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Spring Seasons Set for Columbia Chinook

by Wayne Kruse
Everett Herald, March 2, 2010

Washington and Oregon fishery managers have adopted seasons for this year’s spring chinook run on the Columbia that reflect both enormous opportunity and a heavy dose of caution.

Encouraged by a projected near-record run of almost 560,000 returning springers (the run last year was 222,000 fish), the states approved regulations that provide anglers a full-range season, both above and below Bonneville Dam, in March and April. But after watching salmon counts fall short of predictions the past two years -- and one or more user group cry foul when too much early success downriver resulted in upriver closures -- managers set aside 40 percent of the projected run as a buffer.

That buffer will stay in place until the run forecast can be verified, probably in early May when about half the fish will have passed Bonneville. If the preseason predictions prove accurate, the buffer fish will be added to both commercial and recreational seasons on the lower river, in the form of more fishing time.

As of now, the recreational spring chinook seasons on the Columbia are as follows:

Fisheries at Drano Lake and the mouth of the Wind River, above Bonneville, have their own regulations already in the pamphlet and both allow a degree of boat fishing.

The chinook limit below Bonneville is one hatchery fish daily, and above the dam, two per day.

Although springers do not usually come on in force until mid-March, catches already have been reported. Spring-like weather brought out considerable fishing pressure over the weekend, according to state biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver. An Oregon creel census between Longview and Portland tallied nine kings for 102 boats. The Willamette also put out some fish.

Additionally, Hymer said, the first spring chinook of the year showed up at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery on Monday, and rumors are circulating about fish being boated on the lower Cowlitz.

And while on the subject of Columbia River salmon, the state has come out with predictions for the fall chinook run that are almost as rosy as those for springers. The total forecast of 652,700 fall chinook is above the 10-year average, and well above the 2009 actual return of 418,300 fish. That total includes an "upriver bright" component, the fish anglers chase in October on the Hanford Reach, forecast at 310,800 fish, which compares to the actual return last year of 212,000.

Wayne Kruse
Spring Seasons Set for Columbia Chinook
Everett Herald, March 2, 2010

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