OLYMPIA – After weeks of good fishing, the sport fishery for hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon will close on the mainstem Columbia River between Bonneville Dam and McNary Dam, effective Monday, May 10.
By then, the catch by anglers fishing that stretch of the Columbia River is expected to reach 3,400 fish – nearly double the record harvest of 1,800 fish taken in 2008.
“Anglers fishing between Bonneville and McNary dams have enjoyed good early success in this year’s season,” said Guy Norman, southwest regional manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “We’d like to keep this fishery going, but we need to manage the catch to ensure fair opportunity for anglers farther upriver.”
Norman noted that the closure does not affect fishing on tributaries flowing into the Columbia River that are currently open for spring chinook.
Based on a huge pre-season forecast of 470,000 upriver-bound spring chinook, this year’s fishery between the dams was initially scheduled to run through the end of May. But fishery managers from Washington and Oregon agreed to close it sooner after biologists concluded that fewer than 400,000 spring chinook will likely return this year, Norman said.
“This is still a very strong return, resulting in good fishing both above and below Bonneville Dam this year,” he said. “The catch in those areas is expected to be proportionate to the amount anticipated at the start of the season, after adjusting for the reduced size of the run.”
Anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam took approximately 23,500 upriver spring chinook before the fishery closed last month.
Norman said it is possible that spring chinook sport fishing could reopen in the mainstem Columbia above and below Bonneville Dam, but only if the run size significantly exceeds current expectations and catch-sharing obligations with the Columbia River treaty Indian tribes can be assured.
“We’re keeping a very close eye on the daily fish counts at Bonneville Dam, but we would have to see some very strong counts in the next several days to warrant reopening sport fisheries on either side of Bonneville Dam,” Norman said. “At this point, we need to manage fisheries based on the information in hand.”