VANCOUVER, Wash. – Anglers will once again have a chance to catch chinook salmon and hatchery steelhead on large areas of the Columbia River, some of which have been closed to fishing for both species for the past month.
Starting Monday (June 16), the sport fishery for summer chinook salmon will open from Bonneville Dam to Priest Rapids Dam and run through July 31. Below Bonneville Dam, anglers can retain adult chinook salmon June 21-28.
The fishery for summer steelhead, delayed for the past month below Interstate 5, will also open Monday (June 16) from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line up to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco. As in past years, anglers must release any steelhead not marked as a hatchery-reared fish by a clipped adipose fin.
“A lot of anglers are anxious for an opportunity to fish for salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River,” said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “They’re finally going to get that opportunity.”
Daily limits and other regulations for those fisheries are described in WDFW’s Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations).
Approximately 52,000 summer chinook salmon are expected to return to the Columbia River this season – up from 37,200 last year, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. The forecast for upriver summer steelhead is about 325,000, similar to last year, he said.
Hymer noted that summer chinook salmon are distinct from spring chinook, which returned to the Columbia River in much lower numbers than predicted this year. To conserve spring chinook, fishery managers closed fishing early in some areas and delayed the hatchery steelhead season in the lower river to prevent the incidental catch of spring chinook in that fishery.
Most of those fish have now moved upriver to spawning areas and fish hatcheries, clearing the way for summer chinook and steelhead fisheries, Hymer said.
“Summer chinook and spring chinook are completely different critters,” Hymer said. “For one thing, summer chinook are a lot bigger – sometimes running to 40 and even 50 pounds. Spring chinook generally average between 12 to 20 pounds.”
Because of their size, Hymer recommends that anglers use heavy fishing gear to bring in a summer chinook, also known as “summer hogs.” He also cautions against anchoring in deep water, noting that the Columbia River has been running high and fast with snowmelt.
“Most summer chinook stay fairly close to the bank, anyway,” Hymer said.