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Ecology and salmon related articles

Spring Chinook Fishing Should be Best Since 1970s

by Mark Yuasa
Seattle Times, February 25, 2001

Columbia River spring chinook are one of the most sought after fish in the Northwest, and a strong return this year will allow selective fishing on the entire lower mainstem starting March 12.

Last Tuesday, tribal, federal and state fisheries officials approved a sport selective fishery.

"We're extremely excited about the large return of adult spring chinook to the Columbia," said Bill Tweit, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. "With the use of selective fisheries options, we will meet our conservation goals and hope to offer the best fishing opportunities since the late 1970s."

Biologists expect about 364,600 adult spring chinook - mostly hatchery fish - to return above Bonneville Dam, and would be the largest since 1938. Favorable river flows during outmigration in spring of 1998 and '99, and ideal ocean conditions are the two likely reasons for the large run.

Currently, the lower river from the mouth to the I-5 Bridge is open for all spring chinook.

Then on March 12, the entire lower river from the mouth to Bonneville Dam shifts to a selective fishery. Only chinook with a missing adipose fin may be kept, and release steelhead.

The season is expected to last through April 30, but could close earlier if the sport quota is met.

According to early reports, sport anglers were catching spring chinook below I-5, and in Oregon on the Willamette River.

"The catch has increased in the river below I-5, and the Willamette got off to a good start with some boats catching multiple fish," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.

"The bulk of the Willamette catch is occurring from Oregon City down to the Multnomah Channel, but the bite could slow down next week when the commercial fishery begins in the Lower Columbia mainstem," Hymer said.

Hymer said the water is low, but fishing conditions are good with five feet of visibility.

Smelt fishery expands

Sport smelt dip-netting is open on the Lower Columbia from the mouth to Bonneville Dam. The season is open through March 31, with a 10-pound daily limit.

"We haven't seen this type of smelt density in years, and quite a few of them are unspawned females," Hymer said. "The highest abundance seems to be from Cathlamet downstream."

The best dip-netting in the mainstem is around the County Line Park in Longview or the Julia Butler Hansen Wildlife Reserve near the Elochoman River.

The Cowlitz River is open Saturdays only through March 31, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the latest buzz is that some smelt have finally moved into the lower river.

Mark Yuasa
Spring Chinook Fishing Should be Best Since 1970s
Seattle Times, February 25, 2001

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