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It’s a record run! Sockeye limit upped to 6

FISHING — A rocketing spike of sockeye salmon up the Columbia River set run records this week and prompted the Washington Department of Fish Wildlife to increase the daily limit of sockeye to SIX in the river upstream from Priest Rapids Dam (details below).

That big pulse of fish at Bonneville is on its way upstream to the popular upper Columbia fisheries — where anglers already are socking it to the sockeyes — from the Hanford Reach almost to Brewster.

Last week, fish managers raised their expectations from a run of around 340,000 to 425,000, calling the run the second largest since records have been kept.

This week, the joint federal-state-tribal Technical Advisory Council increased the forecast to a total of 526,367 sockeye over Bonneville — a jump of 10,694 fish from the record run in 2012. 

And some are suggesting the number could go to more than 600,000 — that's in the realm of colossal.

Fish counters tallied more than 34,000 sockeye up the Bonneville Dam fish ladders on on July 4 and again on July 5.  The numbers dropped significantly after that and will taper from there, fish managers said.

Anglers are getting to harvest the bounty. Today WDFW announced a sockeye fishing season starting immediately at Lake Osoyoos as well as an increased daily bag limit as follows:

Action: Anglers will be able to retain eight salmon, including up to six adult sockeye salmon, in the mainstem Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam.

Effective dates and locations: Mainstem Columbia River:

  1. From Priest Rapids Dam to Wanapum Dam, July 11-Aug. 31, 2014.
  2. From Wanapum Dam to Wells Dam, July 11-Oct. 15, 2014.
  3. From Wells Dam to Hwy 173 Bridge in Brewster, July 16-Aug. 31, 2014.
  4. From Hwy 173 Bridge in Brewster to Chief Joseph Dam, July 11-Oct 15, 2014.

Species affected: Sockeye salmon.

Reason for action: Sockeye salmon returns above Priest Rapids Dam are predicted to be far in excess of needs for wild fish escapement to the spawning grounds.  The population is not listed under the Endangered Species Act. 

Other rules: Minimum size 12 inches.  Daily limit eight salmon, up to two may be adult hatchery chinook and up to six may be sockeye.  Release coho and wild adult chinook.  Release all sockeye with colored anchor (floy) tag attached. 

Other information:  All anglers must possess a valid fishing license and a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement to participate in this fishery. Revenue from the endorsement supports salmon or steelhead seasons on many rivers in the Columbia River system, including enforcing fishery regulations and monitoring the upper Columbia River steelhead fisheries. The endorsement has generated more than $1 million annually for WDFW to maintain and increase fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River Basin.

Boating over “the bar?” Harrowing account of a Columbia River tragedy

FISHING — “Even as a retired cop, Lonn Sweeney didn't expect to save anyone's life June 20 when he piloted his 24-foot Duckworth ocean hardtop, Teresa D, over the Columbia River bar, but he was certainly prepared for it,” writes Oregon outdoor scribe Bill Monroe in a story of tragedy and lessons learned.

  • The story is a must-read for anyone planning to pilot a a fishing boat over the infamous rough water caused by the surge of the Columbia River meeting the tides of the Pacific Ocean.

“And at least some of the five survivors from a capsizing on the world's trademark-for-treachery ocean crossing owe their lives to his caution – a lesson learned on the cusp of a predicted stellar coastwide ocean salmon season and record run past Buoy 10,” Monroe reported.

Lt. Scott McGrew, commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard station at Cape Disappointment, said the accident is under investigation. He credited Sweeney and his crew with saving lives before his 47-footers could get to the scene.

Return tags in salmon, steelhead for $25

FISHING — Area fishermen can get a $25 bonus if they catch a fish with a radio telemetry tag in the Snake, Columbia or Willamette Rivers.

Just return the tag to University of Idaho researchers and the check's in the mail.

The tagged fish are part of an ongoing effort to boost stocks of steelhead trout, chinook salmon and Pacific lamprey.  The small tags monitor fish behavior and distribution.

The tags range in size from about three inches to smaller than a dime and can be detected by the presence of a wire from the fish's mouth or body. All but the smallest bear a UI label to assist in identification.

“The best way for anglers to return transmitters for cash reward is through our website” said Chris Caudill, leader of the project. “There is a pdf form to fill out and then return to UI. The return of transmitters to UI by anglers, hatcheries, agency personnel and others provides critical data on the final fate and location of the radio-tagged fish.”

UI researchers say the return of the transmitters is essential to supporting the goals of the project, which include:

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of fish ladders designed and built specifically for Pacific lamprey, an important native fish species. These lamprey passage systems were designed in collaboration with NOAA-Fisheries, the US Army Corps of Engineers and UI College of Natural Resources graduate students. They were installed at Bonneville and John Day dams on the Columbia River. This study aims to increase successful lamprey migrations through passageways at hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. If successful, dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers may install fish ladders in the new design, which may increase Pacific lamprey that are important to the heritage and culture of the region's indigenous Indian tribes.
  • Radio-tagging and monitoring adult salmon and steelhead at lower Columbia and Snake River dams. Data gathered through radio telemetry will help scientists determine how modification to dams affects passage and fates of the adult fish throughout the Federal Columbia River Power System.
  • Radio-tagging and monitoring Chinook salmon and steelhead to determine migration patterns and pre-spawn mortality rates in the Willamette River Valley and its numerous tributaries with dams. Currently, many adult salmon reach spawning grounds, but die prior to reproducing for unknown reasons, potentially limiting productivity. The salmon and steelhead studies will contribute to regional salmon recovery efforts currently underway by regional, federal, state and tribal agencies.

This project is supported by a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and additional participants include: the UI Echohydraulics Research Laboratory in Boise, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Oregon State University's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

Salmon fishing season opens on upper Columbia today

FISHING — Today is the first day of fishing for the good run of chinook and the forecast giant run of sockeye salmon headed to the upper reaches of the Columbia River.

Chinook, unmolested by fishing lures, have been swimming over Priest Rapids Dam at a rate of 2,000 a day. Sockeye are getting their legs.

Where are you?

Travel: Riverboat Cruise Brings Columbia River History to Life

    For history lovers, like me, there is something deeply important about following the footsteps of the men and women who came before us. That’s often what compels us to travel, to put ourselves in the place where important things—significant events that shaped the world we live in now—happened. 

 

    Here in the Northwest we are especially fortunate. With vast undeveloped stretches of plains and prairies, dense forests and ranges of jagged mountains, much of the landscape is no different that it was when the first explorers moved into the area. Here, you can step into a landscape that, in places, has changed very little since the first people, and later the first explorers, arrived. 

 

    That’s why I boarded Un-Cruise Adventures S. S. Legacy in Portland for a small-ship heritage voyage up the Columbia and Snake rivers. This was a bucket-list trip for me. I’ve driven along the Columbia, taken the train through the gorge, flown over it by plane and helicopter. But I’d never explored the area the way it was originally done: by river. 

 

    It’s hard to imagine the Columbia River, although known and deeply important to Native Americans, was not discovered until the 1700s. and it was almost another century before a fur trader by the name of Robert Gray first sailed into it and named the fierce river for his ship—the Columbia Rediviva. And that it was still a mystery when Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery in 1804. 

    

    From the moment we boarded the replica coastal cruiser, before we even cruised out of Portland and the greenness of the Pacific Northwest, we were steeped in history. We were met by costumed guides and interpreters and they continued to bring to life the stories of the men and women who settled the area as we moved upriver. 

    

    At the first dam, the Bonneville Dam (there would be seven more locks and dams on the journey) we are still surrounded by forest and miles of fertile land rising up to meet mountains that look like giant thorns piercing the low clouds. We leave the ship to tour the dam and fish ladders.

 

    At The Dalles, the end of the Oregon Trail, things began to change. We entered the high desert that covers so much of central and south-central Oregon and Washington. Green gives way to gold. 

 

    My husband and I spent hours on the top deck, taking it all in, watching freight trains wind along tracks beside the swift, opaque green water of the river, long ribbons of cargo shuttling goods between ports and cities. The sun was high and hot in an endless blue sky laced with contrails and dotted with fat white clouds. 

 

    Each day we saw more and learned more. We read books from the ship’s library and listened as our guides put human faces on the stories of settling of the West, the area’s importance in wars and commerce. 

 

    We ate well, gathering for gourmet meals, and socialized well, gathering again for cocktails. We made friends and shared stories with the other passengers, many of whom have led fascinating lives.

 

    We rode jet boats up the Snake River, deep in the gorge that still bears the evidence of the geological turbulence that created it. 

    

    We visited Walla Walla, the small city that was once considered the “Paris of the West” delving into the personal stories of the men and women who lived, loved and died there. We tasted the sweet onions that put Walla Walla on the map and the outstanding wines that have reinvented the area and put the wine world on notice.

 

    We climbed the Astoria Column for a spectacular view and visited Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark rode out a stretch of bad weather so miserable it became part of the history of the area.

 

    By the time we’d made the round trip back to Portland—back through the series of locks and dams—like Lewis and Clark, we’d made a journey of discovery.

 

    We live in the Northwest but walking down the gangplank, heading back home, we knew much more about this beautiful part of the country than we did when we’d set out. We’d seen familiar territory with a new view, from the deck of the beautiful ship that carried us, and we’d followed the footsteps of the first people and the wagon trails of those who paved the roads and opened the doors to let us follow.

 

   

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Grande Ronde spring chinook season opens Friday; first in 40 years

FISHING – Starting Friday (June 27), the lower Grande Ronde River will open to fishing for spring chinook salmon for the first time in 40 years.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has just announced that the river, from the Highway 129 Bridge upstream approximately 12 miles to the farthest upstream Oregon/Washington boundary line, will be open for spring chinook fishing through Monday (June 30).

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are testing the feasibility of a spring chinook fishery in the lower Grande Ronde River to increase the harvest of hatchery fish destined for the Lostine River in Oregon, said John Whalen, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) eastern region fish program manager. 

The Grande Ronde River fishery is co-managed by Washington and Oregon, where a similar chinook season will open concurrently.

“This brief, four-day fishery will give us some indication of angler participation and the catch rates we would see with a fishery in the lower river,” Whalen said. 

The season was rushed into play a as reserachers monitoring PIT-tagged fish movements upstream said the targeted fish are getting there and now’s the time, Whalen said.

Some specific regulations include:

  • Anglers will have a daily catch limit of seven hatchery chinook salmon (adipose fin-clipped), only two of which can be adult chinook. Anglers must stop fishing for the day when they reach their daily limit of adult hatchery chinook salmon.
  • Anglers must use single point barbless hooks no larger than 5/8 inch from point to shank.
  • Night fishing is prohibited.
  • Anglers cannot remove any chinook salmon from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily catch limit.

Whalen said fishery managers were able to provide the brief opportunity after in-season projections indicated good returns of spring chinook salmon to the upper Grande Ronde River.

“We’re specifically targeting the Lostine chinook stock, which data shows tends to migrate through the river a month later than other chinook populations,” Whalen said. “By allowing this opportunity now, we can fish for these late-arriving chinook while avoiding the majority of fish from other stocks.”

Special Grande Ronde River spring chinook season coming

FISHING —  A new four-day spring chinook section on a stretch of the Grande Ronde River is likely to be opened starting Friday.

The official announcement and details are likely to be released Wednesday morning.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife didn't get all the permits in order today… but stay tuned. This is a new deal for anglers!

Clearwater spring chinook fishing ends Sunday

FISHING — Fishing for chinook salmon in the Middle Fork Clearwater, South Fork Clearwater and Lochsa rivers will be closed at the end of fishing hours on Sunday (June 29).

This closure marks the end of the spring chinook fishery in the Clearwater Drainage. Since the season opened on April 26, anglers harvested more than 3,700 adult Chinook and more than 1,000 jack Chinook in the Clearwater drainage during the 2014 spring season.

  • Little Salmon River will remain open for chinook salmon fishing at least through Friday (June 27). While many anglers are catching chinook on the Little Salmon, fishery managers believe the share set aside for sport anglers has not been completely harvested yet. Those managers will meet later this week to look at the most up to date numbers before deciding if the fishery can continue beyond Friday June 27.

Lake Roosevelt water level close to full pool

WATERSPORTS — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1287.70 feet above sea level today and is expected to remain in the range of 1286 - 1288 for the next week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reports. Spill may occur intermittently. Full pool behind Grand Coulee Dam is 1290 feet. 

  • Get daily Lake Roosevelt level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.
  • Check out this post with a link to a NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.

Idaho spring chinook fishing winding down

UPDATED 1:55 p.m. with announcement of Sunday closings by Idaho fish and Game:

 

 

FISHING — Idaho’s spring chinook salmon fisheries on the lower Salmon River and the Clearwater River basins are almost history for 2014.

Idaho Fish and Game has just issued this announcement:

As harvest quotas of adult Chinook salmon will soon be achieved throughout the Clearwater drainage, harvest of adult Chinook in the entire Clearwater (including the Middle Fork, South Fork and Lochsa) will end on Sunday, June 22, 2014 at 9:15 Pacific Daylight Time.

Harvest of all Chinook salmon; including jacks, will be off-limits in the main stem Clearwater and the North Fork Clearwater after Sunday June 22. Closing these sections to all salmon fishing will eliminate mortalities among adult salmon hooked and released by anglers fishing for jack salmon.

Harvest of jack salmon (those under 24 inches) will continue to be allowed on the Middle Fork Clearwater, South Fork Clearwater and Lochsa River until further notice. Anglers may harvest up to 4 adipose-clipped Chinook salmon under 24 inches per day on those rivers. Any salmon 24 inches or longer must be immediately released. Anglers harvesting four jacks in a day or having 12 jacks in possession must discontinue fishing.

On the Salmon River:

“Fishing for both adult and jack spring chinook will close on two sections of the lower Salmon River at 9:15 p.m. Thursday,” reports Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune. “The river will close to salmon fishing between Rice Creek and Time Zone bridges and from the mouth of Short’s Creek to the boat ramp at Vinegar Creek.”

Fisheries managers for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are closing the two stretches to make sure anglers don’t catch too many salmon destined for the upper Salmon River.

The river will remain open to chinook fishing between Time Zone Bridge and the mouth of Short’s Creek, often referred to as the Park Hole. The Little Salmon River will also remain open.

But fishing on those two stretches could close in the next few weeks. Last week, anglers caught nearly 1,400 adult chinook from the lower Salmon River and more than 1,500 from the Little Salmon River. So far this year, anglers have caught about 4,300 adult chinook from the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers, leaving about 2,500 on the state’s share of the Rapid River run, which is fewer than were caught last week.

“If harvest last week is any indication of what is going to happen this week, that should put us pretty close to our harvest share,” said Don Whitney, a fisheries biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston.

Fish managers decided to close the Clearwater stretches after analyzing catch data. Anglers caught 419 adult chinook from the South Fork of the Clearwater, Middle Fork of the Clearwater and the Lochsa rivers last week.

Another Clearwater stretch closing to spring chinook

FISHING — At the end of fishing hours on Thursday June 12, the fishing harvest season will close for adult Chinook Salmon (24 inches or longer) on the Clearwater River between the Orofino Bridge and the South Fork Clearwater.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department says the catch quota for the stretch has been met. 

Starting on Friday, June 13, only the harvest of adipose clipped Jacks (salmon less than 24 inches)  will be allowed on the Clearwater River downstream from the South Fork Clearwater River. Anglers may keep up to four adipose clipped jacks per day. Any salmon 24 inches or longer must be immediately released in this river section. 

Wenatchee spring chinook season first in 20 years

FISHING — Starting Friday (June 6), the Wenatchee River will open to fishing for spring chinook salmon for the first time in nearly two decades, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has just announced.

With almost 10,000 hatchery chinook expected to return to the river this year, WDFW is opening two sections of the river:

  • From the Washington State Parks foot bridge at Confluence Park (just upstream from the confluence with the Columbia River) to 400 feet below Dryden Dam.
  • From the confluence with Peshastin Creek to the downstream side of the confluence with the Icicle River and from that point to a marker on the opposite shore.

The fishery will be open seven days a week in both areas until further notice.

Anglers will have a daily limit of two hatchery spring chinook measuring at least 12 inches long and marked with a clipped adipose fin. Under statewide regulations, anglers may retain only one daily limit of salmon, regardless of how many waters they fish.

All wild chinook must immediately be released back into the water unharmed.

Jeff Korth, regional WDFW fishery manager, said this year’s fishery was made possible under a new permit issued by NOAA-Fisheries that allows the department to conduct mark-selective fisheries to reduce the number of hatchery fish on the spawning grounds.

“We are pleased that we’re able to provide this fishery, which will reduce excess hatchery fish while increasing fishing opportunities in the area,” Korth said. “We’ve done this successfully in other watersheds and now we’re bringing it to the Wenatchee River.”

Korth noted that WDFW will closely monitor the fishery and enforce fishing rules to ensure protection of wild chinook, bull trout and any steelhead that may be incidentally caught and released.

In addition to the mark-selective rules in effect for the fishery, anglers are required to:

  • Retain any legal hatchery spring chinook they catch until they reach their daily limit, then stop fishing for spring chinook.
  • Release any spring chinook with one or more round holes punched in the tail fin. These fish are vital to ongoing studies in the upper Wenatchee River Basin.
  • Observe selective gear rules in effect on the Wenatchee River wherever chinook seasons are open. No gear restrictions are in effect on the Icicle River, and anglers may use bait on both rivers.
  • Heed the prohibition of internal combustion motorized vessels and observe night closures on the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers.

To participate in this fishery, anglers must possess a valid 2014-15 fishing license and a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement. 

Because the fishery is open until further notice, anglers should check WDFW’s Fishing Rule Change website.

Clearwater river hot for spring chinook fishing

FISHING — “Fishing was exceptional in the Clearwater River drainage last week with catch rates less than 10 hrs/fish in many places and averaging 14 hrs/fish for the entire basin,” says Joe Dupont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.

“Based on conversations with our creel personnel, it looks like the fishing is only improving this week,” he said in an email a few minutes ago. 

“We plan to check our harvest numbers Thursday (6/5/14) to evaluate if we need to make any closures.  If harvest continues to remain high, adult harvest closures could occur in river Section 2 (main Clearwater from Cherrylane Bridge to Orofino Bridge) and Section 3 (North Fork) as soon as the end of fishing on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or possibly later.”  

A notice will be released on Thursday, he said.

“The other river reaches will remain open to adult harvest through the weekend and we will evaluate the data on Monday to determine how to proceed.”    

Spring chinook fishing resumes on Snake

FISHING — Two sections of the Snake River (below Ice Harbor Dam and Lower Granite Dam) reopened to fishing for spring chinook on Sunday, June 1, while two other sections of the river (below Little Goose Dam and near Clarkston) will reopen Thursday, June 5.

The sections of the river below Ice Harbor Dam and Lower Granite Dam are open Sunday through Tuesday each week. The river below Little Goose Dam and in the Clarkston area will be open Thursday through Saturday each week.

All four sections will be open on their weekly schedule until further notice.

Glen Mendel, district fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said fishery managers were able to reopen the fishery after transferring a portion of the upriver spring chinook allocation to the Snake River from the ongoing fishery in the lower Columbia River.

“With more than 600 fish now available for the Snake River fishery, we may be able to sustain fishing for the next several weeks,” said Mendel.

Read on for details:

Spring chinook fishing to open in Columbia above Bonneville

FISHING – Starting Saturday, May 31, anglers will get two more weeks to catch hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon and steelhead in waters of the Columbia River stretching more than 160 miles upriver from Bonneville Dam.

Recreational fishing closed in that area May 9, but fishery managers from Washington and Oregon have just announced an extension through June 15 after transferring a portion of the upriver spring chinook allocation from the ongoing fishery below Bonneville Dam.

That reallocation of 750 harvestable salmon will allow anglers to fish for spring chinook above the dam right up until the summer salmon season starts June 16, said Ron Roler, a fishery manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

As before, anglers are limited to one adult hatchery chinook salmon as part of their daily catch limit of two adult fish. All sockeye salmon must be released, along with wild salmon and wild steelhead identifiable by an intact adipose fin.

For boat anglers, the fishing area above Bonneville Dam extends from the Tower Island power lines upriver to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish in that area, plus along the bank between Bonneville Dam and the power lines.

Based on the latest run projection, state fishery managers expect 230,000 upriver spring chinook to return to the Columbia River this year. That projection – based on a combination of catch figures and the count of fish passing the dams – is up slightly from the 227,000 expected before the season began.

For more information on updates to state fishing rules, see WDFW’s Fishing Rule Change website.

Lake Roosevelt continues to fill; watch for debris

BOATING — Columbia River runoff is pouring into Lake Roosevelt,raising water levels and bringing more boat launches into operation.

Boaters must be aware that rising water levels pick up logs and debris on the shoreline and cast it afloat where it can be a hazard to boats.

The level, which had been drawn down to an elevation of 1231 feet this month to accommodate the runoff, has now risen to 1248 feet. 

“The spring runoff continues and the level of Lake Roosevelt is expected to rise between 1-2 feet per day,” said Lynne Brougher of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.  “The end of May target elevation is expected to be 1267.8 feet above sea level.  During the spring runoff, expect rapid rates of refill at times.”

Get daily Lake Roosevelt level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.

Check out this post with a link to a NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.

Spring chinook fishing poised to close on Snake

FISHING – Spring chinook salmon fisheries on two sections of the Snake River will close for the season after four more days of fishing in each area, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced.

Fishing for spring chinook in the Clarkston area continues today (May 22) and will close an hour past sunset on Sunday (May 25).

Below Lower Granite Dam, fishing for spring chinook will be open from Saturday (May 24) until an hour past sunset on Tuesday (May 27).

By then, the catch of spring chinook salmon is expected to reach the harvest allocation limit for the Snake River based on monitored harvest and the most recent estimate of the run size, said John Whalen, WDFW’s eastern region fish program manager.

“These closures will effectively mark the end of the fishing season for spring chinook on the Snake River,” Whalen said.

The section of the river set to close an hour past sunset May 25 is:

  • Clarkston area: Snake River from the downstream edge of the large power lines crossing the Snake River (just upstream from West Evans Road on the south shore) upstream about 3.5 miles to the Washington state line. (The state line extends from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch in Clarkston northwest across the Snake River to the boundary waters marker on the Whitman County shore).

The section of the river set to close an hour past sunset May 27 is:

  • Below Lower Granite Dam: Snake River from the Ilia Boat Launch on the south across to the mouth of Almota Creek upstream about four miles to the restricted fishing area below Lower Granite Dam.

Two other areas of the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam and Little Goose Dam closed for spring chinook fishing May 14.

When the fishery is open, anglers have a daily catch limit of one hatchery adult chinook – marked with a clipped adipose fin – and five hatchery jacks measuring less than 24 inches.

Barbless hooks are required, and anglers must stop fishing for the day when they reach their daily limit of adult chinook salmon. All chinook with an adipose fin, and all steelhead, must immediately be released unharmed.

For more details, check the rule change on WDFW’s website

Columbia Basin fisheries ideas due May 30

FISHING — People with ideas about how to improve state sportfishing rules in the Columbia River Basin have until May 30 to submit their proposals to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

State fish managers will consider proposed rules submitted by the public for any fish species except salmon, so long as they apply specifically to the mainstem Columbia River, its tributaries, or lakes within the basin.

To propose a fishing rule change:

This year’s focus on a specific geographical area – the Columbia River Basin – marks a change from WDFW’s past practice of considering fishing rules proposed for waters anywhere in the state each year.

Craig Burley, WDFW fish program manager, said the department will consider only those public proposals affecting fisheries in the Columbia River Basin this year. WDFW will focus on proposals for freshwater fisheries in Puget Sound and coastal areas in 2015, then saltwater fisheries in 2016, Burley said.

“This approach will allow fishery managers and the public to focus on specific proposals and their potential effects in specific watersheds,” he said. “That’s difficult to do if you’re looking at hundreds of proposals affecting waters all over the state.”

The new process was recently approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Sportfishing rule changes developed through this process will be available for public review and comment in August.

The commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposed rule changes in November, and take final action on the 2014-15 sportfishing rule changes at a public meeting in December.

Lower Columbia spring chinook fishing season extended

FISHING — Starting Thursday, May 15, anglers will have another full month to catch hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon and steelhead on the lower Columbia River under an agreement reached today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.

Fish managers have more confidence in the run after getting new projections this week. Changes, if any, in quotas for the Snake River portion of the run have not been announced,  yet.

Under the agreement for the lower Columbia, anglers can catch and keep one marked, hatchery chinook salmon daily through June 15 as part of their catch limit from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line upriver to Bonneville Dam.

In all, they may retain up to two adult salmon or steelhead – or one of each – but no more than one adult chinook salmon per day. Anglers must release all sockeye salmon and any wild salmon or wild steelhead, which can be identified by an intact adipose fin.

According to an updated run projection, 224,000 upriver spring chinook will return to the Columbia River this year, said Ron Roler, a fishery manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The pre-season projection anticipated a return of 227,000 upriver fish.

The new projection reflects greater confidence in the run since last week, when fishery managers projected a minimum return of 185,000 upriver fish this year, Roler said.

“We’ve taken a conservative approach to the season so far, but the count of spring chinook past Bonneville Dam indicates our pre-season projection was on target,” he said. “Under this extension, anglers should be able to keep fishing in the lower river right up to the start of the summer chinook season June 16.”

Anglers fishing the Columbia River below the dam caught 10,084 upriver spring chinook through May 10, when the previous two-day extension ended. The extension through mid-June is projected to boost the annual catch in those waters by 3,864, Roler said.

  • For more information about the fishing extension approved today, see the Fishing Rule Notice on WDFW’s website.

Lake Roosevelt water levels heading up

BOATING — Spring runoff has kicked into gear in the Columbia Basin, reversing the drawdown at Lake Roosevelt. The water level behind Grand Coulee Dam is going up.

“We are beginning refill of the lake,” said Lynne Brougher of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The level had been drawn down to an elevation of 1231 feet to accommodate the runoff.

The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1237 feet above sea level today, having come up 4 feet since Friday. 

“It is anticipated the lake level will be in the 1240 -1245 range by the end of the week,” she said this morning.

The rising levels will gradually allow more boat launches to be opened.

Get daily Lake Roosevelt level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.

Check out this post with a link to a NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.

 

Fish on! for Snake River spring chinook anglers

FISHING —  Now's the time to head to the Snake River for spring chinook.

Counts of chinook passing lower Snake River dams are on the rise and water conditions are more than respectable, according to a Lewiston Tribune update story by Eric Barker.

“Flows are also looking good, so those fish should spread upriver fast,”  Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston, said in my earlier blog postExpect the fishing to really pick up from here on out,” 

Through Thursday, 35,894 spring chinook adults had passed over Ice Harbor Dam, the first on the Snake, and the fish are marching upstream:

  • 28,824 over Lower Monumental Dam.
  • 16,632 over Little Goose Dam.
  • 13,383 over Lower Granite Dam, the last dam the fish negotiate before heading up the Snake River into Idaho bound for the Clearwater and Salmon rivers.

Read on for more details from Barker's story:

 

Spring chinook marching up Snake River

FISHING — Angling success for spring chinook picked up at Ice Harbor and Little Goose dams, the first fisheries the salmon encounter as they head up the Snake River.  The big spike of springers over Bonneville Dam last week is entering the Snake system, with 8,200 coming over Ice Harbor on Wednesday, according to counts from the Fish Passage Center.

Glen Mendel, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist says the number of fish allotted for Snake River fishermen could go quickly if fish managers don't increase the quotas.

“No harvest has been documented at Clarkston area yet, but numbers of fish are just beginning to really pick up in that area and angler effort has therefore been light,” Mendel said.  

“The total Snake River harvest allotment based on the preseason prediction is 1,309 hatchery adults (904 prior to the preseason update, and 405 after), but by Tuesday next week, we may have an updated run prediction (that might be higher than originally predicted).  We will all have to wait for that run prediction update to see how it affects the Snake River fisheries.

“We are predicting approximately 300 fish will be harvested at IHR during May 11-13, and approximately another 200 fish at LGO during the May 8-10 period, which could put us at nearly 1,000 adult salmon harvested in those two zones by the end of May 13. 

“So, this is a heads up that we will be considering closing those areas, possibly sometime next week.

Any closure would be  posted on the emergency fishing regulation section of the WDFW website at under Snake River.

Idaho should see good spring chinook fishing any day

FISHING — Big numbers of spring chinook are coming and river flows are ideal — that's a recipe for success in Idaho waters, says Joe Dupont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.  

Although only 21 fish were estimated to have been harvested in the Clearwater drainage as of last week, Dupont points to dam counts  indicating that the fishing will pick up — any day.

“Last week we had some exciting times when over a three day period over 40,000 chinook passed over Bonneville Dam,” he said.

Since then the counts have dropped back down, but that spike in numbers caused the agency's projected non-tribal harvest share to increase to about 4,000 adult fish in the Clearwater drainage and about 6,3000 adult fish for the Rapid River run — up from earlier projections of 3,400 for the Clearwater drainage and 4,500 for the Rapid River run.   

This share of fish is similar to what Idaho saw in the Clearwater River basin in 2008 and 2009-2012, Dupont said, but last year the harvest share in the Clearwater Basin dropped to only 640 fish. 

“So this will be a marked improvement over that,” Dupont said.  “For the Rapid River run, last year the harvest share was 2,100 fish and the year before that  it was  4,500 fish.  As such this year will be an improvement over the previous two years.  All in all, I think we are in store for a very good season.

“Counts over Lower Granite Dam the last couple days were around 1,300 and 3,000 fish which is good.  Flows are also looking good, so those fish should spread upriver fast.  Expect the fishing to really pick up from here on out.”

Spring chinook fishing to reopen on lower Columbia

UPDATED 5:20 p.m. with more information from WDFW.

FISHING — Spring chinook will reopen Friday, May 9, through Saturday, May 10, on the Lower Columbia River from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line upstream to Rooster Rock, plus bank-angling only from Rooster Rock to Bonneville Dam. Shad fishing also will be open.

Spring chinook surged into the Columbia and over Bonneville Dam last week with one daily count topping 17,000 fish, giving fish managers the go-ahead for more lower Columbia fishing. 

  • Bonneville Dam passage through May 5 totals 119,758 adult chinook.  Based on the 10-year average the 50% passage date is May 7, ranging from April 27 to May 12.  

​Current Columbia River regulations for salmon, steelhead, shad and sturgeon can be found at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sport Fishing Regulation Update page.

Click “continued reading” for more details from WDFW media releases.

Wanapum reservoir area won’t open for Memorial Day

BOATING — Wanapum reservoir and shoreline will remain closed to the public through the Memorial Day weekend and beyond because of the drawdown and work being done on the damaged Wanapum Dams. 

The Grant County PUD and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have closed the shoreline, beaches, boat launches and all shoreline access points to the reservoir, which runs about 37 river miles between Wanapum Dam and Rock Island Dam on the Columbia River in central Washington.

PUD sites that are closed include Vantage Recreation Area, Kittitas County Boat Launch, Rocky Coulee, Sand Hollow, The Cove, Apricot Orchard, Crescent Bar Boat Launch and shoreline area, Wanapum Upper Boat Launch and Wanapum Heritage Center.

WDFW shoreline sites that are closed include Yo Yo Rock, Old Vantage Highway, Sunland Estates Boat Launch and Frenchman Coulee/Climbing Rocks water access sites

WDFW also has closed the lower ends of roads that lead into the reservoir at the Colockum and L.T. Murray wildlife areas in Kittitas and Chelan counties, and at the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area in Grant County. The upland portions of the wildlife areas above the ordinary high-water level remain open to the public.

Washington State Parks has closed the Wanapum State Park near Vantage.

The shoreline was closed after the reservoir was drawn down in response to a fracture found Feb. 27 on the Wanapum Dam spillway. The shoreline is expected to be closed at least through the July 4th weekend.

Open recreation sites on the Priest Rapids reservoir on the Columbia River downstream of Wanapum Dam include Priest Rapids Recreation Area, and the Wanapum Lower Boat Launch. The utility also plans to open the Huntzinger Boat Launch on Friday, May 23, which will provide access to the Priest Rapids reservoir.

A full list of sites that are open and closed, along with directions and information, can be found on Grant PUD’s website.

  • See a map showing open and closed areas is available

Grand Coulee police cite angler near dam

FISHING – A Grand Coulee man has been cited by city police for fishing in an area that’s closed to public access immediately downstream from Grand Coulee Dam.

Water below the dam (flowing into the reservoir called Lake Rufus Woods) was opened to fishing last month for the first time since the 9-11 terrorist attacks, but a stretch of shore below the dam, marked by signs, remains closed for dam security.

Tyler Mellick was warned for trespassing in the closed area, but returned the next day to make a case for public access and was cited, said Capt. Chris Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police supervisor.

“Working with the Colville Tribe, we opened this stretch of water for fishing, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t restrictions to the land and around structures,” he said.

“Mr. Mellick is a Bureau of Reclamation employee who, for some reason, is making this his cause. He’s gone to the sheriff, to WDFW, the media and last I heard he’s going to the U.S. Attorney General’s office. He’s on a mission.”

Anderson said the restricted area is clearly posted.

  • See the video Mellick's friends filmed from a distance of the arrest. 

Goodbye fish: Roosevelt levels plunging to elevation 1231 feet

FISHING/BOATING — Lake Roosevelt’s water elevation will be down to 1231 feet by Sunday to make room for heavy runoff expected in May, the Bureau of Reclamation reports today.

There have been worse years for spring drawdowns at Lake Roosevelt in the past decade, but as my recent story explains, anglers can expect a high percentage of the trout and kokanee to be flushed through Grande Coulee Dam when the drawdown goes below 1,240 feet.

Fish are going bye-bye. The amount of fish left for next  winter's fishing for carryovers will depend on how quickly the runoff comes and the reservoir refills.  

It's important at this point to compare the lake level with the levels at which boat ramps are dewatered.  At 1231 feet, only four ramps will still reach the water: Spring Canyon, Seven Bays, Keller Ferry and Hunters Camp.

Spring Canyon near Grand Coulee and Seven Bays downstream on the Columbia from the Spokane Arm are the deepest launches on the 125-mile long reservoir.

Get daily Lake Roosevelt level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.

Check out this post with a link to a NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.

Spring chinook bite coming to the Snake

FISHING — With a big pulse of spring chinook headed upstream past Bonneville Dam, fish managers are expecting good things for upstream fishermen.

Weather was generally poor through the weekend and fishing has been slow in the Snake River since the season opened last week, with the fish being caught near Ice Harbor (first dam the hit in the Snake) and Little Goose dams.  But Glen Mendel, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist for the Snake, said it's time to get your salmon gear ready:

We have a very large pulse of fish passing Bonneville Dam (over 17,000 on one day on April 30) headed upstream, and we already have generally more than 1,000 per day passing Ice Harbor Dam.  Counts at Little Goose are nearly 1,000 per day, and there are over 2,000 fish stacked up so far between Lower Monumental and Little Goose dams. 

Lower Granite counts have been over 200 per day for a few days.  The wind and rain are over for now, river flow levels are moderate, and fish numbers are good and getting better, so fishing conditions are looking good for the next several days or more.

Surge of spring chinook crosses Bonneville Dam

FISHING — What appears to be the biggest one-day tally of spring chinook since 2002 passed over Bonneville Dam on Wednesday, prompting more enthusiasm for the possibility of another lower Columbia River season. The announcement could come after a recalculation of the forecast in the next week or so.

The surge of 17,409 spring chinook counted over Bonneville on Wednesday was more than double the number counted the previous day and the biggest number of the 2014 run.

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman reports that the only recent higher number was the 18,436 springers over Bonneville on May 9, 2012, “which was the sixth best day recorded going back to the late 1930s:”

This can be peak timing for fishing at Wind River and Drano Lake, just 10 and 21 miles above the plug. PIT tag data shows 384 tagged springers going through the dam over the past week, with 30 and 12 headed to those two Gorge tribs, but most to Idaho.

See our feature on fishing this run of chinook  from the S-R Sunday Outdoors section.

Extra day offered for lower Columbia spring chinook fishing

FISHING — Anglers will have one more day - Saturday (April 19) - to fish for spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River prior to an updated assessment of the run size.

The chinook fishery will be open to boat and bank fishing from Buoy 10 upriver to Rooster Rock. Bank fishing will also be allowed from Rooster Rock upriver to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam.

Anglers may retain one hatchery chinook salmon as part of their daily catch limit. Barbless hooks are required, and any salmon or steelhead not visibly marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin must be released.

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon approved the one-day extension after a week in which anglers caught 6,500 upriver spring chinook, boosting the total catch for the season in the lower Columbia River to 7,880 upriver fish

One more day of fishing is expected to bring the catch levels up to 95 percent of the initial harvest guideline of 10,157 fish, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Catch levels tend to skyrocket at this time of the year,” Roler said. “As in years past, fishing started out slow this season, but you wouldn't know that by what we're seeing out there right now.”

Prior to the start of this year's fishing season, fishery managers estimated that approximately 227,000 upriver spring chinook salmon would return to the Columbia River this year.

Anglers may get additional opportunities to catch spring chinook salmon later this spring, depending on how that estimate compares to the updated forecast planned in the next few weeks, Roler said.

“If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look at providing additional days of fishing on the river later this spring,” he said.

The extended fishing season in the lower Columbia River does not affect the spring chinook season above Bonneville Dam, currently open through May 9 under regulations described on WDFW's website.