OLYMPIA - With large numbers of salmon now moving up the Columbia River, fishery managers for Washington and Oregon have agreed to reopen the recreational spring chinook fishery in the upper Bonneville Pool to McNary Dam starting May 13.
The new opening was announced after a week in which the count of spring chinook moving above Bonneville Dam jumped by 38,518 fish, reaching 51,834 by May 10.
"It's now clear that the large number of fish we saw move over the dam early last week wasn't just a fluke," said Cindy LeFleur, a fishery manager at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "Fishery managers are a lot more comfortable now that those numbers are holding strong."
Under the agreement announced today, anglers will be allowed to fish for chinook salmon in the Columbia River from the Tower Island power lines six miles below The Dalles Dam to McNary Dam from May 13 through June 15 or until the catch guideline is reached.
Anglers can catch a total of six hatchery salmon - identified by a clipped adipose fin - only two of which can be adults. All chum and sockeye salmon, as well as wild steelhead, must be released.
LeFleur noted that anglers fishing in the upper Bonneville Pool had caught fewer than 20 spring chinook salmon when the fishery closed April 30.
"That area was definitely first in line to reopen," said LeFleur, noting that other areas may follow now that more spring chinook are moving upriver.
As an example, anglers should watch for news next week about a likely spring chinook opening on the Snake River in the vicinity of Little Goose Dam, said Tim Flint, WDFW salmon manager.
But any decisions about reopening the spring chinook fishery below Bonneville Dam will have to wait until later in the run, LeFleur said. Anglers caught more than 5,500 spring chinook before the area closed to fishing April 14, which would leave little room for any additional interceptions of upriver fish.
"It all depends on how many spring chinook salmon we get above Bonneville Dam," LeFleur said. "The more fish we see, the more fishing opportunities we can provide."
Before the season began, fishery managers predicted a total return of 88,400 spring chinook to areas upriver of Bonneville Dam. Based on counts at the dam through early May, the run size is now estimated at between 65,000 and 88,400 fish.