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Four Days, Maybe More, are Left in Spring Chinook Season

by Staff
The Daily News, March 31, 2011

Chinook Salmon Sport anglers have four more days of guaranteed spring chinook fishing left in the Columbia River, though more days may be added depending on the run size estimate.

Below Bonneville Dam, the season for spring chinook, shad and steelhead is scheduled to close at the end of the day Monday.

Those fisheries could reopen before an updated run forecast is adopted in late April or early May, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"Our first job is to determine how the catch through April 4 stacks up against the harvest guideline," LeFleur said in a news release. "Right now, we are tracking fairly close to our projections, so any additional fishing time in April will probably be fairly limited."

As of Thursday, anglers had caught and kept 3,770 spring chinook below Bonneville Dam, including 2,964 that count against the harvest guideline of 7,750 upriver fish. Rough conditions -- including high, turbid water -- hindered fishing in many areas, but catch rates rose quickly during the final week of fishing, as more fish arrived in the lower river.

Last Saturday, more than 1,400 sport fishing boats and nearly 800 bank anglers were counted fishing the lower river.

The commercial gillnet catch during a four-hour season Tuesday night was 1,263, about half of what was expected. The Columbia River Compact will meet Monday to consider another season.

With the increased sport effort, LeFleur estimates that three-quarters of the sport catch will be taken this week. "Catch rates have increased during the last week and we could come close to reaching the guideline by April 4," she said.

Fishery managers will meet Wednesday to discuss the recreational fishing situation.

In any case, lower-river anglers could get another chance to catch spring chinook in May, once fishery managers update the run forecast. While the preseason forecast projected a return of 198,400 upriver fish, the fishery has been managed with a 30 percent "buffer" to guard against overestimating the run.

"If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look toward providing additional days of fishing on the river later in spring," LeFleur said.

Above Bonneville Dam, the fishery will remain open to chinook retention through April 24 between the Tower Island powerlines below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines located about 6 miles below The Dalles Dam through April 24. Anglers fishing above Bonneville Dam can retain up to two marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon or hatchery steelhead as part of their daily limit. WDFW Fish Biologist Joe Hymer offered some other suggestions for fishing:

Four Days, Maybe More, are Left in Spring Chinook Season
The Daily News, March 31, 2011

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