OLYMPIA – The sport fishery for spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River will close at the end of the day Sunday (April 15) as scheduled, but could reopen in the weeks ahead if additional fish return, according to fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.
After analyzing spring chinook catches to date, fishery managers decided to close the fishery from the Interstate 5 bridge downstream to Buoy 10 at 12:01 a.m. Monday as previously planned. The closure includes all fishing for steelhead and shad in that stretch of the Columbia River.
Anglers are expected to reach the fishery’s impact guideline by Sunday with a catch of 6,100 spring chinook, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Fishery managers set the Columbia River spring chinook fishery based on the number of fish expected to return from the ocean and the allowable impact to wild salmon and steelhead stocks listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Through April 12, only 755 spring chinook had been counted at Bonneville Dam. That’s much lower than the number of chinook expected through the dam this time of year, LeFleur said.
“The return appears to be tracking late, similar to last year,” LeFleur said. “And, like last year, we will be monitoring actual returns closely and will consider reopening the fishery if the run exceeds expectations in the days ahead.”
Prior to the start of this year’s season, fishery managers estimated that 78,500 upriver spring chinook would return to the Columbia River. Last year, 132,100 upriver fish returned to the river – significantly more than the 88,400-fish preseason estimate – allowing fishery managers to reopen the fishery for another month, starting in mid-May.
LeFleur noted that the fishing closure in the lower Columbia River does not affect fisheries above Bonneville Dam. Fishing will also remain open for hatchery spring chinook in Columbia River tributaries, including the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, Wind and Klickitat rivers, as well as Drano Lake.
Rules in effect for all spring chinook fisheries on the Columbia River and its tributaries require anglers and commercial fishers to release any wild salmon they intercept. Hatchery salmon lack an adipose fin, which is clipped to distinguish them from wild fish.