Big Spring Chinook Run on Track,
by Bill Rudolph
On May 7, Columbia Basin fish managers gave lower river gillnetters another day to fish, after updating the upriver spring Chinook run size to at least 185,000 fish (to river mouth). More than 130,000 springers had been counted at Bonneville Dam by then, which already bested last year's count. It was also only the halfway point in the run, according to returns from the past 10 years. The daily count peaked on April 30, when more than 17,000 springers were counted--4,000 more fish than returned during the entire spring of 1995.
With the run update, managers gave recreational anglers a little more time as well, allowing one marked, hatchery Chinook salmon May 9-10, as part of their daily catch limit from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line upriver to Rooster Rock. Bank anglers, but not boat anglers, could also fish farther upriver to the deadline below Bonneville Dam. The adult catch limit also includes up to two marked adult steelhead or a combination of one steelhead and one marked Chinook
A return of 185,000 allows for a non-Indian ESA-impact rate of 1.9 percent and a catch balance limit of 16,835 upriver mortalities, with 70 percent of the ESA impacts allocated for the recreational sector. The lower river had been closed to Chinook fishing since April 18 because their impact limit had nearly been reached.
Another opening was planned for sporties May 16 from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line upstream to the I-5 Bridge for hatchery steelhead and hatchery jack Chinook, but the managers revised that after getting a run update on May 13 putting their latest estimate at 224,000 upriver Spring Chinook (214,000 -240,000). Now the recreational sector will get a solid month to fish from May 15 to June 15 from Tongue Point to the Bonneville Dam deadline. Commercial gillnetters also got one more night to fish on May 20.
Shad retention opens May 16 from Buoy 10 upstream to Bonneville Dam under permanent regulations. The recreational spring Chinook fishery from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Oregon-Washington border was scheduled to be open through May 9.
However, the story on the Willamette wasn't nearly as rosy, where only about 3,400 springers were counted by May 1, about half the five-year average.
About 60 California sea lions have been observed at Bonneville Dam, with 24 seen from previous seasons. Fifteen have been trapped for removal this year. Biologists said that some sea lions have moved back towards Astoria now that the spring run has tapered off.
By May 14, about 154,000 springers had been counted at Bonneville Dam, about 50,000 fish more than the 10-year average. About 2,000 fish are still passing every day.
Up at Lower Granite Dam, on the Snake River, 35,000 spring Chinook have been counted, more than twice the 10-year average, and about 2,000 springers are passing the project daily as well.
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