OLYMPIA - After weeks of exceptional salmon fishing, fishery managers for Washington and Oregon agreed to close the spring chinook fishery on the lower Columbia River beginning Monday (April 21), when anglers are expected to reach their pre-season catch target.
By then, the sport catch from the west Hayden powerlines upriver to Bonneville Dam is expected to reach a total of 22,300 fish - about 2,000 more fish than anglers had been expected to catch through the end of April.
"This year's fishery came on strong right from the start," said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "During the past week, anglers fishing the lower river were averaging a fish per boat."
By the states' action, spring chinook fishing will close from the Hayden Island west powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam at 12:01 a.m., April 21. Fishing for steelhead and shad will also close at the same time in that area.
LeFleur said fishery managers will continue to monitor the status of the spring chinook run on a daily basis and will consider re-opening those fisheries if returns are larger than expected. That determination will be made in late April or early May, after a greater portion of the run has arrived, she said.
Meanwhile, fisheries will remain open for hatchery spring chinook salmon on Columbia River tributaries, including the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, Wind and Klickitat rivers, as well as Drano Lake. The Columbia River above Bonneville Dam also will remain open to salmon fishing.
About 269,300 upriver spring chinook were forecast to return this year, one of the largest runs in recent years. Under state fishing rules, anglers must release any wild chinook they catch on the Columbia River and its tributaries to protect fish listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Hatchery-reared fish, which are available for harvest, can be identified by a clipped adipose fin.