Spring chinook angling to reopen Saturday in lower Columbia

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Spring chinook fishing in the lower Columbia River will open Saturday and continue daily, segueing into the summer salmon season debut on June 16.

Washington and Oregon officials on Monday approved restarting salmon fishing, which has been closed since April 13, and also adopted a night of gillnetting on Wednesday.

State, tribal and federal biologists have honed in on a forecast of 107,500 spring chinook salmon entering the Columbia River headed for waters upstream of Bonneville Dam.

At that number, there are 1,357 upper Columbia adult spring chinook left for lower Columbia sportsmen under the plethora of management plans. Biologist John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife predicted sportsmen will catch about 1,250 chinook through June 15.

June 16 marks the beginning of the summer chinook management period with different regulations. Summer chinook fishing in the lower Columbia is scheduled to be open through June 30.

Angling from Saturday through June 15 will be open from boats upstream to Beacon Rock and from the bank upstream to Bonneville Dam. The daily limit will be two salmon or steelhead, but only one chinook. Sockeye must be released.

Larry Swanson of Vancouver urged state officials not to reopen angling until it is certain there are enough fish available to continue uninterrupted until June 16's summer opener.

Commercial fishing — The commercial fleet only caught 245 adult spring chinook and 230 jack chinook on May 15. North said the commercials have 1,035 adult upper Columbia chinook remaining on their allocation.

The netters will fish from 7 p.m. Wednesday until 7 a.m. Thursday from Beacon Rock to the ocean. They are expected to catch about 350 fish. The states will meet by teleconference at 3:30 p.m. May 28 to consider additional netting.

Wednesday night's commercial fishery will be with 8-inch-minimum mesh nets. The commercials tried using 41/4-inch tangle nets last Wednesday, but caught large numbers of shad.

Commercial fisherman Gary Soderstrom said he caught 350 shad in a single drift, too many to pick from his net in the 45-minute soak time allowed.

Washington's policy for 2013 is that only tangle nets can be used in the main Columbia River for spring chinook. But Guy Norman of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said he was invoking an "adaptive management'' provision of the policy to allow use of 8-inch-mesh nets.

Robin Ehlke of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said the commercials were paid about $6.50 to $8 a pound for adult spring chinook, $3 to $4 a pound for jacks and 20 cents a pound for shad.