Friday, August 14, 2020
Aug. 14, 2020

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Spring chinook fishing to be open Saturday in lower Columbia

By , Columbian Outdoors Reporter

Spring chinook salmon retention will be allowed one more day — Saturday — in the lower Columbia River, then stay closed until May 16.

Washington and Oregon officials on Tuesday approved additions to the sport-fishing seasons both upstream and downstream of Bonneville Dam, plus adopted a 14-hour commercial fishery on Wednesday afternoon and evening in the lower Columbia.

State, federal and tribal biologists on Monday upgraded the upper Columbia-Snake spring chinook forecast to 241,000. The initial forecast was for 232,500.

Through Monday’s sport-fishing closure, anglers in the lower Columbia had harvested 11,686 spring chinook, which is 75 percent of the allocation of 15,506 salmon, said biologist Jeff Whisler of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

There are about 3,820 upper Columbia-Snake chinook available on the allocation.

Whisler said about 1,000 spring chinook from all stocks will be handled on Saturday with 600 to 700 dead upper Columbia-Snake chinook.

Sport-fishing advisers to Washington and Oregon have expressed a strong desire to allow chinook retention concurrent with the May 16 summer steelhead opener and continue it through June 15, the end of the spring management period.

About 3,200 spring chinook are needed for the May 16-June 15 period, Whisler said.

Saturday’s catch, plus the harvest May 16-June 15, will come very close or may exceed the lower Columbia sport allocation. If it appears the allocation will be exceeded, chinook retention will have to be closed during a few days during May 16-June 15.

Larry Swanson of Vancouver urged allowing chinook retention on Saturday. The spring run is waning in the lower Columbia and get harder to catch with each passing day.

Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said he is willing to risk a few days of no chinook retention in late May or June to have a fishery on Saturday.

“You don’t get that day back if you don’t set it now,” Norman said.

“The run is quickly passing us by and going over the dam with the (warm) water temperature,” said Robert Moxley of Dundee, Ore. “I’d like to see opportunity this Saturday.”

The daily bag limit will be two salmon or steelhead, but only one chinook. Only fin-clipped fish can be kept. Sockeye can not be retained. Boat fishing is open upstream to Beacon Rock and bank fishing to Bonneville Dam.

Mid-Columbia — Spring chinook retention between Bonneville Dam and the Washington-Oregon border was extended through Sunday. It was scheduled to close beginning Thursday.

Whisler said sportsmen in the mid-Columbia will have 586 spring chinook left on their allocation after Wednesday and about 86 left after the four-day extension.

Commercial fishing — Commercial fishing will resume at 4 p.m. Wednesday and continue through 6 a.m. Thursday from Beacon Rock downstream to the mouth of the Columbia. Tangle nets with a 4.25-inch maximum mesh will be required.

The commercial fleet caught about 1,300 chinook on Monday in the lower Columbia. For the spring, the commercials have taken about 54 percent of their upper Columbia-Snake chinook allocation of 4,493 salmon.

Whisler said the commercials are anticipated to catch 1,000 to 1,200 chinook on Wednesday night. That would bring the commercials to 76 percent of their allocation for the season, he added.

An additional commercial fishing period is likely next week.

Tribal commercial fishing — Tribal commercial fishing will be allowed between Bonneville and McNary dams from 6 a.m. Tuesday through 6 p.m. May 15. Treaty fishermen are projected to catch 8,500 chinook in the 31/2 days.