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Spring Chinook Improves, Still Lagging

by Mark Yuasa
Seattle Times, March 24, 2005

While it remains unclear just how good the Columbia River spring chinook fishery will be heading into next month, there has been some glory moments of late for sport anglers.

"Spring chinook fishing is getting better and abundance is increasing, but we still have some dry spots," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.

On Tuesday, a commercial spring chinook test fishery in the lower river showed signs of improvement with 44 drifts taken, and 51 chinook and 23 steelhead caught.

"That is an improvement over Sunday when the commercials took 20 drifts with four chinook and eight steelhead caught," Hymer said. "The fish counts (at Bonneville Dam) are still tracking way behind."

Through March 21, 30 spring chinook passed over Bonneville, compared to last year at the same time when 267 fish had been counted. The 10-year average through March 21, is 1,500 spring chinook. The Willamette Falls spring chinook count is 125 fish through March 18.

The count Tuesday showed more than 300 boats in Lower Columbia, which is rather high for weekday effort and about a quarter of them were fishing in Cathlamet area.

There was pretty good bank fishing effort when fishing opened Sunday from Rooster Rock to Bonneville (angling is allowed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday only), and Hymer reported a few spring chinook were caught, but it was slow on the Oregon side.

Some spring chinook were also caught from I-5 to Rooster Rock, located about 10 miles upstream of Camas, but it remains slow.

"We had some catch of spring chinook in Vancouver area, but it was scattered," Hymer said. "I also heard of a good bite in Multnomah Channel on Sunday and Monday, but it tapered off by (Tuesday)."

Sea lions continue to give anglers a big headache in the lower river with the brazen beasts snatching hooked fish right off the fishing line or in one case directly out of a half closed net.

"Last Saturday, we checked just as many fish taken by sea lions as kept by anglers," Hymer said. "They have kind of been a nuisance and a problem lately."

Fishing in Wind River and Drano Lake was slow with not much fishing effort. The Klickitat and White Salmon rivers open April 1.

Hymer says sturgeon fishing was pretty slow in Lower Columbia with no legal-sized fish kept, which was a first since creel checking started in 1978.

"Even the sub-legal sturgeon catch was puny," Hymer said. "Smelt were also a no show last Saturday in Cowlitz."

Smelt dipping in Cowlitz is open on Saturdays only from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Mark Yuasa
Spring Chinook Improves, Still Lagging
Seattle Times, March 24, 2005

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