A fishing extension approved last week for the163.5-mile stretch of the Columbia River above Bonneville Dam assures that hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon are fair game through June 15 from the mouth all the way to the point it veers north and leaves the Oregon-Washington border.
Previously set to close this past Wednesday, the spring chinook fishery on the mainstem was extended by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon, who agreed that enough fish are still available under the catch limit to allow anglers to keep fishing until the summer chinook salmon season starts June 16.
The popular spring chinook fishery was already scheduled to run through June 15 below Bonneville Dam.
The fisheries are managed based on a management agreement matrix that outlines how many fish can be taken by non-Indian and tribal fishers given any particular estimated run size.
Given the latest forecast return of 204,000 adult upriver spring to the mouth of the Columbia, the non-tribal share is 18,564 upriver spring chinook, fish bound for tributaries and hatcheries upstream of Bonneville in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. According to state calculations a total of about 15,991 upriver fish will have been taken through June 2 by lower river (7,803), Zone 6 (2,503), Upper Columbia (30) and lower Snake River (1,928) anglers and by the lower river non-Indian gill-net fleet (1,687).
There remains about 886 fish on the sport allocation and 1,687 on the commercial allocation.
"We’re pleased that we can keep these fisheries open right up to the end of the season," said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Fishing conditions due to high water levels haven’t been ideal this season and this extension should give anglers a chance to make up for lost time."
The state action allows boat and bank anglers to continue fishing above Bonneville Dam from the Tower Island power lines upriver to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank fishing is also allowed from Bonneville Dam upriver to the power lines, located six miles below The Dalles Dam.
Anglers can retain up to two hatchery adult chinook salmon, marked with a clipped adipose fin, as part of their daily catch limit. Sockeye salmon and hatchery-reared steelhead also count toward anglers’ adult daily limit. All unmarked chinook and steelhead must be released unharmed.
The recreational fishery from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Oregon/Washington border was open for hatchery chinook retention from March 16 through May 1 and May 7-10. The fishery was then opened from May 28 through June 2. The lower river sport fishery has also been on and off, April 20 because counts at Bonneville’s fish ladders lagged and managers feared the run might be smaller than forecast in preseason. A surge of fish across the dam enabled the reopening of the lower river in mid-May.
The new forecast is slightly higher than the preseason forecast of 198,400 adult fish to the mouth
Through Wednesday, a total of 169,338 adult fish had been counted passing Bonneville, which is located 146 miles from the Pacific. Missing from their number are the 15,991 mortalities occurring in sport and commercial fisheries and 2,289 caught by tribal fishers downstream of Bonneville.
The Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama tribes estimate their total catch, which mostly takes place in reservoirs above Bonneville, through May 28 to include 14,675 upriver spring chinook. About 3,889 remained on the tribal allocation, which was also 18,564 upriver spring chinook.
The tribes continue to fish with hook and line from riverside platforms. Chinook, steelhead, sockeye, coho, walleye, shad, yellow perch, bass and carp may be sold or kept for subsistence.