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Columbia salmon surge: better late than never

SALMON FISHING — Shortly after the 2012 spring chinook run expectations were downsized, the surge in a late-holding run finally began. Biologists are watching closely; anglers are baiting up.

The largest single-day count of spring chinook of the last nine years climbed over Bonneville Dam on Wednesday.

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsmen shucked out a few more numbers:

The surge of 18,436 fish is the fifth largest going back through the early 2000's renaissance of the run and sixth largest back to the late 1930s, he said.

The former figure itself is higher than totals for every day of this year's return except Tuesday and Wednesday.

And Wednesday's aggregate brings the three-day total to 39,517 springers, meaning almost half of 2012's run, which now is up to 81,863, has come through the dam since Monday.

The top five all-time best days are April 18, 2001 (27,020), April 30, 2002 (25,631), May 1, 2002 (20,847), April 29, 1972 (19241) and April 15, 2001 (19,192).

In recent years, the best single day has been May 1, 2011, when 15,766 went through.

Washington and Oregon fish managers are watching the returns closely. Any run adjustments most likely would be made on Monday.

Meanwhile, expect a crowd at Drano Lake and Wind River. Anglers and salmon are all showing up at once.

Predicted runoff could be good timing for Idaho salmon anglers

SALMON FISHING — Rain predicted for this week is forecast to cause a big surge of runoff in the region's rivers.  It won't be pleasant for a lot of people.  But the silver lining could be tamer rivers when the late-arriving spring chinook salmon finally get up over Lower Granite Dam and head into Idaho.  

Read on for a report and thoughful analysis from Amy Sinclair of  Exodus Wilderness Adventures and fishing guides in Riggins.

Spring chinook season extended on Lower Columbia; fish delayed

SALMON FISHING — With heavy runoff creating poor river conditions, the spring chinook salmon fishing season on the lower Columbia River has been extended through April 22.

The eight-day extension may give anglers a better shot at fish that appear to be delayed off the mouth of the Columbia.

Read on for details.

Idaho adopts spring chinook fishing seasons

SALMON FISHING — Anglers will be able to start fishing for a big run of chinook salmon in Idaho waters on April 22 under a fishing seasons and rules package adopted today by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.

Chinook fishing will open in the Clearwater River, Snake River, Little Salmon and lower Salmon River in what's could be the third largest run since the fishery opened 12 years ago.

Closing dates will be announced later by Idaho Fish and Game Department officials.

The season is based on forecasts that an estimated 83,600 adult hatchery origin fish will cross Lower Granite Dam.

Read on for season details as released minutes ago by Idaho Fish and Game.

Seminar to cover Columbia River salmon fishing

FISHING — Michael Cordon and Benita Galland of Adventure Guide Service will present a free seminar on fishing for Columbia River salmon Thursday, 6:30 p.m., as the 2012 Spring Fishing Seminar Series continues at Mark's Marine in Hayden.

Last week in the series, Jeff Smith of Fins and Feathers detailed tactics for catching chinook in Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Here's the lineup for the rest the free seminars:

·         March 22: Bass & Panfishing – “The how-to for local lakes”

          By: Jim Grassi of Let’s Go Fishing.  TV host and radio personality      
         and Tony McCalmant VP of the Panhandle Bass Club    

·         March 29: Lowrance HDS & Structure Scan-
“Tips, Tricks, and how to find fish”

        By: Steve Binyon, the Mark’s Marine Electronics Guru.

·         April 5: Trolling Lake Pend Orielle

              By Donnie and Sue Halk of Frisky Jenny Flies & Lake Charters

              (160+ people turn out at this one last year so please RSVP,  aaron@marksmarineinc.com)

·         April 12: Walleye Tips and Techniques

Idaho to get good share of spring chinook run

SALMON FISHING — If the chinook salmon returns for 2012 holds up to the early forecast, anglers in Idaho could enjoy the third best run in more than 30 years.

The forecast suggests a return that’s a little more robust than last year, Idaho Fish and Game fisheries bureau chief Ed Schriever told the Idaho Fish and Game Commission Thursday.

The fish are still out in the Pacific Ocean, but the forecast for numbers of returning fish are similar to 2002 and 2010, he said. If the run materializes as forecast, the numbers heading for Idaho look even better – exceeded only by 2001 and 2010.

Read on for more details from Idaho Fish and Game.

First chinook of the year swims over Bonneville Dam

SALMON FISHING — Here they come!

The first chinook samon of 2012 to swim up the Columbia and over Bonneville Dam were counted on Wednesday. 

That's the start of a strong run of 314,200 spring chinook  forecast to enter the Columbia destined to waters upstream of Bonneville Dam. If the springer forecast isn't downgraded later, it would be the fourth largest return since 1979 and second largest of the past five years.

A good run of 83,400 is predicted for Oregon's Willamette River. An additional 25,600 chinook are expected at other lower Columbia tributaries.

About 168,000 springers are expected to be headed farther upstream, into the Snake River, over Lower Granite Dam and into Idaho. That would be up from 127,500 counted over Lower Granite last year.

A record 91,200 summer chinook are forecast for the Columbia and tributaries in northcentral Washington and elsewhere. If that holds, it would be the highest number since 1980. The current record is 89,500 in 2002.

Fish managers from area states also predict 462,000 sockeye could move up the Columbia, a potential windfall record by a wide margin, up from the 387,800  that entered the Columbia in 2010..

Spring chinook fishing will open on the lower Columbia starting March 1 and March 16 in the mid-Columbia, according to rules set on Thursday.

Complicated allocation schemes involving the Endangered Species Act, catch balancing between the Columbia treaty tribes and non-Indians, along with sport-commercial sharing arrangements all interact to determine available harvest, reports Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian

Pete Hassemer of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game asked Washington and Oregon not to frontload the sport fishery, but to stretch it out until early May, Thomas reported.

Fifty percent to 60 percent of the harvest downstream of Bonneville Dam comes from spring chinook headed to four Idaho hatcheries, Hassemer said. Idaho would like to see the harvest not so concentrated on four stocks.

Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the sport fishery would have to be limited to about a day per week to meet Idaho's request..

What’s on the horizon for salmon fishing in 2012?

Seattle Times outdoor writer Mark Yuasa takes his best shot at answering that question from the early forecasts for the Washington Coast and Columbia River. Read his story here.

Salmon anglers get good forecast for 2012 runs

SALMON FISHING — Preliminary forecasts for salmon returns, announced this week, give anglers three good reasons to look forward to 2012:

  • Upriver spring chinook, expected to be the fourth largest since at least 1980.
  • Summer chinook, could be the largest since at least 1980.
  • Sockeye, tentatively expected to be the largest since at least 1938. (Record is 387,900 fish in 2010).

The 2012 preliminary forecast for upriver Columbia River spring chinook — which includes Snake River fish bound for Idaho —  is 314,200 fish compared with this year's forecast of 198,400 and an actual return of 221,200, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials say.

If the forecast holds for next year, it would be the fourth largest dating back to 1938. The largest recorded return was 440,300 in 2001.

The second largest occurred in 2002 when 335,000 upriver springers returned and the third largest was 315,000 in 2010.

The Upper Columbia spring chinook forecast in 2012 is 32,600 compared to a 22,400 forecast last year and an actual return of 16,500.

The Snake River spring/summer forecast in 2012 is 168,000 compared to 91,700 last year (127,500 was actual return). The Snake River wild spring chinook is 39,000 in 2012 compared to 24,700 last year (31,600).

The Columbia River spring chinook are prized by anglers for their tasty, Omega-3 laced, red-orange-colored meat, which is similar to fish from Alaska's Copper River, says Mark Yuasa of the Seattle Times.

Looking further ahead the Upper Columbia summer chinook forecast also looks very promising.