After an increase in success last week, anglers appear to be on track to catch their early season allocation of marked, hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River by the planned April 4 closure date.
But they could get more fishing opportunity later if a late April or early May run-size update is favorable, state officials say.
The preseason forecast projected a return of 198,400 upriver fish but the non-tribal harvest share of that return is being managed with a 30 percent “buffer” to guard against the possibility that the run comes in smaller than expected and too high of a percentage of protected wild fish are taken.
“If the fish return is at or above expectations, we will look toward providing additional days of fishing on the river later in spring,” said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The WDFW and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife co-manage mainstem fisheries where the Columbia makes the border between the states.
Harvests are controlled to limit impacts on wild, unmarked upper Columbia and Snake river stocks that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. A certain number of the unmarked fish fall victim to post-release mortality.
“Our first job is to determine how the catch through April 4 stacks up against the harvest guideline,” LeFleur said. “Right now, we are tracking fairly close to our projections, so any additional fishing time in April will probably be fairly limited.”
As of March 27, anglers had caught and kept 3,331 spring chinook below Bonneville Dam, including 2,650 that count against the harvest guideline of 7,750 upriver fish. Rough conditions – including high, turbid water – hindered fishing in many areas, but catch rates rose quickly during the final week of fishing, as more fish arrived in the lower river.
The projected catch through Thursday 3,770 adult spring chinook kept and 1,092 released, including 2,964 upriver chinook. That would mean 40 percent of the allocation had been taken.
“Catch rates have increased during the last week and we could come close to reaching the guideline by April 4,” LeFleur said.
Fisheries for shad and hatchery-reared steelhead run concurrently with the spring chinook season and would close as well Monday.
This year’s lower Columbia mainstem catch did take a jump March 21-27, nearly doubling the number of angler trips and more than doubling the number of chinook caught. Through March 20, there had been an estimated 35,731 angler trips with 1,349 adult spring kept, including an estimated 1,187 (88 percent of the total kept catch) upriver spring chinook.
Catch rates improved for salmonid anglers fishing the lower Columbia this past weekend, according to a Tuesday update from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Boat anglers fishing the estuary had the highest catch rate where anglers averaged 0.60 spring chinook caught per boat, while boat anglers in the Portland to Longview area averaged 0.39 spring chinook caught per boat and boat anglers in Troutdale averaged 0.07 spring chinook caught per boat.
Bank anglers in the estuary averaged 0.13 spring chinook and 0.38 steelhead caught per bank angler, while bank anglers in the Portland to Longview 0.06 spring chinook and 0.07 steelhead caught per bank angler. On Saturday’s (March26) flight, 1,423 salmonid boats and 516 Oregon bank anglers were counted.
A March 22 report said that boat anglers in the Portland to Longview area averaged only 0.16 spring chinook caught per boat the previous week, while anglers in the estuary averaged 0.07 spring chinook caught per boat, and boat anglers in Troutdale averaged 0.04 spring chinook caught per boat. Bank anglers in the Portland to Longview area averaged 0.03 steelhead caught per bank angler.
Spring chinook angling is fair to good from Rooster Rock downstream to the estuary this week’s report says.
Salmonid effort continues to build with more than 1,400 boats and nearly 800 bank anglers counted during last Saturday’s (March 26) aerial survey flight count. That effort was down by about one-third compared to the 2,062 boats counted on Saturday March 27 of last year when a record upriver spring chinook return of 470,000 was forecast in preseason. The actual 2010 upriver return to the mouth of the Columbia as 315,300.
This year’s preseason forecast includes a prediction that 133,400 lower river spring chinook will return. The lower river forecast includes the expected return of 104,100 fish bound for western Oregon’s Willamette River.
The mainstem Columbia is now open to sport salmon fishing for boats from Buoy 10 at the river mouth upstream to Rooster Rock, which is located upstream of Corbett, Ore., at river mile 129. Additionally people can fish from the banks from Rooster Rock up to Bonneville Dam, which is located near river mile 146. That lower Columbia (Bonneville to the mouth) season is open through Monday April 4, or until the catch guideline of 7,750 upriver spring chinook is achieved. Upriver spring chinook are those bound for hatcheries and tributary spawning grounds upstream of Bonneville.
The mainstem is open to the harvest of adipose fin-clipped spring chinook, adipose fin-clipped steelhead and shad. The daily bag limit is two adipose fin-clipped salmon or steelhead adults (chinook greater than 24 inches and steelhead greater than 20 inches), of which no more than one may be a chinook, and five adipose fin-clipped chinook jacks. The retention of chum and sockeye is prohibited.
The Columbia mainstem from Bonneville up the Oregon/Washington border just above McNary Dam is open to the retention of adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and adipose fin-clipped steelhead through Sunday, April 24, or until the catch guideline of 1,050 chinook has been reached.
Spring chinook angling opened March 16 between Tower Island and the Oregon/Washington border above McNary Dam plus the Oregon and Washington banks between Bonneville Dam and Tower Island. Angling for salmon and steelhead from a floating device between Bonneville Dam and the Tower Island powerlines (located approximately 6 miles downstream from The Dalles Dam) is prohibited.