Decision Delayed on
by Allen Thomas, staff writer
Washington and Oregon officials will meet Friday to see if it is possible to squeeze in another few days of spring chinook salmon fishing in the lower Columbia River.
Salmon angling is scheduled to be closed beginning Monday between Interstate 5 and the ocean. Based on projected fishing effort and catch rates, sportsmen will have caught almost 91 percent of their allocation through Sunday. There is a 10 percent buffer in case the run is smaller than forecast.
But with lousy weather on Wednesday and today in the Columbia estuary, fishing effort and catches may be less than projected.
Curt Melcher of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said another look at the numbers on Friday afternoon is merited, and might allow for an extension of fishing from one to several days.
Forecasts, 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.
Columbia River spring chinook are the finest salmon in the world. During the peak of the season in April, thousands of anglers a day fish the river from Vancouver to Astoria.
State biologists project that through Sunday the sport fleet will have kept about 5,800 spring chinook and released almost 1,700.
A run of 78,500 spring chinook is forecast to enter the river headed for waters upstream of Bonneville Dam. Another 52,000 Willamette River fish are anticipated, plus 23,800 to the Cowlitz, Lewis, Kalama and Sandy rivers.
The count at Bonneville Dam through Tuesday is 389 spring chinook, compared to a 10-year average of 19,200.
Cindy LeFleur of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said this is the third year in a row the spring salmon run headed for upstream of Bonneville Dam has been very late. A year ago, only 129 spring chinook had been counted through April 10, yet the final count was 132,000.
An update is not possible until the final week of April, when 50 percent of the run should have passed Bonneville Dam.
John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said preliminary sport catch figures indicate a run in the range of 93,000 to 103,000. Using sport catch to project the run size is a relatively new methodology and not yet considered reliable.
If the run tops 82,000, catch restrictions are liberalized and angling in the Columbia could reopen.
After the Columbia closes, spring chinook fishing will continue in the Willamette, Sandy, Lewis, Cowlitz and Kalama rivers downstream of Bonneville Dam and in Wind River, Drano Lake and the Klickitat River upstream of Bonneville.
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