OLYMPIA - With the spring chinook fishery in the lower Yakima River just getting under way, a section of the river farther upstream will open to fishing May 17 from the Interstate 82 Bridge at Union Gap to the railroad bridge below Roza Dam.
Spring chinook are now moving into the lower river in increasing numbers, and should provide fishing opportunities in the upper river when that area opens for fishing, said John Easterbrooks, regional fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Easterbrooks noted that 502 adult spring chinook salmon had been counted at Prosser Dam as of May 7 - a large portion of which were wild fish, typically more numerous early in the run. The first chinook crossed Roza Dam 80 miles upriver on May 5.
In all, an estimated 3,350 adult hatchery spring chinook salmon are predicted to return to the Yakima River this year.
"The lion's share of the catch generally comes from the upper river below Roza Dam, although we did expand fishing opportunity in the lower river this year," Easterbrooks said.
He noted that this year's rules add 2.4 miles of fishable water near the mouth of the Yakima River by moving the lower boundary of the fishery downriver from the Interstate 182 bridge to the Highway 240 bridge.
Anglers fishing the Yakima River have a daily limit of two hatchery chinook, identifiable by a clipped adipose fin. All wild salmon and steelhead must be released unharmed and must not be removed from the water prior to release.
To participate in the fishery, anglers must possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement, along with a valid fishing license. Revenues from the CRSSE will be used to fund fishery monitoring and law enforcement. Anglers also have the option of purchasing a "two-pole endorsement" and fishing with two poles.
Endorsement revenues will also be used to fund the third and final year of a hooking mortality study below Roza Dam. With assistance from the Yakama Nation, a WDFW research team plans to radio-tag up to 150 wild spring chinook that have been hooked, played and released.
"Anglers who hook a salmon may be approached by a scientific technician as they play the fish," Easterbrooks said. "If it's a wild salmon with an intact adipose fin, the technician will assist in unhooking and releasing the fish after tagging it. The technician will also record the amount of time the fish was played, the hooking location, the condition of the fish and other relevant data."
The technicians will also be fishing for the study, and will release all fish they catch once the fish have been tagged.
"We would appreciate anglers' cooperation as we work to refine estimates that play a key role in managing fisheries," Easterbrooks said. "Accurate estimates of hooking mortality are especially important in fisheries where WDFW must avoid exceeding impact limits on listed salmon stocks prescribed in fishery permits issued by NOAA-Fisheries."
Easterbrooks also asks for anglers' cooperation in helping to maintain walk-in access to fishing areas on both sides of the river below Roza Dam. That access includes:
- Passage across Roza Dam to the popular fishing area downstream from the railroad bridge boundary on the west bank.
- The trail across private property accessed from the "Roza Cut" parking area at the top of the hill on the Yakima Canyon Hwy (SR 821), which is used by anglers to access fishing sites on the east river bank below the railroad bridge.
WDFW asks that anglers observe some basic rules established by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns Roza Dam:
- Passage across the dam is limited to walk-in access to the stairway on the west bank of the river and only during the salmon fishery. Rules prohibit crossing the Roza Canal at the west end of the dam and using the railroad bridges over Roza Canal and the Yakima River to access the fishing areas on both banks. Anglers can access both sides of the river by walking under the bridge next to the abutments to access the fishing areas downstream.
- Anglers are asked to park in the designated areas on the right side of the Roza Dam Access Road, not on private property on the left side of the road.
- Trash dumpsters have been placed in parking areas at the Roza Cut and Roza Dam Access Road, and next to the Roza adult fish trapping facility. Anglers are asked to carry a trash bag and deposit their trash - along with any they find along the trail - in the dumpsters.
- Anglers are also asked to use the three portable toilets provided at the Roza Cut and access road parking areas and on the dam near the west bank stairway.
"Public access across Roza Dam and adjacent private property is a privilege, not a right," Easterbrooks said. "We're asking anglers to do everything they can to make sure these two critical access points remain open for their use. Any damage or misuse of federal or private property could result in termination of the privilege for everyone during this year's fishery and could reduce access to this important salmon fishing area in future years."