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Spring chinook angling in lower Columbia expected to reopen

By , Columbian Outdoors Reporter
Published: May 8, 2011, 5:00pm

State and tribal biologists on Monday announced the upper Columbia River spring chinook salmon run will be at least the 198,400 fish initially predicted. The updated forecast will pave the way for a re-opening of fishing downstream of Bonneville Dam.

In December, the biologists forecast 198,400 spring chinook would enter the Columbia destined for waters upstream of Bonneville.

To avoid overharvest in case the run was smaller then anticipated, Washington and Oregon officials managed the run with a 30 percent buffer, or as if the run would be only 139,000 salmon.

The sport catch, including wild fish release mortalities, with a 30 percent buffer could be about 7,750 upper Columbia spring chinook. When fishing closed on April 20, the sport catch of upper Columbia chinook was about 6,000.

At a run of 198,400, the lower Columbia River sport catch can be an additional 4,600 to 5,700 chinook under the variety of state, tribal and federal management agreements, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The commercial fleet caught 1,728 of its 1,900 spring chinook available prior to Monday’s update. With the run forecast updated to at least 198,400, the commercials can catch another 1,700 to 3,100 in the lower Columbia, she said.

The Columbia River Compact will meet by teleconference at 1 p.m. Wednesday with a gillnet season likely for Thursday. Test fishing was conducted Monday to sample for chinook and steelhead ratios in the Columbia.

Counts at Bonneville Dam were small during most of April. The river was high, cold and dirty. On April 24, only 3,826 spring chinook had passed the dam.

But beginning April 25, the counts zoomed. Twice the daily tally has exceeded 10,000 chinook and the count through Sunday was 106,585.

Members of the bi-state Columbia River Recreational Advisory Group will meet with state biologists on Wednesday to discuss how to structure a salmon season to use the remaining sport allocation.

Fishing for hatchery steelhead downstream of Bonneville Dam is scheduled to reopen May 16.

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