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News / Sports / Outdoors

Lower Columbia River spring chinook salmon fishing to reopen for two weekends plus 4 days in June

Commercial net fishery gets one 12-hour day

By ALLEN THOMAS, for The Columbian
Published: May 15, 2024, 3:01pm

Spring chinook salmon angling in the lower Columbia River will reopen for the two coming weekends, plus June 12-15, Washington and Oregon fishery officials agreed Wednesday.

Those weekend days are this Friday, May 17, through Sunday, May 19, and the three-day Memorial Day weekend of May 25 through 27.

The daily limit will be two hatchery salmon or steelhead, but only one chinook.

State, federal and tribal biologists agreed Monday that the upper Columbia-Snake spring salmon run will number about 122,400 adult fish at its conclusion on June 15.

At that number, sportsmen in the lower Columbia have 2,914 upriver chinook left on their allocation, said Ryan Lothrop of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Anglers are expected to handle about 3,150 adult chinook, including 2,463 kept, of which 2,073 would be upper Columbia-Snake-origin fish, he said.

Fishing is not reopening upstream of Bonneville Dam.

Anglers in the river between Bonneville Dam and the Washington-Oregon state line east of Umatilla, Ore., have exceeded their allocation by 689 chinook. Anglers in the Snake River are over their allowance by 134 chinook.

The 10 days of lower Columbia spring chinook fishing is designed to save enough spring chinook for incidental catch in the summer steelhead season that occurs Thursday (May 16) through June 15 downstream of the Interstate 5 Bridge.

The June 12-15 portion of the season segues into the scheduled four-day, June 16-19 summer chinook retention season.

Netting returns

Washington and Oregon officials also adopted a 12-hour, small-mesh-net commercial fishery from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday from Beacon Rock to the mouth of the Columbia.

The commercial fleet has an allocation of 678 spring chinook, said Jeff Whisler of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

It is expected the net fleet will catch fewer than 678 upriver spring chinook on Monday, he said.

The netters will use 4.25-inch-mesh tangle nets and can only sell hatchery-origin chinook and shad. Each vessel is limited to 25 hatchery spring chinook. No additional drifts may be conducted once the adult chinook limit has been retained, Whisler added.

Onboard observations will be conducted, he said.

More than a dozen sport fishermen testified Wednesday against the commercial season.

Oregon Columbia River anglers pay a special fee to raise fish in off-channel waters like Youngs Bay in Astoria for targeted commercial fishing as part of reforms to shift the commercials off the main river, said Randy Woolsey of the bi-state Columbia River Recreational Advisory Group.

“It (the main river) is not the right place for it,’’ Woolsey said. “Somehow it keeps creeping back into the conversation.’’

Jim Wells of Salmon For All, a commercial group, said the recreational fishermen are misinformed and the net season “falls within all legal parameters.’’