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News / Sports / Outdoors

Spring Chinook salmon season on lower Columbia extended four days

Harvest will remain far shy of allotment

By ALLEN THOMAS, for The Columbian
Published: April 4, 2023, 5:23pm

With the water cold and angling poor, the lower Columbia River will remain open for spring chinook salmon fishing through Tuesday, April 11, four days longer than scheduled.

Washington and Oregon officials adopted the extension late Tuesday.

Through Sunday, sportsmen in the lower Columbia had kept an estimated 623 spring chinook from 23,464 angling trips, an average of one fish per 37.6 trips. The water temperature on Tuesday was 43 degrees, two degrees colder than average.

Mortalities (kept, fin-clipped salmon plus wild fish that die after release) of upper Columbia-origin spring chinook through Sunday are estimated to be 255, which is 4 percent of the 6,487 fish allowed in the early portion of the season, said Jeff Whisler, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist.

State biologists anticipate 500 upper Columbia chinook will be killed Monday through Friday and another 1,300 or so in the four-day, Saturday-through-Tuesday extension.

The total upper Columbia harvest would still remain far shy of the 6,487 chinook allowed, said Tucker Jones, Oregon’s Columbia River salmon manager.

Through Monday, the spring chinook count at Bonneville Dam was 222 adult fish. The five-year average for the date is 238 chinook.

It is extremely early in the upper Columbia spring chinook run, Whisler said. Typically, just 0.3 percent of the run has passed Bonneville by April 3.

The forecast for 2023 calls for 198,600 spring chinook to enter the Columbia headed for upstream of Bonneville Dam. The forecast calls for 117,000 lower Columbia spring chinook, which 71,000 are destined for Oregon’s Willamette River.

Test fishing with commercial tangle nets on Monday in the Wahkiakum County portion of the lower Columbia caught 14 chinook in 15 drifts. Seventy-nine percent of the chinook were fin-clipped and 71 percent were of upper Columbia origin.

Commercial fishermen in the off-channel areas of Youngs Bay, South Channel, Kappa Slough and Deep River had landed 407 total chinook through Saturday, with 96 percent classified as lower Columbia origin.

The price paid to the commercials has averaged $12.75 a pound.

The states also approved a few extra hours for the commercials in the four off-channel areas.