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Spring Fishing Hits Big On Columbia

by Bill Monroe
The Oregonian, August 14, 2006

It was a much better spring fishing season than expected on the Columbia River, where final numbers are well above preseason predictions.

Tony Nigro, Columbia River program leader for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the state Fish and Wildlife Commission that spring chinook salmon runs in the Columbia and Willamette rivers were well above expectations.

The Columbia run also was the latest ever recorded, so low at season's outset biologists feared a major crash. Instead, the upriver Columbia spring chinook run came in at 132,200 fish (88,400 predicted) and the Willamette River run will be 56,700 (46,500).

Willamette River anglers caught about 8,500 chinook and kept 6,900 in a total of 75,000 trips.

On the Columbia, 86,600 trips yielded 7,000 chinook kept and 2,500 released.

Commercial gill nets caught and kept 4,350 chinook and 1,651 white sturgeon. All but 1,000 chinook were caught during six fishing periods between May 16 and June 2, Nigro said. Commercial fishing was closed March 15-May 16.

Sport angling was closed April 14-May 17.

Nigro said the Columbia's summer chinook salmon run, forecast at 49,000 fish, probably will be closer to 78,600. Late or low? That's the question fish biologists still fret over as they look at a recent surge in what appeared to be a low summer steelhead run at Bonneville Dam and lower than expected sport catches of Columbia-bound chinook salmon off Westport, Wash.

John North, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist on the Columbia River, said the upriver Columbia 'A' summer steelhead run was late at Bonneville, running 60 percent behind by the end of July on a prediction of 247,000 fish.

But surges of several thousand a day brought the number up to 101,000 last week, with a few weeks left to count.

Meanwhile, Buoy 10 salmon fishing began as expected Aug. 1 without much fishing, but salmon -- mostly lower river tule chinook -- filled into the bay by late last week and should improve fishing by this weekend.

Commercial gill-netters from the mouth upriver caught 277 chinook on Aug. 2, 410 on Aug. 7 and more than 1,100 Aug. 9 (the last commercial fishing between Buoy 10 and the Astoria bridge until late September).

They have three more fishing periods in the lower river (and a couple closer to Portland) before a commercial lull until about the third week of September.

Commercial seasons approved Thursday were: Sunday -- from the Astoria bridge upriver; Tomorrow and Thursday -- from Tongue Point upriver.

Kids catch the fish: Jay Chock of Portland took his sons Nate, 10, and Joe, 7, fishing in late July on Crane Prairie Reservoir, aboard a small boat anchored in the Cultus Channel.

The trio used nightcrawlers injected with air to keep them floating above the weedy bottom.

Chock said he didn't bring a net and had a 6- or 7-pounder snap his line at the edge of the boat.

Thirty minutes later, Joe Chock told his dad "I've got one." Within two seconds, Nate's rod also bent over.

Chock said the lines seemed to intersect each other, so he thought Joe's fish had tangled in Nate's line.

With a son on each side, Chock said he coached them when to reel and when to let the fish run.

"They did everything I told them," he said. "It took 15 minutes to tire the thing out before I could get my hands under the fish and lift it in the boat."

He found Joe's bait deep in the fish's throat, and Nate's three inches inside it's mouth. The trout had taken both worms.

Chock said the 24-inch fish weighed 71/2 pounds.

Quotable: Virgil Moore, new director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, commenting recently at his first Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting about traveling around Oregon and learning as much as possible about his new job after working for more than two decades in Idaho:

"It's like drinking from a fire hose."

Bill Monroe
Spring Fishing Hits Big On Columbia
The Oregonian, August 14, 2006

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