Spring chinook fishing extension not likely for lower Columbia

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



Spring chinook anglers in the lower Columbia River should not be looking for a fishing season extension beyond Friday.

Here’s the other bad news: There’s a bunch of muddy water headed down Oregon’s Willamette River. Water visibility at the mouth of the Willamette by Friday is anticipated to be less than 2 feet.

Biologist John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Monday when the sport season in the lower Columbia reaches its scheduled end on Friday it is projected 4,187 upper Columbia-Snake-origin spring chinook will have been taken out of an allocation of 4,900.

That’s 85 percent of what’s allowed in the sport fishery before the spring chinook run is updated in mid-May.

Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Tony Nigro, Oregon’s Columbia River-ocean manager, agreed Monday there are no catch updates scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday, meaning the sport season most likely will continue but not be extended.

North said the sport catch from April 1-5 was better than expected, but then dropped on the weekend. The boat count on Saturday was only 855, lower than anticipated although the blustery weather probably helped dampen the effort.

Once the lower Columbia closes, many anglers shift to the lower Willamette River and Multnomah Channel to fish for spring chinook.

Rain in the Willamette Valley has muddy water headed down the Willamette, North said.

Turbidity at the Morrison Bridge in Portland was 5.5 feet on Friday and 4 feet on Monday, he said. Visibility at Willamette Falls was 3.5 feet on Monday.

Water clarity of less than 2 feet by Friday is expected to reduce greatly the catch in the lower Willamette and even the Columbia downstream of the Willamette mouth on Friday.

Gillnet season set — The gillnet fleet will fish from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday from the mouth of the Columbia to Beacon Rock with a limit of nine hatchery spring chinook per vessel, not including jacks (shorter than 24 inches).

North said the net fleet has an allocation of 1,200 upper Columbia-Snake salmon, which expands to a total catch of about 1,600 when chinook destined for the Willamette and other lower river tributaries are included.

The catch on Tuesday is projected to be about 1,250 chinook with 1,140 upper Columbia salmon. That would be 93 percent of the 1,200 upper Columbia chinook allowed.

Most of the commercial fishermen testifying at Monday’s Columbia River Compact asked for a six-hour unrestricted fishery instead of nine hours with a per vessel limit.

“For nine fish, I’m not going to fire up my engines and miss a day of work,” said Mike Krause, a commercial fisherman.

“I don’t think I’ll go fishing for that,” said Les Clark, a Chinook, Wash., commercial fisherman. “I think I’ll buy a fish off somebody.”

Bill Huntsinger, also a commercial fisherman, said knows of a guide who put seven fish in his boat on Sunday and four on Monday.

“The real commercial fishery on the Columbia River is the guide boats,” he said.