrop ultimately was more comfortable with just sticking with the staff recommendation.

Overall, sportfishing advisors supported it too.

“A few extra days are very welcome and looking forward to more fishing opportunity,” said Randy Woolsey.

But they also had concerns about the low dam counts so far, just 124 adult fish, which is less than a quarter of the 10-year average. This year’s forecast calls for 120,000 upriver springers, well below 2023’s 198,000, but the season, catch allocations and 30 percent buffer were all set around it and reduced impacts to Snake River wild Chinook.

Where last year’s Lower Columbia was flowing lower, colder and clear, this month it’s slightly higher, 3 degrees warmer and clearer than average.

Harry Barber said that the 6 feet of visibility in the waters above Camas was “terrific” but fishing has been “dismal.”

Guide Bill Monroe Jr. said the river being on the verge of 50 degrees “was just different.”

Fellow guide Jeff Keightley down in Astoria said he was “deeply concerned,” given the flows and temperatures that should have more fish in if the preseason prediction is accurate.

Weekly tangle net test fishery results of .1, .3 and .2 Chinook per drift are similar to this time in 2023, but also indicative of low abundance.

Last year saw a strong late showing of smelt that springers were snacking on, but that’s not the case in 2024.

According to a fact sheet out ahead of today’s meeting, a runsize of just 84,700 would cover the upriver mortalities that the extension would add.


At the end of the hour-and-20-minute hearing, Lothrop took a moment to address what he called “inappropriate interactions” with those tangle net test fisheries that help gauge the run strength.

He said three contracted commercial fishers with WDFW staffers on board gather “essential data” about the run and said that if they have to move where they’re operating, it could impact collection of that information.

Jones was more blunt.

“We can’t have people messing with that data; that could delay fisheries. Please stay away,” he said.

Per WDFW’s web page on the effort, the data helps to “evaluate the current run in regards to timing, stock composition, mark rate, and other biological data” and “provides additional information to fishery managers which aides in the in-season management of the recreational spring Chinook fishery and provides a long term dataset to be used for planning future spring fisheries.”



States extend recreational spring Chinook season below Bonneville Dam through Tuesday, April 9

Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington added four additional days (Saturday, April 6 through Tuesday, April 9) of recreational spring Chinook salmon fishing in the mainstem Columbia River downstream of Bonneville Dam during a joint state meeting today. 

With the additional days, the following regulations are in effect: 

Downstream of Bonneville Dam 

·         Open through Tuesday, April 9 

·         Bag limit: Two adult hatchery salmonids (Chinook or steelhead) per day, but only one may be a Chinook. 

·         Open area: Buoy 10 line upstream to Beacon Rock (boat and bank) plus bank angling only from Beacon Rock upstream to the Bonneville Dam deadline. For exact boundaries visit https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/columbia-zone.

·         Shad may also be retained. 

Through Sunday, April 2, there have been about 23,500 angler trips, resulting in a harvest of approximately 1,000 adult spring Chinook; this recreational fishery has only used about 14 percent of the upriver spring Chinook allocation available to it prior to an in-season run size update. 

Staff believe this fishery could use up to a cumulative total of 40 percent of its pre-update upriver spring Chinook allocation by April 5, when the fishery was originally scheduled to close, leaving room to add more days and remain confident that the fishery will be well within its conservation limits. 

There have been 105 adult spring Chinook counted at Bonneville Dam through April 2. It is still very early in the run—based on 10-year average run timing, to date, only about two tenths of a percent of the adult upriver spring Chinook destined for the Columbia River have passed Bonneville Dam. 

The season upstream of Bonneville Dam, from the Tower Island power lines upstream to the Oregon/Washington border, started April 1 and is scheduled to continue through Thursday, May 2. 

All other permanent regulations are in effect including the use of barbless hooks when angling for salmon or steelhead in mainstem Columbia River waters from the mouth upstream to the OR/WA state line. 

Anglers should always check for in-season regulation changes before fishing by checking the Recreation Report – Fishing Report for the zone,  https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/columbia-zone.



Recreational spring Chinook fishing extended on Columbia River below Bonneville Dam

OLYMPIA – With lower-than-expected catches in March and early April, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon announced this week that the recreational spring Chinook fishery below Bonneville Dam will have four additional days of fishing opportunity.

The stretch of the river from Buoy 10 to Bonneville Dam, which was previously scheduled to close to Chinook salmon fishing on April 5, will now be open through Tuesday, April 9.

“Catch rates have been low, which allowed us to add additional fishing time,” said Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River fisheries manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “This fishing opportunity provides immediate access at a time we can accurately anticipate catches while also ensuring a conservative approach until we get a run size update in May.”

Fishing is permitted from the Buoy 10 line at the Columbia River mouth upstream to Beacon Rock (including boat and bank), plus bank angling by hand-cast only from Beacon Rock upstream to the Bonneville Dam deadline. The daily limit is six, including no more than two adults, of which no more than one may be an adult hatchery Chinook.

The spring Chinook fishery above Bonneville Dam upstream to the Washington/Oregon border opened April 1 and runs through May 2 under similar rules.

Fishery managers will monitor the fisheries, dam counts, and hatchery returns in-season and announce additional changes if needed.