Summer chinook fishing closes beginning Monday

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Sportsmen in the lower Columbia River have caught more summer chinook than their guideline prompting Washington and Oregon to close salmon retention beginning Monday.

Chinook retention will be prohibited downstream of Bonneville Dam. The states also are closing sockeye retention downstream of Highway 395 in Pasco at the same time.

Anglers may still keep hatchery steelhead plus jack chinook, which measure 12 to 24 inches.

Chinook retention will reopen on Aug. 1. Chinook entering the Columbia beginning in August are categorized as fall chinook and a new management period begins.

Sportsmen downstream of Bonneville Dam have a summer chinook allocation of about 3,800. Through Thursday, the catch was 5,285 kept plus 2,553 released. The kept catch is more than double a year ago.

“This is some of the best fishing we’ve seen in recent years for both summer chinook and sockeye,” said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “This year’s catch has exceeded expectations.”

The summer chinook run of 80,000 this year is the second best since 1980.

Through Thursday, the sockeye catch was 1,564 kept and 390 released, the highest number of sockeye taken by sportsmen since 1980.

LeFleur said the closures are necessary to keep the catch within allowable harvest limits.

“For summer chinook salmon, we have to make sure we meet our conservation goals and leave enough fish for fisheries farther upstream,” she said. “Sockeye salmon bound for the Snake River are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and have catch limits of their own.”

Summer chinook fishing upstream of Bonneville Dam and sockeye fishing upstream of Highway 395 are not affected by the closures.

Summer steelhead fishing is off to a good start with strong catches in the Cathlamet area this month.

An excellent return of 766,300 adult fall chinook is forecast to enter the Columbia River, with 68 percent being the prized bright stocks.

"The fall chinook run is also looking very strong,'' said Joe Hymer, a state biologist. "Salmon fisheries are far from over on the Columbia River this year.''