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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


April 14, 2005
Contact: Cindy Le Fleur, (360) 906-6708

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Columbia spring chinook shortfall may mean early fishing closure

OLYMPIA-A dramatic shortfall in the number of Columbia River spring chinook salmon passing over Bonneville Dam will lead to early closure of Columbia River sport fishing if dam fish counts don’t significantly improve, Washington and Oregon fishery managers said following a joint meeting yesterday.

Although state fishery managers agreed to wait until Tuesday (April 19) to make a final determination on a fishery closure or modification, they cautioned anglers to anticipate an early closure to spring salmon fishing on the Columbia River.

“We have seen fair numbers of fish destined for upriver areas in the fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam, but the fish have not shown any progress passing over the dam,” said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The run appears to be stalled in the lower river, she added.

The fishery managers will continue to evaluate fish counts and catches through next Monday, before making a joint decisions on the fishery. Depending on that decision, recreational fishing for hatchery spring chinook could close as early as April 21, LeFleur said.

A spring chinook fishing closure, like other in-season rule changes, will be announced on the WDFW website at wdfw.wa.gov and on the department’s recorded fishing hotline at (360) 902-2500.

As of April 12, only 200 adult spring chinook had been counted at Bonneville Dam. Based on 10-year-averages, some 20,000 salmon normally would have passed the dam by that date, said LeFleur.

Pre-season projections predicted that 254,100 upriver spring chinook and 116,900 Willamette River stock fish would return to the Columbia River this year.

Although California sea lions have been increasingly visible in the lower Columbia River and at least one sea lion recently made its way up the dam’s fish ladder, fish managers do not attribute the low chinook passage primarily to marine mammal predation.

As of April 10, lower Columbia River sport salmon fishers had made 69,000 angler trips, handled 5,770 chinook and kept 4,460 hatchery fish. By the same time last year, sport fishers had caught 15,100 chinook and kept 11,700 fish in 105,900 angler trips. The 2004 upper Columbia spring chinook run totaled 221,600.

In 2004, recreational fishing for hatchery spring chinook was closed May 1 in the lower Columbia River below the Interstate 5 bridge