by Mark Yuasa
An unexpected surge of spring chinook heading into the Columbia River's Upper Bonneville Pool has allowed fishery managers to reopen sport fishing for hatchery chinook.
The count of spring chinook moving above Bonneville in the past week jumped by 38,518 fish, reaching 51,834 by Wednesday.
"It's now clear that the large number of fish we saw move over the dam early last week wasn't just a fluke," said Cindy LeFleur, a state Fish and Wildlife fishery manager. "Fishery managers are a lot more comfortable now that those numbers are holding strong."
Fishing will be open for spring chinook in the Columbia River mainstem from the Tower Island power lines 6 miles below The Dalles Dam to McNary Dam through June 15, or until the catch quota is attained.
Daily limit is six hatchery chinook [only fish with a missing adipose fin may be kept] and only two may be adult fish. All chum and sockeye salmon and wild steelhead must be released.
LeFleur noted that anglers fishing in the Upper Bonneville Pool had caught fewer than 20 spring chinook salmon when the fishery closed April 30.
"That area was definitely first in line to reopen," said LeFleur, noting that other areas may follow now that more spring chinook are moving upriver.
As an example, anglers should watch for news next week about a likely spring-chinook opening on the Snake River in the vicinity of Little Goose Dam, said Tim Flint, a state Fish and Wildlife salmon manager.
But any decisions about reopening the spring chinook fishery below Bonneville Dam will have to wait until later in the run, LeFleur said.
Anglers caught more than 5,500 spring chinook before the area closed to fishing April 14, which would leave little room for any additional interceptions of upriver fish.
"It all depends on how many spring chinook salmon we get above Bonneville Dam," LeFleur said. "The more fish we see, the more fishing opportunities we can provide."
Before the season began, fishery managers predicted a total return of 88,400 spring chinook to areas upriver of Bonneville. Based on counts through early May, the run size is now estimated at between 65,000 and 88,400 fish.
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