Lower Columbia salmon managers approved four more days of spring Chinook fishing even as officials from part of the upper watershed closed salmon angling on one system that is not expected to meet broodstock goals.
The big river between Warrior Rock and the state border east of McNary Dam will open this Friday, May 15, through Sunday, May 17, and again on Wednesday, May 20, Oregon and Washington managers decided this afternoon during a conference call.
Staffers from ODFW and WDFW had initially recommended Tuesday instead of Wednesday, but Oregon’s Tucker Jones and Washington’s Bill Tweit landed on the latter day after discussions and public comment.
Sport fishing advisors supported the reopener while also hoping that anglers further downstream could benefit, either with springers or sturgeon.
The latter stock was not on the docket but the lack of a keeper season for diamondsides drew fiery comments from Astoria-based guide Jody Mather who argued that with the fleet focused on springers near Portland, an opener could have occurred on the estuary without the crowds, important during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Columbia below Warrior Rock hasn’t been opened for springers this season because of low forecasted returns to the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis. While hatchery facilities on the Cowlitz have only seen 89 fish so far, well below the 1,310 needed, the news is better on the Lewis, which has 782 back and a goal of 1,215.
As for the just approved four-day springer fishery, below Bonneville it is expected to yield an overall handle of 765 adult springers, with 600 kept and 568 of those upriver kept+release mortalities, and above the dam a handle of 600 with 500 kept and 512 upriver mortalities.
If those catches come to pass, it would put the recreational fishery at 75 percent of the available upriver mortalities before a run update, 2,477 out of 3,286.
So far the dam count sits at 35,608 but a technical advisory committee has yet to feel confident the run has hits its halfway point and thus update the forecast, but they’re scheduled to meet again this coming Monday.
During the hour-plus-long conference call, lower river officials were surprised when an Idaho manager informed them that his state’s fish and game department director had today ordered the Clearwater system to be shut down to springer fishing immediately because modeling showed three hatcheries won’t collect as many returning adults as needed.
That’s based on PIT, or passive integrated transponder, readings at Bonneville of fish headed back to the Gem State.
Idaho anglers are estimated to have caught 18 springers on the Clearwater and kept 11 hatchery fish, according to IDFG.
Hatcheries in the Snake River system, including in Idaho’s Clearwater and Salmon Rivers and Northeast Oregon, produce most of the run up the Columbia.
This new Columbia extension follows four days of fishing approved after Washington again reopened angling across most of the state. Today is the final day of that initial round.
Stuart Ellis of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission reported that ceremonial and platform fisheries had landed 2,334 springers as of yesterday. He again expressed tribal concerns about the situation with Covid-19 as treaty and nontreaty fishermen work the Columbia Gorge.
WDFW’s Tweit and ODFW’s Jones encouraged sport anglers to continue to social distancing as well as practice better sanitary behavior.
Coming out of last weekend, Oregon closed its state forests to dispersed camping because apparently people don’t get the really simple concepts that you have to bury your poop half a foot underground and pack your crap out when you leave.