OLYMPIA – With 100,000 upriver spring chinook salmon now expected to return to the Columbia River this year, fishery managers for Washington and Oregon have agreed to reopen recreational salmon fishing below Bonneville Dam on May 17.
In a separate action, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will also open a sport fishery tomorrow on the Snake River in the vicinity of Little Goose Dam. Last week, the department opened spring chinook fishing in the upper Bonneville Pool upriver to McNary Dam.
All three decisions were sparked by a late surge of spring chinook salmon past Bonneville Dam – a development fishery managers believe will boost the annual run above the pre-season estimate of 88,400 fish. After 10 days of strong returns, they now estimate a return of 100,000 upriver spring chinook this year.
“This is the latest run in recorded history, but it came on strong once it got started,” said Bill Tweit, WDFW policy leader for Columbia River fisheries. “Now that we have good numbers of fish upriver, we can finally reopen some areas to fishing.”
Under plans announced today, the mainstem Columbia River will open to recreational fishing tomorrow below Bonneville Dam downriver to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line near the Megler-Astoria Bridge. The fishery will be open seven days per week until further notice.
Anglers fishing on that section of the lower Columbia River can catch a total of six hatchery chinook, identified by a clipped adipose fin, only two of which can be adults. All wild chinook, chum and sockeye salmon – as well as cutthroat trout and wild steelhead – must be released.
Fishery managers also approved a 10-hour opening for commercial fishers in the lower Columbia River beginning at 2 p.m. today. Tweit noted that the commercial fishery had caught just over 1,000 spring chinook when it was closed in mid-March due to concerns about lagging fish returns.
On the Snake River, WDFW will open a sport fishery tomorrow for spring chinook salmon from the Texas Rapids boat launch upstream to the Corps Of Engineers boat launch approximately one mile upstream of Little Goose Dam.
The daily limit in the Snake River fishery is one hatchery chinook salmon – identified by a clipped adipose fin – measuring at least 12 inches. Anglers must release all unmarked chinook and all steelhead. In addition, anglers must use single point barbless hooks no larger than 5/8 inch from point to shank when fishing in this area of the Snake River during the salmon fishery.
As of April 30, only 2,573 spring chinook had been counted passing Bonneville Dam, about half of the 10-year average. By May 15, the total had jumped to nearly 77,000 fish.
“It’s hard to tell what this year’s run is going to do next, but we’re pretty sure it’s not over yet,” Tweit said. “We’ve had to put conservation needs first during these past few weeks of uncertainty, but now we feel confident that we can reopen some fisheries without harming the resource.”