OLYMPIA – Due to high sport angler effort and success during the past several weeks, the spring chinook fishery on the lower Columbia River will close effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday (April 18).
The fishery, which targeted marked, hatchery-reared fish, is expected to produce the largest sport catch since 1973, according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists. This is the first season since 1977 that anglers have been able to fish well into the month of April for spring chinook.
"Angler effort and success were very high, and conditions made it right for this to be a successful fishery," said WDFW Fish Biologist Cindy LeFleur. "Pre-season, we thought anglers would catch 13,000 to 15,000 hatchery fish, but by the time the season ends, we estimate they will have kept 22,500 hatchery fish, with more than 145,000 angler trips. We exceeded our expectations both for angler trips and total numbers of fish kept."
Through April 9, the lower Columbia spring chinook fishery on the river's main stem totaled 95,700 angler trips, and sport anglers kept a total of 12,500 fin-clipped salmon. Last Saturday (April 7) alone, more than 2,000 boats and 2,000 bank anglers were counted in the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam.
The fishery is managed to meet impact levels set out in a multi-year conservation agreement reached earlier this year by the federal government, the Columbia River Treaty tribes and the states of Washington and Oregon.
"We are very pleased with this fishery," said Jeff Koenings, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "The multi-year agreement, together with the large return of upriver chinook made it possible for us to attend to our goals of conserving imperiled salmon stocks while offering a good recreational opportunity. The sport fishers have been doing their part to make this selective fishery an effective tool for harvesting hatchery fish while minimizing impacts to wild stocks."
A record number of spring chinook -- 364,600 fish -- was forecast to return to the upper Columbia and Snake rivers. The large return made it possible to have a selective fishery on Columbia spring chinook for the first time ever. Anglers are allowed to keep only adipose fin-clipped salmon and are required to release any non-clipped, wild fish back into the river to continue upstream to spawn.
The large return of spring chinook and the selective fishery helped biologists set the season so anglers could target the hatchery fish, LeFleur said.
A conference call between WDFW and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists is scheduled for April 20, to determine whether further fishing can occur, after the upriver run size has been updated and actual fishery catch figures are in hand. Meanwhile, fisheries continue on several Columbia River tributaries. Check the WDFW Fishing Regulation website at www.wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations for details and fisheries updates.