SPOKANE – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will close Ringold area bank fishing for spring chinook salmon on the Columbia River north of the Tri-Cities at 12:01 a.m. May 15.
The fishery opened three weeks earlier than usual, on April 21, to allow anglers to harvest a large, early return of hatchery chinook while they were in prime condition.
Catches have exceeded pre-season expectations, prompting WDFW to close the season at one minute past midnight May 15 when the catch is expected to reach the allowed level of impact on wild spring chinook, which are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The fishery is open only for bank fishing on that part of the Columbia River adjacent to Ringold Hatchery (in Franklin County north of Pasco) from the WDFW markers one-quarter mile downstream of the Ringold irrigation wasteway outlet to the markers a half mile upstream of Spring Creek.
The fishery targets spring chinook returning to WDFW's Ringold Hatchery, where they are no longer needed for broodstock because of Mitchell Act funding cuts.
Until 12:01 a.m. on May 15, any chinook, regardless of presence or absence of an adipose fin, may be retained; a two fish daily limit and12 inch minimum size rule are also in effect. All steelhead must be immediately released unharmed.
The 2001 run will be the last large return of spring chinook to Ringold due to the cancellation of the rearing program. The return in 2002 is expected to be 80 percent less, and the fishery on that return will likely be the last year for spring chinook salmon fishing at Ringold unless funding for the rearing program is reinstated.