It’s not a done deal, but it appears spring chinook fishing in the lower Columbia River may be open daily upstream to Rooster Rock, or even to Beacon Rock, in 2011.
Here’s the rub: Fishing probably won’t be open very late into April, when the bulk of the salmon enter the river.
Sportsmen in the lower Columbia have a catch allocation of 7,600 spring chinook destined for upstream of Bonneville Dam. They likely will fill that allocation about the first week of April.
The bi-state Columbia River Recreational Advisory Group met last week with the Washington and Oregon departments of Fish and Wildlife to examine 18 potential fishing scenarios submitted by the members.
When they were done jawing, there was a strong consensus for the option that had boat fishing open daily downstream from Rooster Rock and bank angling open daily from the ocean to Bonneville Dam.
If the upper boundary can be moved east to Beacon Rock, without sacrificing any fishing time, that should be considered, the group agreed.
Rooster Rock is on the Oregon side of the Columbia near the community of Corbett.
Chris Kern of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said modeling indicates such a season would result in 85,300 angler trips with a catch of 7,432 upper Columbia-origin chinook and 10,100 salmon overall.
That upper Columbia catch number is expected to be reached about April 5.
A year ago, angling downstream of Interstate 5 was open until reaching a catch guideline on April 18. From I-5 to Interstate 205, plus the shore from I-205 to Bonneville, was open March 1-14, March 18-20, March 25-27 and April 1-3.
Virtually all the members of advisory group wanted to avoid a repeat of 2010, when muddy water from Oregon’s Willamette River concentrated thousands of boats in the plume of clear Columbia River water from I-5 to Bachelor Island.
With so many boats trolling downstream, then running back up, the fishery is referred to as “the washing machine.”
“That below I-5 thing was a nightmare,” said Neil Branze, an advisory group member from Seaside.
Harry Barber of Washougal agreed.
“The long lines at the Caterpillar (Langsdorf Landing) boat ramp — it was just a zoo,” Barber said. “It was not a place to take your wife, or your grandkids.”
Pat O’Grady of Astoria said spring chinook fishing so early will be tough, because the fish don’t bite well at water temperatures colder than 40 degrees.
Randy Woolsey, a manufacturer’s representative, said spring salmon fishing days in April are “golden,” in terms of retail sales of fishing tackle.
Guy Norman, regional manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said ideas other than the scenario supported by the advisory group may be forthcoming at a public hearing Feb. 8 in Oregon City.
Washington and Oregon officials will decide on lower Columbia spring chinook and sturgeon fishing sport rules at the Oregon City meeting. The session begins at 10 a.m. at the Clackamas County Historical Society, 211 Tumwater Drive.
Steve Williams, assistant fish division administrator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the April 5 date for reaching the allocation is not a guarantee.
“Don’t leave the table thinking that’s the day,” he said. “It can change direction, radically, during the season.”