Lower Columbia reopens Friday, Saturday for spring chinook

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Spring chinook salmon fishing in the lower Columbia River will reopen for Friday and Saturday, although boats will be limited to downstream of Rooster Rock.

Washington and Oregon on Tuesday adopted the two additional days of salmon angling, plus set a commercial fishing period from 1 to 10 p.m. Wednesday from Beacon Rock to the ocean.

State, federal and tribal biologists agreed on Monday the run of spring chinook headed for upstream of Bonneville Dam will be no less than 185,000, and likely somewhat larger.

That forecast update releases some buffers to prevent early-season overharvest and allows the states to manage the fisheries in more detail.

The forecast prepared in December predicted 227,000 adult spring chinook would enter the Columbia destined for upstream of Bonneville Dam.

At a run of 185,000, sportsmen in the lower Columbia have a catch allowance of 10,710. Through the end of the early season on April 19, the sport catch was 9,276.

Biologist John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimated sportsmen would use up about 690 upper Columbia-Snake chinook in the two days.

Sportsmen supported the Friday-Saturday fishing, but most said the top priority is to save enough allocation to be allowed to keep a chinook when the lower Columbia steelhead fishery opens downstream of Interstate 5 on May 16.

The biologists will update the spring chinook forecast again on Monday, which could increase allocations somewhat to sport, commercial and tribal fisheries.

State officials may meet on May 13 to adopt additional fishing time.

Shad may be retained on Friday and Saturday, but not sockeye.

Commercial fishing — The commercials will fish 4.25-inch-mesh tangle nets during their nine-hour period. The fleet caught 1,511 upper Columbia spring chinook on April 1 and are projected to catch 1,540 on Wednesday.

Their allocation at a 185,000 run is 3,101 upper Columbia chinook.

Biologist Robin Ehlke of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said the commercials are expected to be paid $5 to $7 a pound.

“The market certainly would like some fish before Mother’s Day,’’ said Robert Sudar of Longview, a commercial buyer.

Tribal fishing — The states approved the sale of spring chinook caught in tribal hook-and-line and platform fisheries in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools.

The tribes have caught about 7,000 chinook and have about 9,000 left on their allocation.