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East siders wary of extending spring chinook fishing in Lower Columbia

Spring chinook salmon are prized for table quality.  (File / The Spokesman-Review)
Spring chinook salmon are prized for table quality. (File / The Spokesman-Review)
FISHING -- Spring chinook anglers in the lower Columbia River are getting an additional six days of fishing.

Low harvest levels ran well below expectations in March, prompting Oregon and Washington to extend the initial  recreational fishing season through April 12.  Originally, it was set to close, previously set to close April 5.
Fishing success picked up on Wednesday.
Through March, anglers had caught just 1,500 adult spring chinook salmon, about 25 percent of the 6,100-fish harvest expected by this point in fishery, said Ron Roler, Washington Fish and Wildlife's Columbia River policy coordinator.
“The season definitely got off to a slow start, but the bulk of the run is starting to move in,” Roler said. “River conditions are excellent – low and warm – so we will be monitoring the fishery closely to make sure the catch doesn’t exceed the established guideline.”
Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian caught two East Side salmon spokesman for comments from an upstream perspective:
  • Idaho Fish and Game fisheries manager Pete Hassemer suggested that Oregon and Washington close fishing on a couple of days next week to lessen the harvest on the earliest-returning spring chinook, which largely are headed to Idaho.
  • Tri-State Steelheaders spokesman Mike Bireley in Walla Walla urged sport fishing in the lower Columbia be limited to three days per week until 10 percent of the projected upper Columbia-Snake run has crossed Bonneville Dam.
Guy Norman, WDFW regional director in Vancouver, cautioned that sport catches can skyrocket in April if the fish arrive.
"River conditions are very good for catching spring chinook salmon,'' Norman said. "I want to be sure we're on top of this.''
After three years of strong spring chinook returns, this year’s fishery is based on a projected run of 141,400 upriver fish, about 25 percent below the 10-year average. By comparison, approximately 203,000 fish destined for areas above Bonneville Dam returned to the Columbia River last year. Another 67,600 are predicted to return this year to the Willamette and other lower Columbia tributaries.

Under the plethora of state, federal and tribal management agreements, sportsmen in the lower Columbia are allocated 4,900 of those upper Columbia chinook before mid-May. About 1,570 of those 4,900 are projected to be caught through Friday and 3,652 chinook through April 12.

Washington and Oregon officials say they may meet on April 10 to review sport catches from the lower Columbia. Norman said he also wants the states to track the catch and be ready by Monday or Tuesday if an early closure is warranted.

State officials will meet at 2 p.m. Monday to consider commercial fishing on Tuesday in the lower Columbia.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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