Chinook Up But Still Well Below Normalby Greg Johnston
Seattle Post-Intelligencer - April 14, 2005
The question is whether preseason forecast was bad or fish will run late
Spring chinook fishing on the lower Columbia River is finally heating up, with the best catch rates of the season reported over the past several days in the area from Camas upstream to Bonneville and downriver in the Cathlamet area.
However, it might be too late. Officials from Oregon and Washington were scheduled to meet yesterday afternoon to update the run-size forecast and ponder possible fishing restrictions because of continued miserable counts of the fish at the Bonneville dam fish ladder. Through Tuesday, only 199 spring chinook had passed the dam, way below the 10-year average of 26,510 for that date and possibly the lowest count on record. At press time, however, no restrictions had been announced.
Anglers are finally reporting fair to good catches in at least two areas of the river.
"The water did clear up on the lower end, and fishing at Cathlamet has picked up," said Joe Hymer, biologist the Vancouver Department of Fish and Wildlife office. "On Friday, the catch average was about a fish a boat down there, and there have been decent reports the last few days. The (Columbia River) Gorge has been good, too. The gorge and Cathlamet have been about neck and neck."
The dismal counts at Bonneville, however, have prompted concern from fish managers.
"There's quite a bit of internal debate as to whether there's a bunch of fish yet to come or whether the run has been over-forecast," Hymer said.
The preseason forecast is for a solid run of 254,000 fish. The counts are evidence of either a much smaller run or a late run.
Any restrictions should be posted promptly on the agency Web site, wdfw.wa.gov.
At any rate, the tributaries typically stay open even when the main river is restricted, and springer numbers are building in the Lewis, Kalama and Cowlitz rivers. The Kalama reportedly was good last weekend, and it and the Cowlitz both are also producing fair numbers of steelhead, too. With the low dam counts, it is not surprising the key upriver tributaries, Wind River and Drano Lake, are not yet producing fish.
In saltwater salmon fishing, blackmouth seasons are winding down fast, with marine area 9 in north Puget Sound locally closing at the end of the day tomorrow. Over the weekend and through Monday a few fish, including a couple of nice chinook in the 15-pound plus range, were taken at Point No Point. Area 13 in the south sound is open through April 30, but it's been pretty quiet.
In other fishing news:
Halibut season opens today on most inland marine waters, three weeks earlier than in recent years, and it is generating some excitement. Anglers argued for the earlier opener based on the notion, which data reportedly supports, that the big flatfish often move out of the sound and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca in early spring. Marine areas 6-13, basically all of the inland waters east of Low Point in the strait, will open tomorrow, and area 5 in the western strait opens May 26.
"We're hopeful it will be a more successful season," said Bob Ferber at Holiday Market sporting goods in Burlington. "A lot of guys are gearing up for the (offshore) banks like Partridge, Hein and Eastern. I think there is more enthusiasm because of the earlier opener."
Other spots anglers will be hitting, weather allowing, include Useless and Mutiny bays, and the Bombing Range and Fort Casey on the west shore of Whidbey Island.
Ocean halibut seasons open May 1 off Ilwaco and Westport and May 10 off Neah Bay and La Push.
As for other bottomfish, lingcod fishing opens Saturday in area 4 off Neah Bay, and prospects are good. People out fishing for rockfish lately have reported good incidental catches of lings.
Ocean charters off Ilwaco and Westport are also out bottomfishing, weather allowing, and doing well on rockfish and fairly well on lings (which opened in most ocean waters in March).
Trout fishing has been up and down with the barometer, but during stable weather anglers are reporting good catches on most of the eastside quality waters, including the Yakima River, Lake Lenore (for post-spawn but willing Lahanton cuts), and lakes Beda, Dusty, Leniece and Nunnally. Roses and Fish lakes in Chelan County, regular waters with five-fish limits, have also been decent. On this side, many recently planted lakes have been fair to good, including Blackmans and Flowing in Snohomish County. Up north, Pass Lake has been off and on with the weather, and Campbell has been fair.
Steelhead fishing remains open in several north coast rivers and good, while the local catch-and-release fisheries on the Skagit and Sauk also are providing decent catches, although not spectacular. Note that the Hoh, Queets and Upper Quinault close after tomorrow; yesterday the Hoh was high and dirty, and the Queets likely was, too. That will leave the Sol Duc, Bogachiel and Calawah open, all worth the effort.
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