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Ecology and salmon related articles

Spring Chinook on the Rise

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, May 21, 2014

Erika Holmes holds a bright spring chinook she caught on the lower Columbia River. (Jeff Holmes) LEWISTON -- If salmon fishing hasn't started to turn on by the time you read this, it's about to.

Counts of chinook passing lower Salmon River dams are on the rise and water conditions, as of Thursday, were more than respectable.

"Flows are also looking good, so those fish should spread upriver fast. Expect the fishing to really pick up from here on out," said Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston.

Through May 7, 10,771 chinook had been counted at Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River and 30,996 at Ice Harbor Dam. Earlier this month, salmon managers from state, federal and tribal fisheries agencies said the run of spring chinook bound for the Columbia River and its tributaries above Bonneville Dam will hit at least 185,000 and could likely surpass that number. The Snake River run accounts for the majority of those fish. The preseason forecast called for a return of 227,000 upriver chinook -- those heading beyond Bonneville. Salmon managers are expected to issue an official in-season forecast early next week and have not ruled out the possibility of the preseason forecast hitting its mark.

"About mid-May you can start to replace the preseason forecast with an actual forecast," said John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at Clackamas.

DuPont said based on the run to date, Idaho anglers will be able to catch about 4,000 chinook from the Clearwater River and its tributaries, 6,400 from the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers and just more than 900 on the Snake River in Hells Canyon. Anglers fishing the Snake River in Washington will be able to catch about 1,000 spring chinook based on the latest run estimate.

Fishing success in the Snake River in Washington and Idaho's Clearwater has been modest so far. Through last weekend, anglers had caught an estimated 21 adult salmon from the Clearwater and about 83 on the Snake River in Washington. No harvest was recorded in the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers last week.

Oregon and Washington will allow anglers to fish today and Saturday in the lower Columbia River. The season there closed April 19 but was reopened based on the estimate that the run will hit at least 185,000. The two states originally set a lower Columbia River harvest quota based on a return of 159,000 upriver chinook or a run that comes in 30 percent lower than the preseason forecast of 227,000.

The season could be extended further on the lower Columbia if the run continues to perform well at Bonneville Dam, said Ron Roler, a fishery manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Vancouver.

"We're taking this a couple of days at a time," Roler said. "We want to give anglers as many days on the water as we can without exceeding the catch guidelines."

Eric Barker
Spring Chinook on the Rise
Lewiston Tribune, May 21, 2014

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