UPDATED 8:13 p.m., April 4, 2023 with a corrected WDFW Columbia River Fishery Notice at midpage.
Lower Columbia spring Chinook managers extended the sport fishery below Bonneville through next Tuesday, April 11, two more days than staff had recommended.
Catches have been much slower than expected so far, leaving plenty of room in the early season quota. The initial proposal from WDFW and ODFW staffers this afternoon estimated that extending season from Friday, April 7, through just the weekend would bring constraining upriver-bound Chinook mortalities to 22 percent of the preseason allocation.
Sportfishing representatives and guides called for adding a few more days than that and after hearing from agency modelers that catches could be expected to be in the 200- to 300-fish-a-day range early next week, state overseers decided on that path
“I’m interested in the through-Tuesday approach for the recreational fishery, based on the evidence we’ve seen and testimony we’ve heard,” stated WDFW’s Dr. Charlene Hurst, who moved to approve four more days and was seconded by ODFW’s Tucker Jones.
There were also calls to be more conservative from state and tribal fishermen nervous about low dam counts so far and being able to acquire important ceremonial salmon. Through yesterday, just 222 springers have been counted at Bonneville, where the 10-year average is 545. But over the past five years, only .2 percent of the run has gone over the dam by this time as well.
River conditions may be impacting the fishery and slowing the run.
“It’s low, it’s cold and it’s clear – no surprise to anybody who’s been out there,” said ODFW’s Jeff Whisler.
Per today’s fact sheet, the Columbia at Bonneville is flowing 44,000 cubic feet per second lower, 2 degrees cooler and with a foot more visibility than the five-year averages of 164,000 cfs, 45 and 5.2 feet.
There’s also a lot of smelt in the big river, providing ready forage for the springers – and decorating a salmon plug or two as well and showing up in odd places.
But fish are beginning to bite in the lower river, reported ODFW’s Jimmy Watts. He also cautioned that the further out from next Tuesday overseers went, the more risk that catches could spike, pointing to hauls of 2,500 fish in mid-April 2015 and 14,000 in a week in April 2010.
This year’s run is effectively being managed under a double buffer, with the initial allocation of upriver mortalities set to a runsize 30 percent below the 198,600 expected, and an ODFW-WDFW nonconcurrence issue leaving another jag of fish on the table.
THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington added four additional days (Saturday, April 8 through Tuesday, April 11) 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 seasons are in effect:
Downstream of Bonneville Dam
· Open through Tuesday, April 11
· Bag limit: Two adult hatchery salmonids (Chinook or steelhead) per day, but only one may be a Chinook.
The season upstream of Bonneville Dam, from the Tower Island power lines upstream to the Oregon/Washington border, started April 1 and continues through Saturday, May 6 as originally scheduled.
Through Sunday, April 2, the combined season kept catch is approximately 600 adult spring Chinook from more than 23,000 angler trips. The recreational fishery has used about 4 percent of the upriver spring Chinook ESA allocation available prior to a run size update.
Staff expect this fishery to use a cumulative total of 12 percent of the pre-update allocation by April 7, 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.
The fishery will be closely monitored, and an upriver spring Chinook run size update is expected in mid-May. More fishing days may be added at that point.
There have been 222 adult spring Chinook counted at Bonneville Dam through April 3. It is still very early in the run—based on 10-year average run timing, to date, less than one percent of the adult upriver spring Chinook destined for the Columbia River have passed Bonneville Dam.
All other permanent regulations are in effect including that the use of barbless hooks is required when angling for salmon or steelhead in mainstem Columbia River waters from the mouth upstream to the OR/WA state line.
Editor’s note: The initial midpage graphic from WDFW incorrectly stated that the extension was for April 8 and April 11. The agency subsequently sent out a corrected version showing the extension running April 8 through April 11 and that has been updated here.