Columbia Spring Chinook Seasons To Be Set Tomorrow

Columbia spring Chinook managers tomorrow morning will mull a 38-day season on the lower river that would wrap up the evening of April 7 and provide nearly 2,600 more of the scrumptious salmon than last year, based on a staff recommendation out this afternoon.


The fishery is expected to yield around 7,766 kept hatchery adult salmon, including 6,411 of the constraining upriver-bound king stock, according to a fact sheet.

Boat angling would again be open from Buoy 10 to Beacon Rock – meaning no tributary bubbles as have been seen in recent years – with bank fishing only above the volcanic plug and of course throughout the rest of the lower river.

Technically, springer fishing is open on the Lower Columbia below I-5 through March 31 by permanent rule, so the 38-day clock essentially refers to the waters from the interstate to Bonneville Dam.

Staffers from ODFW and WDFW are also recommending a 36-day, April 1-May 6 fishery from the Tower Island power lines at the upper end of the Bonneville Pool east to the Washington-Oregon border above McNary Dam, where 845 adult springers are expected to be kept.

Daily limit in both areas would be two adult hatchery salmonids, but only one Chinook.

The fact sheet states that the Columbia River Recreational Advisory Group “supported the proposed season for the (Lower Columbia River) since few alternatives are available.”

ODFW’s Tucker Jones, representing Director Curt Melcher, who was recently reappointed for four more years, and WDFW’s Dr. Charlene Hurst, representing Director Kelly Susewind, will have the final say during a teleconference beginning at 10 a.m. Typically, the duo agree with staff recommendations, but sometimes they tweak them after public comment and discussion among staff and between themselves.

Overall, some 315,600 spring Chinook are expected to enter the mouth of the Columbia this year, including an above-average run of 198,600 fish bound for tributaries above Bonneville Dam. It’s that latter number that figures most strongly into how the run is divvied up, with a 30 percent buffer taken off the top in case of a blown forecast and a further ESA safeguard that puts the overall available Buoy 10-Snake River recreational and commercial nontreaty mortalities – kept plus release deaths – at 10,287 prior to May’s runsize update.

By comparison, at this same point last year, ODFW and WDFW staffers estimated that 5,179 adult salmon, including 3,896 upper basin fish, would die in a fishery that would wrap up April 6. But after an early May runsize update showed the return coming larger than expected, the Lower Columbia was ultimately reopened all but one day from May 12 through June 15, the end of the states’ spring Chinook management period.

This year, spring Chinook have already been caught in the Willamette, which is expecting 71,000, and gone over the falls, but none have been counted at Bonneville yet (a January 2 fish was likely a late fall king). The fact sheet reports the Columbia at the dam is rolling along at 130,000 cubic feet per second, which is about 50,000 cfs below the five-year average, running at 38 degrees Fahrenheit, about typical for this time of year over the past half decade, and has 6.4 feet of visibility, 1.2 feet more than the recent average.

With enough fish returning to the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis and Sandy, no restrictions are expected in them. A rumor that most Cowlitz springers returning this year were not fin-clipped is incorrect, but some portion of the jack return will still have their back fin. A WDFW blog explains how an extreme broodstock shortfall led to this one-off that was agreed to by the agency, Tacoma Power, NMFS and other Cowlitz Fishery Technical Committee members.