Spring chinook fishing will open Sunday at Wind River and Drano Lake in the Columbia River Gorge.
With only one spring chinook counted at Bonneville Dam so far, the early-season catch is expected to be minimal.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is predicting 8,500 spring chinook will enter the Columbia destined for Wind River, 13,100 for 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.
Wind River will be open from the boundary line marked by white buoys at the mouth to the BNSF railroad bridge from Sunday through July 31.
Anglers with a two-pole endorsement may fish with two rods for salmon and steelhead May 1 through June 30.
Waters between the BNSF railroad bridge and upstream to 400 feet downstream of Shipherd Falls will be open April 1 through July 31.
Waters from 100 feet upstream of Shipherd Falls to 800 yards downstream of Carson National Fish Hatchery (except closed from 400 feet below to 100 feet above the coffer dam) will be open May 1 through June 30.
Wild chinook must be released downstream from Shipherd Falls. Minimum-size limits are 12 inches for salmon and 20 inches for steelhead.
The daily bag limit will be two chinook or two hatchery steelhead or one of each.
Drano Lake will be open Sunday through July 31. The daily bag limit will be two hatchery chinook or steelhead, or one of each.
Regulations for the Klickitat River have not been announced yet. A decision is pending on allowing two rods for a portion of the Drano Lake season.
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.
The lower Columbia is closed at that time, leaving local chinook anglers a choice between Oregon’s Willamette River or the tributaries in the Columbia Gorge.
Boaters jam the mouth of Wind River and Drano Lake in April and May.
They troll with plugs, spinners, prawns and herring, often fighting the strong west winds, in a typically productive fishery.