OLYMPIA - With thousands of spring chinook salmon now moving up fish ladders at Bonneville Dam, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon have agreed to reopen the popular salmon fishery on the lower Columbia River through June 15.
Starting Sunday, May 15, boat and bank anglers can fish for hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon from Rocky Point/Tongue Point upriver to Beacon Rock. Bank fishing will also be allowed four miles farther upriver to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam.
Anglers can retain one hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon as part of their daily limit.
All wild chinook not marked as hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin must be released unharmed.
In areas open to spring chinook fishing, anglers may also retain sockeye salmon and hatchery steelhead under regulations outlined in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet.
Since late April, the number of chinook salmon passing Bonneville Dam has increased dramatically, opening the door to additional fishing opportunities, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
On May 11, state and tribal fishery managers raised their initial estimate of upriver-bound spring chinook from 198,400 fish to 210,000 fish, making thousands more chinook salmon available for harvest on the lower river.
"The fish took their time moving upriver, but they’re making up for it now," LeFleur said. "This opening will give anglers another chance to catch spring chinook on the lower river."
Under the updated run forecast, anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam can catch up to 3,800 more upriver spring chinook, including some still available from the initial fishing season that ended April 19. The late timing of this year’s run, together with cold, turbid water conditions, held the total catch during the early fishery below the area harvest guideline.
Additional fish also became available to anglers this week when fishery managers lifted a 30 percent "buffer" on the pre-season forecast, designed as a safeguard against overharvesting the run. Now that run forecast has been raised, those fish are available for harvest.
"The surge of fish that contributed to the new forecast provides a lot more certainty in setting fishing seasons on the Columbia River," LeFleur said.
LeFleur noted that the decision to reopen the spring chinook fishery on the lower river does not apply to waters above Bonneville Dam or to the Snake River.
The Columbia River fishery above Bonneville Dam closed May 10 after anglers reached their catch allocation under the new run forecast. On the Snake River, spring chinook fishing will close below Ice Harbor Dam May 14 and on the rest of the river May 16. There, too, anglers are expected to reach their current catch allocation after a stretch of good fishing.
"We may consider reopening fisheries in those areas if strong returns of spring chinook salmon keep bumping up the run forecast," LeFleur said. "But that will be a separate decision."