Spring chinook outlook encouraging for Wind, Drano Lake

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter



Spring chinook salmon returns to Wind River and Drano Lake in Skamania County are forecast to bounce back in 2014, fueling a popular late April-May fishery.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is predicting a return of 8,500 spring chinook to Wind River, 13,100 to Drano Lake and 2,500 to the Klickitat River.

Those numbers compare to a weak run in 2013 of 3,600 to Wind River and a mediocre 7,300 to Drano Lake, a large backwater of the Columbia River at the mouth of the Little White Salmon River.

The Klickitat River last year got almost 1,800 spring chinook, a typical number.

Mid-Columbia returns

Year Wind Drano Klickitat

2010 5,060 10,779 1,607

2010 11,576 25,020 1,727

2011 11,132 14,446 1,701

2012 7,104 8,442 2,075

2013 3,585 7,332 1.764

2014* 8,500 13,100 2,500

  • Forecast

The forecast for an improvement at Wind and Drano is not unexpected.

The entire spring chinook run upstream of Bonneville Dam is predicted to be 227,000 in 2014, compared to a forecast of 141,400 and an actual return of 123,100 in 2013.

Anglers in 2012 were allowed to fish with two rods at Wind River during May and June from the white buoy line to the BNSF railroad bridge.

In Drano Lake, two rods were allowed May 12 through June 30.

The two-pole rule at Wind River was not adopted in 2013 due to the weak forecasts.

Cindy LeFleur, regional fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said that the department is in the process of determining the regulations for the fishing seasons and hope to have an announcement out by early February. 

The 2014 forecasts for the Wind River and Drano Lake are considerably higher than both the 2013 forecasts and the actual returns. The Klickitat forecast is similar to the 2013 forecast.

The state has not yet had discussions yet with the Yakama Nation, who also have fisheries in these tributaries.

Carson National Fish Hatchery on the upper Wind River needs about 1,500 spring chinook for spawning. Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery, just upstream of Drano Lake, needs 1,000 and Klickitat Hatchery needs 500.

The mouth of Wind River and Drano Lake are extremely popular once the chinook arrive about the third to fourth week of April.

The run has been late the past few years and moved quickly through the fishing area rather than lingering for sportsmen.