OLYMPIA – Columbia River anglers will get at least six more days to catch hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon below Bonneville Dam under an agreement between fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.
Under that decision, sport fishing will remain open through April 14 in the lower river, except for a one-day closure April 8 to accommodate a possible commercial fishery. The initial sport-fishing season was previously scheduled to close April 7.
The six-day extension will give anglers another chance to catch hatchery-reared spring chinook still available for harvest, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
“Fishing conditions on the Columbia River have been pretty rough in recent weeks,” Roler said. “These extra fishing days will give anglers some time to make up for the high, turbid river conditions that have held the sport catch well below the harvest guideline.”
Prior to the season, fishery managers projected the catch through April 7 at 12,000 chinook, including a maximum of 10,100 upriver fish. They now estimate anglers will catch and keep just 3,000 spring chinook by that date.
“River conditions have been improving and we hope that trend continues next week,” Roler said.
The area open for spring chinook fishing extends from Buoy 10 upriver to Beacon Rock for boat and bank anglers, and to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam for bank anglers only. When the fishery is open, anglers can retain one marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon as part of their daily limit.
Anglers fishing for spring chinook may also retain shad and hatchery-reared steelhead, although all wild steelhead not marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin must be released unharmed.
Roler noted that anglers may get another chance to catch hatchery spring chinook later this spring, when fishery managers update the run forecast. Approximately 227,000 upriver fish were projected to return to the Columbia River this year, but the fishery has been managed with a 30 percent “buffer” to guard against overharvesting the run.
“If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look at providing additional days of fishing on the river later in spring,” Roler said.
The fishing extension in the lower Columbia River does not affect the spring chinook season above Bonneville Dam, currently open through May 9 under regulations described on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.