2015 Spring Chinook Salmon Season
by Columbia Basin Bulletin
More-than-expected spring Chinook passing Bonneville Dam prompts additional fishing opportunities
With spring Chinook salmon passing Bonneville Dam in higher numbers than expected, fish managers from Washington and Oregon this week agreed to extend the fishing season on the Columbia River for miles below and above the dam.
The decision to extend the fishery was based on a new annual run forecast of 241,000 adult upriver fish past Bonneville Dam -- 8,500 more than originally projected, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"This is definitely turning out to be a great year for spring Chinook fishing on the Columbia River," Roler said. "We are now confident that the run will not only meet -- but exceed -- the pre-season forecast, which allows us to make more fish available for the harvest."
Year-to-date 162,939 adult spring Chinook have been counted passing Bonneville Dam. After a flurry of fish on April 30 -- 13,676 fish -- numbers have dropped at Bonneville to: May 1, 6140 fish; May 2, 2940 fish; May 3, 2623 fish; May 4, 3198 fish; May 5, 3199 fish; May 6, 3013 fish; May 7, 2694 fish.
Year-to-date (May 7) adult spring Chinook passage at McNary Dam is 103,167 fish.
In the lower river, the fishery will reopen Saturday, May 9, for one day, and again from May 16 through June 15 from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line upriver to Beacon Rock for boat and bank anglers. Bank anglers can also fish farther upriver to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam.
Above the dam, the current fishery will continue for four extra days through May 10 from the Tower Island power lines to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish upriver from Bonneville Dam to the Tower Island power lines during that time.
In both sections of the mainstem Columbia River, anglers can retain one hatchery adult Chinook salmon as part of their daily catch limit. Any wild salmon or steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be immediately released unharmed.
Unlike waters above Bonneville Dam, the lower river has been closed to spring Chinook fishing since May 4. Roler said fishery managers agreed to open the lower river May 9 for one day, and will provide several weeks of additional fishing opportunities starting May 16 to coincide with the opening of the steelhead fishery.
"That makes sense, because it also brings the fishery up to the start of the summer Chinook season on June 16," Roler said. "With this year's strong spring Chinook run, anglers will be able to move from one salmon fishery to the next without skipping a beat."
In addition, a treaty spring gillnet commercial fishery was set for Tuesday May 12 until Friday May 15 in Zone 6 -- Bonneville Dam upstream to McNary Dam.
Salmon, steelhead, shad, walleye, carp, catfish, bass, and yellow perch may be sold or kept for subsistence. Sturgeon between 43-54 inches fork length harvested in The Dalles or John Day Pools and sturgeon between 38-54 inches fork length in the Bonneville pool may not be sold but may be kept for subsistence.
Also, a non-Indian gillnet commercial fishery in the lower Columbia was set for Wednesday (May 6) from 4 p.m. until 6 a.m. Thursday, May 7.
Meanwhile, fisheries managers on Wednesday decided to close spring Chinook fishing on the Snake River below Ice Harbor and Little Goose dams, but keep unchanged fishing in the Lower Granite and Clarkston areas.
Snake River fishery zones to close:
Area C (below Lower Granite Dam) will be open only Sunday through Tuesday each week until further notice.
Area D (near Clarkston) open Thursday, May 7, and will be open only Thursday through Saturday each week until further notice.
Daily limits are six hatchery Chinook (adipose fin clipped), of which no more than one may be an adult Chinook salmon. For all areas open for Chinook salmon harvest, anglers must cease fishing when the hatchery adult limit has been retained for the day.
During these fisheries, possession limits for spring Chinook salmon will be increased to allow three daily limits in fresh form.
Fishery managers say the reason for this action is that, "Based on current harvest estimates, and anticipated harvest through Tuesday, May 5, an estimated 1,200 adult hatchery Chinook are expected to have been harvested. Monday, May 4, the upriver spring Chinook run was updated to 241,000 fish. In an effort to share fishing opportunity and harvest, the lower two fishery zones (where most harvest has occurred) will close and the upper two zones will remain open on a three day rotating basis until further notice. In an effort to promote this fishery as a destination fishing opportunity, this rule will allow anglers to possess a reasonable amount of fish during their stay."
According to the Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife joint staff report for May 5:
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