Spring Chinook Run Shows Up Earlyby Bill Rudolph
NW Fishletter, April 23, 2015
With river temperatures in early April running 3 degrees warmer than average, many more spring Chinook have shown up at Bonneville Dam than Columbia Basin harvest managers usually expected.
On April 7, the count was up to 3,352. By April 20, more than 10,000 were passing every day, and the cumulative count was 54,413, about four times higher than the 10-year average. River temperatures were still 2 degrees above average.
The managers predict about 232,000 upriver spring Chinook will return this year, which would make it the sixth-largest return since 1979. They said April 8 that water flows were running between recent 5-year and 10-year averages, but clearer than average for this time of year.
They decided to keep the lower Columbia recreational fishing season open for two more days after the scheduled regular closing date of April 10. Anglers had landed more than 7,000 springers by April 6, and were expected to catch another 2,600 by April 10.
Commercial netters in the lower Columbia have been allowed two openings, and were expected to land about 1,700 upriver spring Chinook.
Steve Jeffries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife marine mammal specialist, estimated about 1,000 sea lions were still hanging out in the lower Columbia in early April, between Cathlamet and the Astoria-Megler bridge. More than 2,000 had been counted in late February, most drawn by the healthy smelt runs.
After meeting again April 20, the managers did not update the run, but noted that typically, it is 5 percent completed by April 19, and half over by May 7.
Select area harvest openings for the gillnetters were reduced due to the high catch of upriver Chinook in the winter fishery.
Recreational fishing opened in two sections of the lower Snake for several days a week. About 141,000 spring Chinook are expected to show up this year, with about 96,000 hatchery-origin fish. The daily catch limit for open areas is six hatchery Chinook--marked by a clipped adipose fin--of which no more than one may be an adult Chinook salmon. Jacks are less than 24 inches long, and any Chinook salmon measuring less than 12 inches must be released.
The ongoing recreational fishery above Bonneville Dam is expected to continue through May 6. The sporties are now closed to Chinook fishing below Bonneville but may get another chance to fish after managers update the run forecast. Harvest guidelines include a 30 percent "buffer" to help ensure conservation goals are met.
The latest marine mammal report (April 9) at Bonneville Dam estimated 76 pinnipeds (both California and Stellar sea lions) in the tailrace on April 3, almost three times the 2002-2014 average by that date.
ODFW reported that during the week of April 6, six California sea lions on the removal list were trapped and euthanized, and 13 not on the list, were trapped, branded and released. The following week, one more was trapped and euthanized, and 16 other California sea lions, not on the list, were trapped, branded and released.
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