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Spring Chinook Catches Increase in Lower Columbia,
But Will Close After April 22

by Mark Yuasa
Seattle Times, April 20, 2012

Bonneville Dam spring chinook salmon counts and historical data showing the 2012 run is late. Here's is the latest fact sheet by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Deapartment of Fish and Wildlife on spring chinook fisheries on the Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam:

Water Conditions

The Willamette River dropped to 11 feet (Salem gauge) on Monday April 16, is currently about 14 feet, and is projected to drop back down to around 11 feet by Tuesday of next week. Visibility at Willamette Falls has been averaging 3 feet recently.

The Columbia River crested at 16.0 feet (Vancouver), dropped to 9 feet by April 16, and is projected to remain at the current 11 feet into next week. Discharge at Bonneville Dam is currently at 312 kcfs (95 kcfs of which is spill) compared to a 5-year average of 206 kcfs for April 18. The current water temperature of 48°F equals the 5-year average.

Stock Status

Bonneville Dam passage of Chinook through April 18 totals 1,079 adults. Based on the 5-year average, passage at Bonneville averages 6% complete by April 18 and the 50% passage date is May 7, ranging from May 1 to May 12.

It is still too early in the run to make any conclusions regarding run size; however, passage to date is less than expected. The US v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) will begin reviewing the upriver run size in late April, although a run size update is not expected until the second week of May.

Preliminary Summary of the 2012 LCR Recreational Spring Chinook Fishery:

February 1-29: 8,188 angler trips with 37 spring chinook kept and 20 upriver catch (kept plus released mortality),

March 1-31: 41,983 angler trips with 1,634 spring chinook kept and 1,072 upriver catch (kept plus released mortality),

April 1-15: 28,675 angler trips with 3,118 spring chinook kept and 2,082 upriver catch (kept plus released mortality),

April 16-22: 32,800 angler trips with 9,430 spring chinook kept and 7,955 upriver catch (kept plus released mortality).

Total: 111,646 anglers trips with 14,219 spring chinook kept and 11,129 upriver catch (kept plus released mortality).

A total of 12,700 adult upriver spring Chinook (kept plus release mortalities) are available to the LCR recreational fishery prior to a run size update.

The Chinook retention season on the Columbia River downstream of Bonneville Dam was extended beyond the scheduled closure date of April 7, and is currently scheduled to close effective Monday April 23.

Effort and angler success rates have generally been less than expected until recently, mainly due to poor river conditions and the apparent late timing of the spring Chinook return.

Catch rates began to increase last Friday as river conditions improved. Almost 60% of last week's catch occurred over the weekend (April 14-15), when the river-wide catch rate averaged 0.5 Chinook kept per boat. Catch rates continued to escalate on Monday (April 16) and Wednesday (April 18) when catch rates exceeded one fish per boat, with effort higher than the recent weekend.

The estimated catch through April 15 is 4,789 kept adult fish. The kept and release mortality for upriver fish is estimated at 3,174 fish, or 25% of the 12,700 available.

Based on current catch rates and projected effort/water conditions, the updated kept catch estimate for the remainder of the season (April 16-22) is 9,430 fish which would include 7,955 upriver mortalities (kept+release) for a season total of 11,129, or 88% of the pre-update guideline.

If catch rates continue to increase and effort approaches record highs (6,000 weekend boats), the projected kept catch could reach 10,975 and include 9,260 upriver mortalities (kept+release) for a season total of 12,434, or 98% of the pre-update guideline.

Additional fishing opportunity may be available after the upriver run size update.

A final upriver run size of 208,000 is required to remain within catch balance and impact limitations for the completed mainstem commercial fisheries, LCR recreational (projected through April 22) fisheries and pre-update allocations for Select Area commercial and above Bonneville recreational fisheries.

Future Meetings

Staff is recommending a Joint State hearing be scheduled for 2 PM Monday April 30 to review the ongoing mainstem recreational fishery upstream of Bonneville Dam.

Mark Yuasa
Spring Chinook Catches Increase in Lower Columbia, But Will Close After April 22
Seattle Times, April 17, 2012

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