Editor’s note: Update at bottom with press release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Spring Chinook fishing will reopen on the Lower Columbia starting tomorrow, Thursday, May 12, and run through at least Sunday, May 22, as well as June 4-15, Washington and Oregon managers decided this morning.
WDFW and ODFW staffers had proposed fewer days in May and more in June, but most sportfishing advisors, guides and representatives urged big river managers Dr. Charlene Hurst and Tucker Jones not to adopt such a sharply split season during this morning’s Columbia River Compact call.
“It seems like an overly cautious approach to me,” Jones agreed. “I think I’m a pretty conservative fish manager, but this seems like too much.”
He said he’d prefer to have anglers on the water in May when more springers are in the lower river than waiting until June when 78 to 80 percent of the run is typically over Bonneville.
The initial staff proposal out yesterday afternoon would have reserved 44 percent of the available 5,175 above-the-dam-bound springers for June 1-15, and 56 percent for May 12-18.
Hurst touched on calls at the annual salmon-season-setting process known as North of Falcon to provide more June days – this year’s summer Chinook season will be just seven days, June 16-22 – and also noted that caution was warranted due to catch overages in this spring’s initial season before proposing the dates that were eventually set.
State managers will get together next Wednesday afternoon, Mt. St. Helens Day, to go over catch rates and the latest runsize update from the Technical Advisory Committee, expected Monday.
TAC’s upsized forecast earlier this week to 161,800 upriver springers provided the chance to reopen the Lower Columbia from the Rocky-Tongue Point line to Bonneville. The previous boat deadline remains in effect, and the daily limit is two hatchery salmonids, but only one Chinook. Shad can also be kept.
Agency staffers estimate that anglers will catch around 300 springers a day early in the reopener, tailing off to around 230 as it goes on through May.
As for the mainstem Columbia through the gorge pools to the state line east of McNary, anglers enjoyed good fishing before it closed abruptly two days early May 3, but at the current runsize there’s still a deficit of 213 springers versus the available allocation and catch balancing, putting the fishery on hold for the time being.
Through yesterday, the Bonneville Chinook count stands at 93,979 adults, 20,000-plus fish more than the 10-year average and nearly 60,000 better than the recent five-year average. Last year’s May 10 count was just 37,389.
Our spectacularly cold, most spring likely has the Columbia running cooler, clearer and lower than usual, which should translate into good fishing conditions. Monday measurements at the lowest dam were 51 degrees, 5.3 feet of viz and 226,000 cubic feet per second; five-year averages are 54, 4.4 and 312,000.
States set additional Columbia River spring Chinook fishing days downstream of Bonneville
CLACKAMAS, Ore.—Following a run upgrade, fishery managers from Oregon and Washington adopted additional fishing days, beginning May 12, for recreational spring Chinook salmon in the Columbia River downstream of Bonneville Dam today during a joint state hearing.
This additional opportunity is based on a projected return of 161,800 upriver-origin adult spring Chinook. The updated projection exceeds the preseason forecast of 122,900 adult fish and is slightly higher than the recent 10-year average return of these fish.
The specific season dates, bag limits, and open area for the additional fishing days are:
• Season: May 12 – May 22 and June 4 – June 15.
• Bag limit: Two adult hatchery salmonids (Chinook or steelhead) per day, but only one may be a Chinook; shad may also be retained.
• Open area: Tongue Point/Rocky Point line upstream to Beacon Rock (boat and bank) plus bank angling only from Beacon Rock upstream to the Bonneville Dam deadline. The legal upstream boat boundary is defined as: a deadline marker on the Oregon bank (approximately four miles downstream from Bonneville Dam Powerhouse One) in a straight line through the western tip of Pierce Island to a deadline marker on the Washington bank at Beacon Rock.
Columbia River spring Chinook salmon seasons are driven by balancing opportunity with Endangered Species Act limitations, provisions in the management agreement between the states and Columbia River Treaty Tribes that specify the total harvest guideline of upriver-origin spring Chinook and guidance from the Oregon and Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissions regarding the allocation of spring Chinook among the non-treaty fisheries.
Fishery managers scheduled another hearing for 2:00 pm on Wednesday, May 18 to consider the latest information on catch rates and determine if additional fishing days can be added.