Columbia River managers will mull a recommendation from ODFW and WDFW staffers to reopen spring Chinook fishing on the Columbia below Bonneville for a total of 22 days and starting as early as Thursday, May 12.
That’s according to a fact sheet out late this afternoon ahead of Wednesday morning’s Columbia River Compact call.
With yesterday’s runsize upgrade there are 5,175 more upriver-bound springers available below the dam, and with relatively good abundance of salmon in the Lower Columbia, staffers are recommending opening the river May 12-18 to tap into the run now, as well as June 1-15 to feather into the seven-day summer Chinook season starting the 16th, with a daily limit of two hatchery salmonids but only one Chinook.
“Due to uncertainties surrounding both the abundance of upriver spring Chinook and fishery performance, staff is recommending a split season approach with the possibility to add more opportunity as information becomes available next week,” the fact sheet states.
Staffers project a “handle” of 5,625 kings, with 4,125 of those kept, including 3,412 upriver fish, which would bring the season’s mortalities to 81 percent of the allocation at the current runsize of 161,800.
It’s important to stress that this is not a done deal. Columbia River managers Tucker Jones of ODFW and Dr. Charlene Hurst of WDFW could decide on a different reopener structure, or even forego more fishing, though the latter seems the unlikelier.
However, because of fishery allocations and a not insignificant catch earlier this season, it does not appear there are enough fish to reopen the mainstem Columbia from below The Dalles Dam to the state line east of McNary Dam.
Under the updated runsize, those waters have an allocation of 1,330 upriver fish, but according to the fact sheet, 1,500 were kept before fishing was shut down May 3, two days early, leaving a deficit of 213 springers. The initial quota under the preseason forecast was 559 upriver mortalities.
But on the flip side, there are also now more fish available in Washington’s Snake River, where 372 have been kept so far, 29 percent of the current allocation of 1,288, according to the fact sheet.