The worst spring Chinook salmon run in recorded history on the Lower Columbia River has resulted in an abbreviated sport fishing season below Bonneville Dam. That fishery is currently on pause and is set to open again only between the hours of dawn and dusk today.
The initial spring fishery wrapped up last weekend in order to allow fish managers in Washington and Oregon to parse salmon harvest and return numbers on the lowest stretch of Washington’s largest watershed. After that data review, officials decided to open the river to spring salmon fishing on Saturday only for a one-day reopening.
An email from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife earlier this week noted that the 101 adult spring Chinook tallied at Bonneville Dam as of April 10 established a new record low. The previous low mark was set in 2005 when 120 springers had navigated beyond Bonneville.
Limited fishing reports from the WDFW last week indicate that Lower Columbia River anglers averaged a little more than half of one adult spring Chinook salmon per boat. However, fishing continued to be a slow slog along the shoreline.
Professional fishing guide, Andy Coleman of Andy’s Angling Adventures, told The Chronicle that last week,“Trollers and hog liners were finding scattered groups of fish in the Columbia the last few days of season, not what it should be for this time of year though.”
On Saturday anglers will be allowed to keep one adult hatchery Chinook salmon as part of the regular daily limit of two adult fish. Boat anglers will be allowed to troll from Buoy 10 up to Beacon Rock and bank anglers will be allowed to cast a line all the way up to Bonneville Dam. All anglers will be required to use barbless hooks and release any salmon or steelhead with an intact adipose fin.
According to Bill Tweit, a fishery manager for WDFW, the one-day fishery is intended to serve as a “make-up day” for last Saturday when stormy weather kept most anglers away from the river.
“We’re taking this a step at a time,” Tweit said, in a press release. “We know more fish are moving into the river, but we need to see signs of higher numbers of fish passing the dam before we consider reopening the fishery again.”
A preseason forecast by the WDFW anticipated the return of approximately 166,700 upriver spring Chinook salmon to the Columbia River this year. Fishery managers set an initial catch guideline of 7,157 upriver chinook for the sport fishery below the dam, but so far anglers have caught only about half that many fish.
“If the run meets or exceeds expectations, we can give anglers more time to fish below the dam,” added Tweit in the release. “But right now, we need to make sure we can meet conservation requirements and our obligations to fisheries farther upriver.”