OLYMPIA – Columbia River anglers will find more opportunities to catch spring chinook salmon higher upstream this year under fishing seasons adopted today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.
Anticipating a strong run of spring chinook to the upper Columbia River but weak returns to the Willamette, the two states agreed to direct most of the fishery above the confluence of the two rivers near Portland.
That is a change from past years when the spring chinook fishery in the lower Columbia River was focused downriver from the Interstate 5 Bridge, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
“This year’s fishing seasons are designed to give anglers an opportunity to take advantage of strong returns of chinook bound for upriver hatcheries, while protecting weak Willamette River stocks,” LeFleur said. “Like anglers, fishing seasons have to be responsive to changing conditions.”
Anglers participating in these fisheries may also retain shad and hatchery steelhead within daily catch limits established by each state.
Under this year’s management plan, Columbia River anglers will be able to fish for spring chinook salmon at the following locations and times:
- West power lines on Hayden Island to Bonneville Dam: Six days per week from March 16 through April 30, with a daily limit of one adult chinook salmon. During that period, the sport fishery will be closed Tuesdays – except March 18 – for commercial fisheries in the area.
- Tower Island power lines above Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam: Seven days per week from March 16 through May 10, with a daily limit of two adult chinook salmon. The Washington and Oregon bank fishery will also be open from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Tower Island power lines.
- West power lines on Hayden Island downstream to Buoy 10: Seven days per week from March 24 to April 4, with a daily limit of one adult chinook salmon. No commercial fisheries are scheduled downstream from Hayden Island this year.
LeFleur said catch limits were restricted to one adult chinook a day below Bonneville Dam to extend the length of the sport-fishing season and meet other management objectives in the lower river.
Based on pre-season forecasts, 269,300 upriver spring chinook salmon are expected to return to the Columbia River this year, which would be the third-largest run since 1977. But only 34,000 chinook are expected to return to the Willamette River, down from 40,500 last year and 59,700 the year before.
Because a portion of the wild upriver spring chinook run is protected under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), any chinook salmon not clearly marked as a hatchery-reared fish must be released. Standing rules limit incidental mortality of wild spring chinook intercepted and released in all state fisheries – recreational and commercial – to 2 percent of the total run.
Within that 2 percent limit, this year’s agreement between Washington and Oregon allocates 61 percent of the incidental mortality rate to the recreational fishery and 39 percent to the commercial fishery.
Meeting as the Columbia River Compact, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon approved this year’s fishing seasons a day after fish and wildlife commissions for both states approved an outline of their new management plan.
The spring chinook fishery is currently open from the mouth of the Columbia River (Buoy 10) to the Interstate 5 Bridge, but will close Feb. 25 through March 23 before the new regulations take effect. Updates on the Columbia spring chinook fishery will be available on the WDFW Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500) and the department’s website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/).