Big Spring Chinook Measuring 36 Inches Seen at
by Mark Yuasa
It was reported on Friday, that another spring chinook was confirmed to have been counted at Bonneville Dam, and this one was a dandy size fish.
"I got the report that it was three feet long and fin clipped (of hatchery origin), and as chrome bright as you please," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist, who said it was most likely a five-year-old stock fish.
The warm water temperatures due to the unseasonably mild winter and low water flow on the Lower Columbia River could trigger an earlier timed return for spring chinook unlike past years when their arrival was much later in March.
On the bad news end, it was reported that there are a record number of both seals and sea lions in the Columbia, and a mass of them are congregating in the Astoria Marina docks.
Anglers should start getting their gear ready and head south the moment the action starts to ramp up sometime in March.
Sport anglers will get 38 days in the spring to fish on the lower river (compared to 26 last year) and 52 days above Bonneville Dam (55).
The Lower Columbia River up to Bonneville Dam will be open from March 1 to April 10; and closed for commercial fishing on March 24, March 31 and April 7. The Lower Columbia kept catch would be 11,500 adult fish based on 100,000 angler trips.
When fishing opens on the lower river March 1, the fishery for boat and bank anglers will expand upriver to Beacon Rock, and bank fishing also allowed from Beacon Rock upriver to the fishing boundary just below Bonneville Dam.
The Columbia River from above Bonneville to the Washington-Oregon border upstream 17 miles above McNary Dam would be open from March 16 through May 6. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville up to the Tower Island powerlines during this time frame. The kept catch would be 1,200 adult fish.
The daily limit will be one hatchery-marked chinook (those with a missing adipose fin) in all open sections. Barbless hooks are required, and wild unmarked salmon and steelhead must be released.
The lower river is currently open for hatchery spring chinook below the I-5 Bridge.
The seasons are based upon a 2015 Columbia River spring chinook prediction of 312,600.
The largest spring chinook return on record was 440,336 (364,600 was the forecast) in 2001, and the worst was 12,792 (12,000) in 1995.
If the run comes in as predicted it would be the sixth-largest return since 1980, and overall the spring chinook forecast is well ahead of the 10-year average of 178,000.
The majority of the 2015 forecast is an upriver-bound run of 232,500 compared to 227,000 last year and an actual return of 242,600.
The spring chinook fishery creates a huge turnout beginning in February as anglers come out of the winter doldrums. The chinook's prized red-fleshed meat and high Omega 3 oil content rival that of the popular Copper River kings from Alaska.
Fishing in the lower river is often slow in February and March, and then ramps up nearing the closure date. The peak return occurs in late April or early May.
Columbia River wild spring chinook are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act, and fishery managers set stringent catch limits on sport, and tribal and non-tribal commercial catches.
In the sport fishery, anglers can keep only hatchery-marked spring chinook, which are identified by a clipped adipose fin located on top near the tail.
Here Come the Fish: First Upriver Spring Chinook of 2015 Counted at Bonneville Dam Fish Ladder by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 2/27/15
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs