Anglers are Finding
by Mark Yuasa
Spring chinook runs expected to be best in years in Columbia
and in many tributaries above and below Bonneville Dam.
While the first day of spring is a little more than six weeks away, the first catches of spring chinook have already occurred in the Lower Columbia River.
Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist, said a 16-pound hatchery chinook was caught Monday off Davis Bar near Vancouver in the Lower Columbia. Other reports of fish caught came from the Cathlamet area and Lower Kalama River.
This news comes on the heels of the announcement in December that a huge predicted return of 470,000 upriver spring chinook (169,300 last year) will be coming back to the Columbia River, and would be the biggest run since 1938. The largest recent return was 437,900 in 2001.
Spring chinook returns to many tributaries above and below Bonneville Dam are also expected to be much better this spring.
Many fishery managers are cautious due to the unpredictable recent spring chinook returns. The 470,000 fish is just an assessment of the most reasonable prediction based on data currently available.
The state Fish and Wildlife Commission will provide its preliminary guidance on spring chinook seasons Saturday in Olympia. Final seasons will be set Feb. 18 in Oregon City, Ore.
Also being watched are the smelt returning to the Columbia River as the first sport smelt dip-net fishery is scheduled in the Cowlitz River from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
"There was some confirmed presence of smelt in the Lower Cowlitz (last Friday), but this week there was not much signs of bird activity," Hymer said. "There is a possibility that the spurt of fish may be up in the Cathlamet area, but we should know more after (Wednesday's) three-hour commercial fishery."
Commercial catches in the Lower Columbia dropped off this past week with only about 261 pounds landed Jan. 25-28. The largest catch came back on Jan. 21, when 2,000 pounds were landed. Smelt returns are expected to be poor this season.
The Cowlitz is open for sport smelt dipping Feb. 13, 20 and 27 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day; 10-pound limit per person. All other rivers are closed for smelt.
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