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Forecast Dims for Chinook Numbers

by Associated Press
The Daily News of Longview Washington, April 29, 2005

There's still a possibility of spring chinook fishing in the Columbia River, though the run size is expected to be less than half the original forecast.

The original upriver run estimate was 254,100. This week, biologists met and offered a "soft estimate" of 50,000 to 100,000, said Cindy LeFleur of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

As of Tuesday, 19,863 springers had passed upstream of Bonneville Dam.

The run started two to three weeks later than usual. "You could get a whole bunch of fish in a short period of time," LeFleur said, but it's too early to predict how much the run will catch up.

Commercial fishing on the mainstem ended April 1 and sport fishing was cut short on April 21.

The commercial catch was 5,365 chinook and sport fisherman caught an estimated 10,200 fish and released another 2,900.

If the run size is less than 82,000, the allowed "impact" on endangered fish has been exceeded. But if the run size is larger, there's still a possibility of more fishing, LeFleur said. "We're hopeful."

The first place sport fishing would be allowed likely would be the mid-Columbia area.

Fish managers will meet Tuesday to evaluate the run again.

On Wednesday, Oregon and Washington fish managers canceled commercial seasons in "select areas" along the river that previously had been scheduled for the next week.

The select-area fisheries target fish raised in net pens and few upriver fish are caught. But even a "very minimal" catch of upriver fish can't be risked until the run size is better known, LeFleur said.

The good news is that spring chinook returns to tributaries of the Columbia below Bonneville are at or above expected levels. Last week, more than 600 spring chinook returned to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery.

Catch rates for boat anglers last week were one chinook per five rods on the Lewis River, one per six anglers on the Kalama and one fish per eight anglers on the Cowlitz

Associated Press
Forecast Dims for Chinook Numbers
The Daily News, April 29, 2005

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