Lower Columbia Reopens
by Allen Thomas
Spring chinook salmon fishing in the Columbia River downstream of the Interstate Bridge reopened today and will continue at least through May 31.
Washington and Oregon officials made the decision to reopen on Tuesday, based on counts at Bonneville Dam.
A small number of fish remained on the harvest ceiling when angling downstream of I-5 closed on April 16. State officials closed fishing short of the quota to make sure catches did not go over in the event the spring salmon run was smaller than forecast.
A run of 78,500 spring chinook headed for upstream of Bonneville Dam was predicted to enter the Columbia. State, federal and tribal biologists now believe that is a good estimate, with the final count to fall between 76,000 and 81,000.
John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said it is projected the sport handle will be about 450 chinook in the final two weeks of May, with 58 percent of upper Columbia origin and the balance destined for lower Columbia tributaries like the Willamette River.
The Columbia River downstream of I-5 also opened for hatchery-origin summer steelhead today. Waters downstream of Bonneville Dam opened today for shad.
There may be a two-week salmon-fishing closure from June 1 through 15 in the Columbia, before the river opens for summer chinook.
North said it is possible fishing will stay open uninterrupted until summer chinook season, but that will depend on counts at Bonneville Dam and catches in the coming two weeks.
North also said the spring chinook run in Oregon's Willamette River appears to be smaller than forecast.
Through May 11, the count at Willamette Falls was 9,988 spring chinook. Typically, 39 percent of the run has passed the falls by now. That projects to a run of about 25,000, compared to the forecast of 52,000.
Catches in the lower Willamette were on track in April, but have been below expectations in May, North said.
Washington and Oregon officials will meet by telephone at 11 a.m. Tuesday to review sturgeon catches in the John Day pool of the mid-Columbia and consider shifting the regulations to catch-and-release only.
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