Spring Chinook Fishing
by Allen Thomas
Spring chinook salmon fishing in the lower Columbia River will close beginning Monday.
Washington and Oregon officials met Friday, reviewed catches and agreed there are not enough salmon left in the sport allocation to extend angling even for a day or two.
That given, fishing downstream of Interstate 5 will close on schedule.
When fishing ends on Sunday, there will have been a projected kept catch of 6,142 spring chinook, with another 1,860 released, from 75,282 trips, said Chris Kern of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The catch is projected to be 95 percent of the sport allocation.
Forecasts, projected harvests and run updates mean everything in this era of salmon management under the federal Endangered Species Act, where fishing opportunities are contingent on the strength of various returns.
A run of 78,500 spring chinook is expected to enter the Columbia River headed for upstream of Bonneville Dam. If that run tops 82,000, catch restrictions relax slightly and more fishing is possible.
Kathyrn Kostow of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said this year's run appears to be late, just as it was in 2005 and 2006.
The count at Bonneville Dam through Thursday was 755 spring chinook, compared to a 10-year average of 25,500.
But a year ago this date, only 142 spring chinook had been tallied at Bonneville on a final count of 132,000.
Historically, the run peaks at Bonneville Dam in late April. This year, Kostow said, it might not peak until the first or second week of May. A new forecast cannot be made until the peak.
Cindy LeFleur of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said it is possible the run forecast will be upgraded in May and fishing reopened.
Steve Watrous of Columbia-Pacific Anglers said while he would prefer a fishing extension, the sport allocation has been caught.
"We have short memories,'' Watrous said. "For over 20 years, we would have killed for the kind of season we had this year.''
Spring salmon fishing in the Columbia in April was closed for decades prior to the runs rebound starting in 2001.
Spring chinook fishing between Bonneville and McNary dams remains open through April 30. Fishing in the Bonneville pool is not allowed from the Washington shore or a boat downstream of the Tower Island powerlines west of The Dalles.
Salmon fishing continues in the Willamette and Sandy rivers in Oregon and the Cowlitz, Lewis, Kalama, Wind and Klickitat rivers in Washington, plus in Drano Lake.
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