States open more of Columbia River for spring chinook

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Salmon and steelhead fishing from boats between Beacon Rock and Bonneville Dam in the Columbia River will open beginning Friday.

Washington and Oregon officials agreed to open the short stretch of the river on Wednesday. It has been open for bank fishermen.

The states also agreed to open the Columbia from the Tower Island power lines, six miles downstream of The Dalles Dam, to the Washington-Oregon border, plus both shores between Bonneville and Tower Island, beginning Saturday.

The Beacon Rock-to-Bonneville stretch will be open daily. The mid-Columbia stretch will be open from Saturday through June 2.

Biologist John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said about 2,700 upper Columbia River-origin spring chinook remain available for sport harvest.

North estimated about 1,000 more upper Columbia chinook will be caught downstream of Bonneville Dam through June 15. The summer chinook management period begins June 16.

That will leave about 1,700 chinook, which are being reallocated to upstream of Bonneville Dam.

North said the goal is to allocate about 800 salmon to the mid-Columbia area and 800 to the lower Snake River.

With the Columbia River flowing almost 500,000 cubic feet per second at Bonneville Dam — a huge amount — and less than 2 feet of water clarity, anglers are not expected to catch a lot of spring chinook.

While the area between Beacon Rock and Bonneville Dam will be open to fishing from a boat, it is unlikely many anglers will try their luck.

"I doubt there are a lot of boats trying to use the river below Bonneville at 500,000 cfs,'' said Steve Williams, an assistant administrator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The reopening in the Snake River is expected to be limited to two areas, downstream of Little Goose Dam and near Clarkston.

North said projecting sport catches in such high and muddy water is very challenging.

State and tribal biologists have updated the forecast for the upper Columbia spring chinook run to 213,400. The initial forecast made in December was 198,400.