The total sport catch of fall chinook salmon this year in the lower Columbia River -- 25,677 adult chinook through this past Sunday, Sept. 25, -- is now the second largest since at least 1980 and could well take over the top spot in the coming days.
The record is 26,195 fish caught in 2003 during the fall season that begins Aug. 1.
The number of angler trips to the lower mainstem so far this year – 130,052, is already a record. The previous high was 118,000 in 2009. The “lower river” is the stretch from a point at about river mile 18 upstream to Bonneville Dam at river mile 146.
Portions of the lower mainstem have at times been closed to fall chinook retention but is open up and down the stretch as of Oct. 1. The lower boundary is defined as a line from Tongue Point just upstream of Astoria north across the river to Rocky Point in Washington.
“I think that in addition to the high effort we also had real good conditions” for fishing, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Joe Hymer said. The river has stayed cooler and higher than normal longer than usual.
“They get lethargic” and less likely to bite when water temperatures rise to 70 degrees or above, as they most often do in late summer, Hymer said. The higher water levels likely improved bank anglers’ access, and success.
Last week on the lower Columbia, anglers made 7,642 trips and kept 1,919 adult fall chinook, 132 coho and 32 steelhead. In addition they released 224 adult chinook, 205 coho and 26 steelhead.
Effort dropped to about 650 boats this past Saturday, but catch rates are still decent overall and excellent in the Bonneville area, where Tuesday 14 boats kept 61 adult fall chinook.
During the week of Sept. 12-18 anglers on the lower Columbia made 19,259 trips and kept 5,261 adult fall chinook, 186 adipose fin-clipped steelhead, and 198 adipose fin-clipped coho. In addition anglers released 273 coho, 51 steelhead, and 657 adult fall chinook.
So far in September a total of 54,742 trips were made by anglers fishing from boats and they caught 16,513 chinook while 10,880 bank anglers caught 2,748 chinook. A total of 6,416 chinook were caught in August.