Washington and Oregon announced Thursday they are postponing the opening of hatchery steelhead and jack chinook salmon angling in the lower Columbia River scheduled to begin Tuesday.
Much lower than expected passage of spring chinook salmon over Bonneville Dam, coupled with the spring chinook catch to date in the sport fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam, are the primary causes of the delay.
As of Wednesday, only about 26,000 of the approximately 160,000 forecasted spring chinook salmon had been counted at Bonneville Dam.
Although steelhead anglers would have been required to release any adult salmon they caught in the postponed fishery, a certain percentage would die after release.
“Unfortunately we just don’t have any lower river sport allocation left to operate this fishery prior to a run update,’’ said Tucker Jones, ocean salmon and Columbia River program manager, for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“We’re not sure if this run is just very late or also below forecast,’’ Jones said. “Water conditions have been way outside of normal this year, and that could be the primary cause for the low counts to date.’’
The abnormal water conditions this year have injected a level of uncertainty into assessing this run that doesn’t typically exist, Jones said.
“Given the unclear situation we have this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes another week or two before we really know the full story on this year’s return,’’ he said.