Another Lower Columbia Spring Chinook ‘Re-Opener’ This Weekend; Bonneville Dam Passage Still Low

Spring
chinook passage at the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam through April 23 totaled
1,250 fish, which is the second lowest passage in the last 10 years and only 6
percent of the 10-year (2009-2018) average cumulative count (22,499) for that
date.

Still,
with low angler catch rates the last two weekends, fishery managers from Oregon
and Washington added two additional days — Saturday, April 27 and Sunday,
April 28 — to the lower Columbia spring chinook fishery.

 

The
previous re-openings, which occurred the last two weekends, resulted in low catch
rates due to poor water conditions. 
Water conditions are expected to remain challenging this weekend due to
high turbidity.

 

The
open area remains unchanged from earlier this season, which is the Columbia
River mainstem from the Warrior Rock deadline upstream to Beacon Rock, for both
boat and bank angling, plus bank angling only from Beacon Rock upstream to the
Bonneville Dam deadline.

 

The
adult daily bag limit is two hatchery salmonids (chinook or steelhead) per day
but only one may be a chinook.

 

The
additional spring chinook fishing time was approved after another in-season
review confirmed about 60 percent of the buffered upriver spring chinook
harvest guideline for this fishery remains available.

 

A
joint state hearing is planned for Wednesday, May 8 to review run and harvest
information, and consider additional spring chinook fishing opportunities.

 

On
average, 9.7 percent of the run has passed Bonneville Dam by April 23.

 

However,
“as evidenced by the variability in proportion passage complete by this date,
cumulative counts in mid-April are not a reliable indicator of final passage.
The recent 10-yr average 50 percent passage date at Bonneville Dam is May 9,” said
the fact sheet issued by fishery managers.

 

More
from the fact sheet:

 


Columbia River conditions recently measured at Bonneville Dam are higher and
much more turbid
than recent 5-year averages for this date in April. Current outflow is 305 kcfs
(including 119
kcfs spill), which is higher than the recent 5-year average of 282 kcfs.
Visibility is 1.0 foot
which is less than the average of 4.0 feet. Water temperature currently
measures 51° F, which
is the same as the recent 5-year average. The river stage at Vancouver is
currently 9.0 feet
and is forecasted to continue receding slightly through this weekend to an
average of about 8.0
feet.

 


Weekly test fishing in the lower Columbia River began on Monday, March 18, with
six days completed
so far. Catch rates (chinook per drift) increased for the first three Mondays
(0.3,0.7,
and 0.9) consistent with 2018, but dropped to 0.5 on April 8 (2.3 in 2018).
Catch rates improved
significantly on April 15 to 5.0 chinook per drift (6.8 in 2018), and then
declined on April
22 to 3.5 chinook per drift (8.1 in 2018).

 


Tributary returns of spring chinook are typically minimal this early in the year;
26 and 46 adults
have returned to the Lewis and Cowlitz hatcheries respectively.

 


The lower Columbia River recreational spring chinook fishery was open under temporary
regulations from March 1 – April 10, April 13-14, and April 20-21. Due to low projected
returns to the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers, the fishery has been restricted to the
area from
Warrior Rock line (just upstream of the Lewis River) upstream to Bonneville
Dam.

 


Water temperatures through April 10 were much colder than average but river
conditions were otherwise
favorable for fishing except during the last couple of days. High turbidity and
flow negatively
affected catch rates for both of the recent weekend openings. The estimated
kept catch
for April 20-21 is 88 adult spring chinook and three steelhead from 2,929
angler trips. The combined season kept catch through Sunday April 21 is estimated at 1,639 adult
spring chinook
from 30,322 angler trips.

 


Upriver mortalities through April 21 are estimated at 1,445 adult chinook, or
39 percent of the 3,689 available to this fishery prior to a run update.

 


Given the significant balance on the pre-season buffered allocation of upriver
spring Chinook (2,244
fish remain available) for this fishery, there is potential for additional
angling opportunity.
A conservative approach moving forward may still be warranted given the limited in-season
information available regarding the upriver spring chinook run and the fact
that abundance
should be increasing in the lower Columbia River.

 


The proposed fishery will provide additional recreational opportunity; however,
fishing conditions
are expected to remain very challenging due to high turbidity, which will limit catch.

 


 Given the expected water conditions, the
combined kept catch for this weekend’s fishery is not expected to exceed 260
adult chinook (246 upriver mortalities).

 


With the extension, projected cumulative upriver mortalities (1,691 adults)
would represent
46 percent of the 3,689 mortalities available to the recreational fishery below
Bonneville prior to a run update.

 


An upriver spring chinook run size of 53,300 adults would cover the projected
cumulative mortalities
for this fishery and pre-update set-asides for other non-treaty fisheries.

 


The recreational spring chinook fishery is currently open through May 5 from
Bonneville Dam upstream
to the OR/WA border under temporary regulations.

 


Similar to recent years, the estimated harvest to date is very low. Current
estimates indicate no
fish have been harvested yet this year. Effort has been extremely low (135
angler trips) due to
low chinook passage and recent poor water conditions.

 

Also
see:

 


CBB, April 18, 2019, “Columbia River Springer Fishing Allowed This Weekend; Passage
Numbers Low At Bonneville But Improving”
http://www.cbbulletin.com/442478.aspx

 


CBB, April 11, 2019, “Two More Days Of Spring Chinook Fishing, But Harvest
Managers Wonder If Looking At ‘Really Poor Run’”
http://www.cbbulletin.com/442436.aspx

 


CBB, February 1, 2019, “For 2019 Columbia/Snake Spring Chinook, Sockeye Returns
Forecasted To Be Well Below Average,”
http://www.cbbulletin.com/442083.aspx

 

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