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Spring chinook angling resumes Sunday in lower Columbia

By , Columbian Outdoors Reporter
Published: May 13, 2011, 12:00am

Spring chinook fishing in the lower Columbia River will reopen on Sunday with angling from boats allowed upstream as far as Beacon Rock.

Washington and Oregon officials agreed Friday to open the season, which has been closed since mid-April.

Biologist Chris Kern of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said the upper Columbia spring chinook forecast has been upgraded from the initial prediction of 198,400 to 210,000.

State and tribal biologists will meet again Monday to look at the run forecast again, with another increase in the number considered likely.

At 210,000 chinook, sportsmen downstream of Bonneville Dam have about 5,000 fish on their allocation, Kern said. However, an overage of 1,200 in sport seasons upstream of Bonneville Dam reduces the number to 3,800.

The upstream boundary for boat fishermen will be a line from a sign on an Oregon-side dock to the downstream end of Pierce Island and then to a sign on the Washington shore at Beacon Rock. Bank fishing will be allowed upstream to Bonneville Dam.

Harry Barber of Washougal said opening fishing may not result in a big salmon catch.

The Northwest River Forecast Center is predicting the Columbia will jump to a very high flow of 450,000 cubic feet per second by about Tuesday or Wednesday. The Yakima and Naches rivers in central Washington reportedly are heading toward flood stage.

“We’ve got about three days before the water goes crazy,” said Barber, asking if the river could open Saturday instead.

Steve Williams, an assistant administrator of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the states need time to get the boundary signs up, sampling crews assigned to the various ramps and a flight scheduled on Sunday to measure fishing effort.

State, tribal and federal agreements require the spring chinook fisheries to be monitored closely to measure catch.

Kern said if the run forecast goes up, so does the number of spring chinook available.

Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the first priority will be to open between Beacon Rock and Bonneville Dam to boats if more salmon are available.

The second priority will be to provide more fishing time upstream of Bonneville Dam and in the lower Snake River.

The daily bag limit is two adult salmon or steelhead, but only one chinook. Sockeye salmon may be retained, but count towards the adult bag limit regardless of size.

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Shad may not be retained on Sunday, but are fair game beginning Monday when the previously scheduled shad season opens.

Kern said the states have no catch estimate from the 14-hour gillnet season that ended on Friday morning.

Seventy-four gillnet drifts were monitored by state observers Thursday night with a catch of 154 spring chinook and five steelhead.

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