Lower Columbia spring chinook angling extension not anticipated

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Spring chinook salmon anglers have caught slightly more than 70 percent of their early-season allocation for the lower Columbia River, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday.

Fishing downstream of Bonneville Dam closed starting Saturday. From Feb. 1 through Friday, there were an estimated 75,736 angler trips with 5,123 adult chinook kept and 1,203 released.

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Spring chinook catch

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The kept catch was 1,672 chinook destined for the Willamette and other lower Columbia tributaries and 3,451 chinook headed for upstream of Bonneville Dam.

Washington and Oregon allocated 4,900 upper Columbia chinook for the lower Columbia sport fishery. The catch of upper Columbia spring chinook, including the mortality of wild fish released, is slightly more than 70 percent of the early-season allocation.

The commercial fleet, who fished on April 9, caught about 57 percent of their early-season allocation, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Roler said there are no plans for additional sport fishing until the spring chinook run size update becomes available in early to mid-May.

The states have been able to use the catch-per-effort in the lower Columbia sport fishery to get an early feel for the strength of the spring chinook run, even when counts at Bonneville Dam were low.

"This year the catch-per-unit was all over the board,'' said Roler. "The fish seemed to come in little waves, but it was not consistent.''

There were days when the catch in the Portland area was abysmal, yet quite good in the Cathlamet area, he said

The kept catch was only 67 percent upper Columbia spring chinook, when 70 percent to 80 percent was anticipated.

"The water was clear and not high, and I was not sure we'd make the original April 5 closure,'' Roler said. "Then we extended it a week and it still did not explode.''

The states plan to resume test fishing to get additional information about the run.

"We'll continue to assess, but I don't think we'll do anything until the run-size update,'' he said.

If spring chinook remain available to the lower Columbia sport fishery, they might be front-loaded onto the summer chinook season, which is scheduled to start on June 16, he added.