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Columbia spreads wealth

Spring chinook salmon are prized for table quality.  (File / The Spokesman-Review)
Spring chinook salmon are prized for table quality. (File / The Spokesman-Review)

Big spring chinook run will spread to tributaries

State fisheries biologists say a huge Columbia River spring chinook run should deliver healthy returns of 18,500 salmon to the Wind, Little White Salmon and Klickitat rivers of the Columbia Gorge in 2009.

Upstream, Idaho’s spring chinook season should be a keeper in the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater rivers.

Columbia forecasts include 6,900 spring chinook for the Wind River, 9,600 for Drano Lake and 2,000 for the Klickitat River.

Drano Lake is a large backwater of the Columbia at the mouth of the Little White Salmon River.

Those forecasts are plenty large enough to provide decent angling if the fish and runofff cooperate.

Wind River and Drano Lake both open for fishing on Monday. The daily limit will be two hatchery chinook or hatchery steelhead, or one of each.

The upper Wind River will not open until May 1.

Idaho is expecting about 130,000 spring chinook over Lower Granite Dam, the fourth largest return since 1979.

Lower snowpack than last year holds the prospect of a more gentle runoff, which would improve fishing success in Idaho rivers.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider season proposals in meetings March 23-24 in Boise. The lower Clearwater is the first stop for chinook in Idaho. Fishing likely will peak in May and into June farther upstream, depending on runoff.

Hatchery fish forecasts indicate Idaho anglers may share more than 9,000 fish on the Clearwater River, 9,000 on the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers and almost 1,400 on the Snake.

In Washington, the 2008 sport catch was estimated at 1,700 adults in the Wind, 1,900 adult in Drano Lake and 35 adult chinook in the Klickitat, where catches traditionally peak in the final week of April and first week of May.

The lower Columbia River likely will be closed for spring chinook in late April and early May, a situation which likely will focus considerable fishing pressure at the mouth of Wind River and Drano Lake.

Anglers troll plugs such as Magnum Wiggle Warts, plus spinners and herring at both locations.