States Look at April 14
by Allen Thomas
Spring chinook salmon fishing in the lower Columbia River may close as early as April 14, state officials decided Thursday.
The Washington and Oregon departments of fish and wildlife will meet by telephone at 2 p.m. Tuesday to review Bonneville Dam counts and sport catches, then set a closure date.
Fishing was scheduled to continue through April 19, or possibly longer, downstream of Interstate 5. "This run is not as potentially bleak as we thought, but we're putting everyone on notice of a possible closure,'' said Steve Williams of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
A run of 88,400 spring chinook is forecast to enter the Columbia River headed for waters upstream of Bonneville Dam. That would be the worst in six years, although much better than in the 1990s. In 2005, the actual upper Columbia run was 41 percent of the forecast.
Through Sunday, sportsmen will have kept a projected 4,798 spring chinook and released 956 from 53,810 angler trips, said John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Only hatchery spring chinook with a clipped adipose fin may be retained.
Through Wednesday, the count of adult spring chinook at Bonne-ville Dam was 81. That compares with 54 a year ago through the same date, and a five-year average of 15,314.
Stuart Ellis of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission said dam counts this early in the run mean little.
If the forecast of 88,400 is accurate, sportsmen in the lower Columbia River will have taken 70 percent of their spring chinook allocation through April 12, North said. If the actual run is 82,000, the sports fleet will have landed 76 percent, and if the run is 75,000 sport fishermen will be at 83 percent.
Commercial fishing has been closed since March 15 due to fears of a weak run. The commercials have caught only 24 percent of their allocation.
Jack Marincovich of the Columbia River Fisheries Portective Union, a commercial fishing group, said the states were in a hurry to close gillnetting while sportsmen continue on the water.
He asked if the remaining commercial share is going to be transferred to sportsmen or not used.
The states are "either acting illegally or unfair,'' Marincovich said.
Robert Taylor of the Nez Perce tribe and Rafael Bill of the Umatilla tribe called for a sport-fishing closure until more salmon pass Bonneville Dam.
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