OLYMPIA– Selective sport and commercial fisheries were set yesterday on a near-record run of 418,500 Columbia spring chinook expected to return to the river this year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has announced.
Approximately 21,000 adipose-fin-clipped hatchery chinook are expected to be harvested this year in the mainstem river sport fisheries. The sport seasons were set by fish managers for Washington and Oregon and commercial seasons were agreed upon by the Columbia River Compact.
Hatchery steelhead and shad may be retained during the spring chinook season.
Beginning March 16, the mainstem Columbia from the I-5 Bridge upstream to Bonneville Dam and from The Dalles Dam to McNary Dam will be open to sport fishing for hatchery chinook. Selective sport fisheries for hatchery (adipose fin clipped) spring chinook began in early January on the mainstem Columbia from the I-5 Bridge downstream. The seasons are expected to continue seven days a week through mid- May but could end earlier if the sport allocation is met. Any chinook salmon with its adipose fin intact must be immediately released unharmed.
The Dalles and John Day pools are scheduled to be open for sport fishing for two months from March 16 through May 15. Last year, the pools were open to fishing for spring chinook for three days.
Selective fishing for spring chinook will begin Feb. 6 on the Deep, Cowlitz, Kalama, and Lewis rivers and will begin April 1 on the Green River (a tributary of the Toutle River).
Bonneville Pool, located upstream of Bonneville Dam, is scheduled to remain closed to sport fishing for spring chinook because adult fish returning to its tributaries were not adipose fin-clipped as juveniles.
Wind River and Drano Lake will be open to chinook retention from mid-March through June. In addition, the Klickitat River will be open to fishing for spring chinook beginning April 1. Chinook with or without adipose fins intact may be kept in these areas.
Meanwhile, an estimated 19,000 hatchery-origin spring chinook are expected to be harvested in the commercial Columbia River fishery this year.
This year's Columbia River spring chinook run is expected to be the second- largest return since counting began at Bonneville Dam in 1938, surpassed only by the 508,000 fish that returned last year.
Last year's lower Columbia spring chinook selective sport fishery produced the longest season since 1977 and the largest catch since 1973. On one day in mid-April last year, over 3,200 boats and 2,700 bank anglers were counted between Bonneville Dam and Buoy 10 at the mouth of the Columbia River. All told, 26,000 adipose-fin- clipped chinook were harvested in an estimated 172,000 angler trips.
This year's sport and commercial seasons were set following an unprecedented multi-year conservation and rebuilding agreement reached last year by the four Columbia River treaty tribes and the states of Oregon and Washington. The agreement focuses on rebuilding Snake River spring and summer chinook, Upper Columbia spring chinook and Snake River sockeye by adjusting harvest rates based on the number of wild fish projected to return in a given year.
Biologists attribute two years of near-record or record returns of Columbia spring chinook to good river outflows and good ocean conditions.
The latest sport fishing regulations are available on WDFW's website or by calling the WDFW hotline at (360) 902-2500.