With catches lagging way below expectations, Lower Columbia salmon managers are recommending an additional two days of fishing before the closure, with a final decision expected this afternoon.
The big river below Bonneville Dam is currently scheduled to remain open through Friday, April 7, but staffers for ODFW and WDFW predict just 12 percent of the preseason sport allocation will have been caught by then and they are recommending keeping fishing open April 8-9, this Saturday and Sunday.
“Given the significant balance on the pre-season buffered allocation of upriver spring Chinook (5,732 fish expected to remain available) for this fishery, there is potential for additional angling opportunity,” they write in a fact sheet ahead of a Columbia River Compact call at 3:30 p.m.
The extra two days would bring total mortalities of fishery-constraining ESA-listed upriver springers to 22 percent of the 6,487 available before the May runsize update.
It’s believed by some that this year’s salmon run may just be late, given cold river temperatures and the late arrival of smelt that springers appear to be dining on as well.
“Weekly test fishing in the lower Columbia River using tangle nets began on March 13 this year, with four weeks completed to date. Observed catch rates have been 0.0, 0.1, 0.2, and 0.9 adult Chinook per drift to date, respectively. Catch rates during the first four weeks of test fishing this year have been consistently lower when compared to the same timeframe in 2022,” the fact sheet states.
Even if the run is low, a runsize of 67,000 adults returning to tribs above Bonneville “would cover” fishing through this Sunday, per staffers for the DFWs.
The preseason forecast calls for 198,600; through yesterday, 222 have been counted at the dam; the 10-year average through April 3 is 545.
The early season fishery is managed under a 30 percent buffer in case the run doesn’t come in as predicted, and catches are also closely monitored.
Representatives for ODFW and WDFW directors Curt Melcher and Kelly Susewind will make the final call for extending the sport fishery as well as adding time to off-channel commercial fisheries in the Lower Columbia.