Columbia Springer Catches Lower Than Expected

Spring Chinook catches fell short of expectations on Tuesday, but anglers are back on the Lower Columbia between Warrior Rock and Bonneville Dam today hoping for better luck.

Oregon and Washington salmon managers estimate that only 302 were kept May 5, though last week they had forecasted that “nearly half” of the 1,400 modeled to be retained during the four days of fishing would get bonked on the reopener of the big river.


“It was about half of what we projected, with low catches near I-5/Ridgefield, but good catches up in the gorge,” reported WDFW’s Columbia River manager Ryan Lothrop this morning.

One angler told us he’d fished for 12 hours straight in the lower end of the open area with “zero” bites and only saw three fish hooked or netted, but also plenty of boats.

Lothrop termed effort “pretty decent” and said an estimated 3,503 angler trips occurred.

Fishery monitoring is being impacted by coronavirus as officials are not doing boat counts by airplane because of social distancing guidelines, but they believed it could be performed from the water.

No information was available for the first day of the springer fishery from the Tower Island powerlines below The Dalles Dam up to the Washington-Oregon border east of McNary Dam.

Fishing is also scheduled for this Saturday, May 9, and next Wednesday, May 13, on both stretches of the Columbia. Daily limit is two hatchery salmonids, but only one Chinook. Barbless hooks are required. Only bank angling is allowed from Beacon Rock to Bonneville.

May 9 is also the average date over the past 10 years that the springer run has reached its halfway point at the first dam on the Columbia, allowing managers to update the preseason forecast, but Lothrop points out that recent years have seen a couple late returns, throwing uncertainty into run timing.

As of yesterday, 27,737 springers had been counted at Bonneville Dam, about 30 percent of average over the past decade, but also better than average compared to the past four years.

With no Columbia compact currently scheduled, managers are in information-gathering mode, watching catches and counts that could inform any future decisions.

Anglers are being advised to recreate close to home and with household members only, maintain 6-plus-foot distances from others, avoid crowds and check ahead on local access. The Army Corps of Engineers has reopened some day-use sites at Bonnneville and elsewhere in the Columbia Gorge, but not all.

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