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Ecology and salmon related articles

Bonneville Pool May Open for Chinook

by Allen Thomas, Columbian staff writer
The Columbian, January 29, 2004

Spring chinook salmon fishing may be allowed in the Bonneville pool of the Columbia River for the first time in 27 years.

Washington and Oregon officials are considering the idea, and the answer will come Feb. 5 in Oregon City, Ore., when sport and commercial chinook fishing regulations for 2004 are adopted.

Spring chinook fishing in most of the reservoir behind Bonneville Dam has been closed since 1977.

Spring salmon returns to the upper Columbia languished for decades before beginning a remarkable turnaround in 2001.

In 1995, just 10,200 fish passed Bonneville Dam in March, April and May. In 2001, a record 416,000 upper Columbia spring salmon entered the river.

Fishing has reopened in the Columbia from the mouth to Bonneville Dam and from Tower Island, six miles downstream of The Dalles Dam, to McNary Dam.

But the majority of Bonneville pool has stayed closed.

That's because spring salmon angling in the Columbia is for hatchery chinook only. The hatchery fish are marked by missing adipose fins.

If a fish has an adipose fin, it must be released, except in three Bonneville pool tributaries the Wind, Little White Salmon and Klickitat rivers.

Hatcheries on those streams were slow in initiating the fin-clipping program.

If Bonneville pool had been open, anglers could have caught wild fish in the Columbia and claimed the fish were taken in the Wind, Klickitat or Little White Salmon rivers, creating a law enforcement headache.

This year, a huge run of 360,700 spring chinook is forecast to enter the Columbia headed for upstream of Bonneville Dam. About 70 percent of those fish will be fin-clipped.

Members of the Washington-Oregon Columbia River Recreational Fisheries Advisory Group were mixed last week on the wisdom of opening Bonneville pool.

Pat Frazier of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said the fish caught in Bonneville pool count in the overall sport allocation. They could contribute to early fishing closures in other waters, such as downstream of Interstate 5.

Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, said her group has heard from cities along the Bonneville pool that would like to join the economic bonanza accompanying sportsmen and their spending.

"They'd very much like to see springers be gold nuggets to their communities,'' she said.

Steve King, Oregon's salmon manager, said the priority is to have fishing available near communities such as Oregon's The Dalles and Umatilla.

"A test in the lower Bonneville pool is OK, but I want to be real careful about opening this up,'' King said.

Randy Woolsey, a Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association board member, suggested having the pool open on Saturdays in April as a test.

Lance Beckman of White Salmon urged moving the boundary downstream from Tower Island to Hood River.

Phil Leshowitz of the Recreational Fishery Alliance said to wait until 2005, when all the spring chinook will be fin-clipped.

"One more year isn't going to kill us,'' he said.

Allen Thomas covers hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and other outdoor recreation topics for The Columbian.
Bonneville Pool May Open for Chinook
The Columbian, January 29, 2004

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