Lower Columbia spring chinook angling reopens Thursday

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter

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Chinook angling in the lower Columbia River reopens on Thursday upstream to Bonneville Dam and will continue until late June.

Washington and Oregon adopted the reopening on Tuesday and also approved a night of commercial fishing on May 20.

State, federal and tribal biologists on Monday updated the forecast for upper Columbia-Snake river spring chinook to 224,000.

Harvest allocation guidelines use a sliding scale and once the forecast exceeds 217,000 a larger percentage of the spring chinook run can be taken.

Tuesday’s decision opens the Columbia from Tongue Point east of Astoria to the deadline at Bonneville Dam. The restriction on fishing from a boat between Beacon Rock and Bonneville Dam no longer applies.

The daily bag limit is two hatchery steelhead or one hatchery steelhead and one hatchery chinook, plus unlimited shad. No sockeye can be retained.

Sockeye retention is schedule to begin on June 16, when the summer chinook management period starts. Summer chinook and sockeye retention are slated for June 16 through 30.

Biologist Robin Ehlke of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said sportsmen in the lower river are expected to catch about 3,900 additional upper Columbia spring chinook between Thursday and June 15.

Biologist John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said about 97 percent of the lower Columbia sport spring chinook allocation will be harvested.

Spring chinook retention is closed in the Columbia between Bonneville Dam and the Washington-Oregon boundary east of Umatilla, Ore., because the catch exceeded the allocation.

Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the states will monitor the run and lower river sport catches to see if some spring chinook catch can be moved upstream without shorting the lower Columbia.

Commericial fishing — The gillnet fleet will fish from 7 p.m. May 20 until 5 a.m. May 21 with 8-inch-minimum-mesh nets from the coast upstream to Beacon Rock.

The commercials are projected to catch about 670 upper Columbia spring chinook and are likely to have about 800 additional fish left for another opener, North said.

Steve Fick of Fishhawk Fisheries in Astoria said the average size of the chinook next week will be slightly larger than the salmon in the lower Columbia now and the market will be a little better heading into Memorial Day weekend.

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