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


April 25, 2002
Contact: Cindy LeFleur, (360) 906-6708

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Lower than expected run size brings early closure to Columbia River spring chinook fishing

OLYMPIA State fishery managers today announced plans to close sport fishing for spring chinook Monday (April 29) on the Columbia River from the mouth to Bonneville Dam after revised run counts indicated the number of returning fish is below initial estimates. The closure will include steelhead and shad fishing as well.

Fishing in Columbia River tributaries below Bonneville Dam (Cowlitz, Lewis and Kalama rivers) will remain open for salmon fishing. The fisheries in the Upper Bonneville, Dalles and John Day pools will also remain open for the time being due to extremely low catches to date in these areas.

The decision by Washington and Oregon to close the fishery came after a technical advisory committee of state, tribal and federal biologists revised their estimate of the actual spring chinook run size to 238,000 fish, rather than the 333,700 fish projected in a pre-season forecast.

Even though the sport fishery was open only for hatchery-reared spring chinook, the allowable impacts on federally protected wild upriver fish are close to being met.

The closure takes effect at 12:01 a.m., Monday.

"We are very close to our original objective, which was to get the fishery through the month of April and if possible to May 15," said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River harvest manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Washington's representative on the technical advisory committee

The revised run estimate is based primarily on counts of chinook passing Bonneville Dam, totaling 64,276 as of yesterday.

Even though the run is below initial projections it still is expected to be the third- largest spring chinook return to pass the dam since 1960.

LeFleur said biologists will continue to monitor the run.

"It's possible that fishing could re-open if there is a large enough surge late in the run," she said.

In recent days fish counts have increased, but the cumulative total is expected to fall short of pre-season projections, LeFleur said. On average, half the upriver spring chinook run crosses Bonneville Dam by April 25, however biologists believe this year's run is late. They attribute the late timing of the run to primarily to river conditions, with stronger water flows and poorer visibility than at this time last year.