OLYMPIA - The popular sport fishery for spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River has been extended through April 12 under an agreement reached today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.
During that period, the recreational fishery will be closed April 9 to accommodate a possible commercial fishery.
Harvest levels by sportfishers have been running well below expectations, prompting the two states to add six days to the initial recreational fishing season, previously set to continue through April 5.
Through March, anglers had caught just 1,500 adult spring chinook salmon, about 25 percent of the 6,100-fish harvest expected by this point in fishery, said Ron Roler, Columbia River Policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
"The season definitely got off to a slow start, but the bulk of the run is starting to move in," Roler said. "River conditions are excellent - low and warm - so we will be monitoring the fishery closely to make sure the catch doesn't exceed the established guideline."
Guy Norman, WDFW southwest regional director, said fishery managers from both states will watch the catch throughout the extension period and close the fishery earlier if necessary.
"We want to keep the fishery open through April 12 - and perhaps even longer - but we have to hold the catch within the guideline," Norman said. "The situation can change very quickly in April when the fish start moving upriver in large numbers."
Norman noted that fishery managers will also meet in May to consider whether potential changes in the runsize will allow a late-season opening.
After three years of strong spring chinook returns, this year's fishery is based on a projected run of 141,400 upriver fish, about 25 percent below the 10-year average. By comparison, approximately 203,000 fish destined for areas above Bonneville Dam returned to the Columbia River last year.
Upriver fish make up the bulk of the catch, although spring chinook returning to the Willamette, Cowlitz and other rivers below Bonneville Dam also contribute to the fishery.
Sport fishing for salmon and steelhead is currently open on the lower Columbia River from the mouth upriver to Beacon Rock, and to bank anglers up to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam. The daily limit below Bonneville Dam is two adult hatchery-raised fish and no more than one adult chinook.
Anglers fishing the mainstem Columbia River are required to use barbless hooks and release any wild, unmarked salmon, steelhead or cutthroat trout they intercept.
Salmon fisheries above Bonneville Dam are not affected by today's action by the two states.