the film

Columbia Closing to Chinook

by Michael Teague
News Register, June 29, 2006

In a conference call between Oregon and Washington state officials on June 27, a recommendation was made to close the summer Chinook fishery below Bonneville Dam to recreational fishing on June 30, but to allow gill-netters to continue operation. No decision will be made until today, June 29.

Even if the ODFW and WDFW decide to keep things open for the holiday weekend, an early closure is a certainty.

Catches of summer steelhead have been decent in the lower Columbia and fair for steelhead. Chinook adult counts are nearing the 160,000 mark at Bonneville. Over 11,000 steelhead have crossed.

Nearly 3.5 million shad have crossed Bonneville dam. At the mid-June peak of the run, there were 15 consecutive daily counts greater than 100,000. The run is tapering off now, but it's still possible to catch a washtub-full of these smelly and effective baitfish. Crabbers can't do better and shad is the first-choice bait for oversize sturgeon.

Estuary sturgeon anglers are faring well out of the Astoria area. Anchovies have moved into the lower river and are working well for bait both above and below the Astoria/Megler Bridge. The deeper water on lower Desdemona Sands and the Washington side above the bridge should produce well in the upcoming softer tide series. Lower river anglers are nearing their keeper quota and the season is scheduled to close July 4.

Shad fishing remained rewarding in the lower Willamette over the weekend. ODFW reported 20 boats checked took 253 fish at Oregon City. The run is winding down, however, so get 'em while you can.

Only the occasional keeper sturgeon is being taken in the lower Willamette. Catch and release fishing for undersized sturgeon is good.

Daily spring Chinook numbers at Willamette Falls improved mid-June, holding up well since then, making the run estimate of 44,600 attainable. Earlier in the season it appeared this forecast number would not be attained. Year-to-date totals were nearly 33,000 on June 24.

Optimistic anglers continue to take a few Chinook in the lower Willamette with Portland Harbor most productive. It may be late in the year for Chinook on the Willamette but a few are being caught every day in the lower river. Try a spinner, either on anchor if there's sufficient current, or on the troll otherwise. A green dot No. 7 blade has been working recently.

Water temperatures hitting 71 degrees on June 27 may mark the end of this fishery for 2006.

Historically, this is the time of year for the tributaries to reward anglers with summer steelhead and spring Chinook. The Clackamas has yet to turn on, however, and with the water low and clear, it will be a first-light opportunity and then only a recreational rafting and swimming hole for the kiddies.

Trollers have picked up a few springers at the mouth of the Sandy. Steelhead and salmon fishing has been slow upstream with the best action at Cedar Creek. Recent reports indicate the water appears a little murky, which may indicate the beginning of the Sandy turning milky due to its glacial origins. Water temperatures this week are in the mid-50s.

Over 4,000 summer steelhead and nearly 1,300 spring Chinook have been counted at Foster Dam on the South Santiam. Numbers are not available from the North Santiam, as the trap is not in operation. Despite good numbers of steelhead and springers in both the North and South Santiam, anglers are having to work at it to hook fish.

The ocean north of Cape Falcon to Leadbetter Point in Washington opens on July 3 for two salmon per day, one of which may be a Chinook. Coho must have an adipose fin clip. Catches are expected to be light but will improve as the season moves on.

Tillamook Bay salmon angling is slow as Chinook have moved up into the tributaries.

Summer steelhead and spring Chinook are entering the Trask and Wilson despite low, clear water conditions. First light is the best time to try for these fish which are tough to hook in these conditions. Try a variety of bait and lures with the confidence that with this many fish concentrated in the lower river, there's got to be a biter in there somewhere.

Steelhead and Chinook angling has been generally fair in the Nestucca with intermittent flurries of action.

Summer steelheading is worthwhile on the Siletz with fish scattered from tidewater into the gorge. Low, clear water means the spoils will fall to early-rising anglers.

The spring all-depth halibut fishing of the central coast will continue into summer this year with 30,000 pounds remaining in the generous quota. The next opportunity will be July 6, 7 and 8.

Schools of baitfish are in evidence in Winchester Bay, a harbinger of fish to come. High winds have kept the bar closed over the weekend and had bottom fishers trying to scratch out a few fish along the jetties.

Sturgeon fishing below Reedsport continues to reward anglers with oversized fish but only the occasional keeper. Shad fishing is good as the run winds down and smallmouth bass prospects improve as the water warms. Steelheading is fair on the North Umpqua above Idyllwild.

Large bait balls have been in evidence in the Rogue River estuary over the last week as well, which usually doesn't occur until late July. This has raised the optimism of anglers and local guides regarding the summer Chinook and coho runs to come.

Spring Chinook fishing has been slow and further slowed last weekend, even at the Hatchery Hole which was as near a "hotspot" as anywhere on the Rogue. Wild Chinook retention was cut off with the poor return this year. In addition, July 1 marks the closure above Gold Ray Dam to Elk County Park. A total of 6,139 spring Chinook and 492 summer steelhead have been counted at Gold Ray Dam as of June 19.

With emergency measures in place and spring Chinook numbers approaching record lows, the ODFW announced on Wednesday, June 28, that it would implement "non-lethal methods" in an effort to reduce mortality in the lower river due to seal and sea lion predation.

These methods of pinniped control include "modifying moorage and dock structures to eliminate resting areas, reducing a food source by ending the practice of dumping fish carcasses into the estuary and using non-lethal hazing methods such as high pressure water hoses and wildlife control firecrackers to displace the mammals."

Offshore salmon fishing has been spotty and anglers have had a tough time getting out with rough seas.

The exception is the report from Brooking where nearly every angler limited over the weekend. A total of 254 coho and 84 Chinook had been taken coast-wide through June 25.

Clamming remains open on all Oregon bays, estuaries and beaches. It has been nearly four years since the entire Oregon coast was open to razor clamming.

Trout are scheduled to be planted in the Willamette Valley in Trillium Lake. The trout planting which took place on June 19 in the Northwest Zone was the last until September.

Michael Teague
Columbia Closing to Chinook
News Register, June 29, 2006

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