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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.

Trucks ready to haul salmon around Wanapum Dam

FISHING – As construction workers race against the biological clocks of salmon to make fish ladders at Wanapum Dam operational, state fishery managers say they are standing ready with an alternate plan to truck spring chinook up the Columbia River.

Shortly after discovering a 65-foot-long fracture in a spillway pier Feb. 27, dam operators lowered the water level behind the 185-foot structure by a record 26 feet, leaving the fish ladders high and dry.

Sometime this week, the first of an estimated 20,000 spring chinook salmon are expected to arrive in the area near Vantage on their upriver run to spawn. Nearly 4,000 of those fish are wild, naturally spawning fish, and the entire run is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Grant County Public Utility District, which owns the dam, has been scrambling to modify the fish ladders to make them operational by April 15, but also worked with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to develop a backup plan. Fish ladders at Rock Island Dam also are affected. Work to modify the ladders is estimated at $7 million.

“The stakes are very high, especially given the number of wild spring chinook involved,” said Jim Brown, regional WDFW director for northcentral Washington. “Grant County PUD is doing a great job, but all of us have a role to play in getting those fish upriver to spawn.”

Under the current plan, WDFW will intercept salmon at Priest Rapids Dam and truck most of them around Wanapum Dam, 19 miles upriver. Working in rotation, experienced drivers will haul the salmon in eight tanker trucks, each capable of moving up to 1,500 fish a day.

At the same time, a smaller number of hatchery-reared fish – identifiable by a clipped adipose fin – will be fitted with coded and radio tags and released from the Priest Rapids facility to negotiate the newly configured fish ladders at Wanapum Dam.

“The tags will allow us to track those salmon, and determine whether they are able to get over the dam on the reconfigured fish ladders,” Brown said. “That will tell us when it’s safe to suspend the trucking operation, and allow the fish to move past Wanapum on their own.”

That plan was unanimously approved by the Priest Rapids Coordinating Committee, a multi-jurisdictional organization established in 2004 to oversee hydroelectric projects in the mid-Columbia region.

Chelan PUD is also extending the fish ladders at Rock Island Dam, 38 miles upriver, to accommodate the drawdown in the Wanapum Pool. That work is also scheduled for completion today.

Brown said fishery managers are counting on the success of those measures to move fish upstream, because the trucking option will become less and less viable as larger runs of migrating salmon move into the area.

Starting in June, salmon managers are anticipating a run of up to 80,000 summer chinook, followed by 400,000 sockeye salmon and 300,000 fall chinook salmon.

“We can handle the spring chinook run with tanker trucks if that becomes necessary,” Brown said. “But there simply aren’t enough trucks, trained personnel, or hours in the day to move the number of salmon we’re expecting later in the year.”

Lake Roosevelt drawdown forecast bad news for fishery

FISHING/BOATING — 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.

The level of Lake Roosevelt is about 1246 today and dropping at the rate of about a foot a day as Grand Coulee Dam is being operated to meet flood control elevations.

The forecast for the level at the end of April is 1,235 feet.  This could be revised.

It's important at this point to compare the lake level with the levels at which boat ramps are dewatered.  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.

Washington sets 2014 salmon fishing seasons

FISHING — State and tribal co-managers have agreed on a package of salmon fisheries that meets conservation goals for wild salmon populations and provides fishing opportunities on healthy stocks, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department just announced.

Washington’s 2014 salmon fishing seasons were finalized Wednesday during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s  meeting in Vancouver. The regulations cover salmon fisheries in Puget Sound, Washington’s ocean and coastal areas and the Columbia River.

Recreational salmon fisheries will vary by area.

Read on for details from the WDFW:

Lower Columbia spring chinook fishing season extended

FISHING — Owing to poor water conditions and a slow start, spring chinook anglers on the lower Columbia River have been given an extra six days of salmon fishing under a season extension adopted by Oregon and Washington fishery managers.

The extended season will run through April 14.  Reports indicate catch rates are very good for chromers.

That means anglers must watch closely for modifications that can be made if anglers catch more fish than expected.

 In-season regulation changes are posted at Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife agency websites. 

The bag limits and areas open to fishing remain the same during the extension:

From Buoy 10 upstream to Beacon Rock (boat and bank) plus bank fishing only from Beacon Rock upstream to the Bonneville Dam deadline. Anglers may keep two adult salmonids a day, of which only one may be a Chinook. Only adipose fin-clipped fish may be kept.

Ringold bank fishing restriction to start for steelheaders

FISHING — Fishing for steelhead has been pretty darn good in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia recently.  Here's a report from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist.  Note the change that starts April 1:

Steelhead fishing picked up in March in the Hanford Reach after a slow winter.  Anglers caught 512 steelhead and retained 398 hatchery steelhead.  Anglers donated 111 hatchery steelhead to WDFW to support the Ringold Springs and Wells Hatcheries Programs.  Anglers averaged 13 hours per steelhead from the bank and just over 6 hours per steelhead by boat.

Effective April 1-April 15, this fishery will only be open for bank angling at the WDFW Ringold Access area.

For the fishery, October-March, 1,197 steelhead have been caught and 723 hatchery steelhead harvested. 

Anglers clamor for a springer season near Clarkston

FISHING — Although fisheries officials aren't making a commitment until run size is confirmed, anglers made it clear Wednesday night that they want to be able to catch spring chinook in the Snake River when they move upstream past Clarkston this year.

Biologists listed to their desires and even pointed out the possibility of a short fishing opportunity in the Grande Ronde River.

Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune was at the meeting.   Read on for his report:

Steelheading to close on upper Columbia

FISHING — Steelhead fishing will close on Monday, March 31, on the Columbia River and tributaries above Rock Island Dam, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced.

Most steelhead will be spawning beginning in April, the agency said in a release, and the closure is governed by federal endangered species agreements. The closure officially begins one hour after sunset on March 31.

Areas closed to steelhead fishing include:

  • Mainstem Columbia River:  From Rock Island Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam.
  • Wenatchee River:  From the mouth to 400 feet below Tumwater Dam, including the Icicle River from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam.
  • Methow River:  From the mouth to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop.
  • Okanogan River:  From the mouth to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville.
  • Similkameen River:  From the mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam.

Lake Roosevelt levels holding, but deep drawdown forecast

BOATING — The level of Lake Roosevelt is near the elevation of 1,272 feet today, March 12, and lake levels are expected to remain between 1,270-1,273 for the next week., according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

However, a significant drawdown is expected based on current snowpack levels, and that's not great news to anglers who enjoy the trout and kokanee fishing at Lake Roosevelt.  The amount of carryover fish — the beauties anglers have been catching this winter — can be sharply reduced by big drawdowns that flush fish over Grand Coulee Dam and out of the reservoir.

 Grand Coulee Dam is being operated to meet power demand and the minimum tail water requirement of 11.5 feet below Bonneville Dam for chum and the 65 kcfs minimum Hanford Reach protection flows below Priest Rapids Dam.

The March Water Supply Forecasts show the inflow forecast for Lake Roosevelt is 98% of average. The forecast for the Dalles is 102% of average.  This forecast reflects the significant precipitation that was received during the month of February.
The following are flood control elevations for Lake Roosevelt:

  • January 31 - 1290 feet
  • February 31 - 1290 feet
  • March 31 – 1266.8 feet
  • April 31 – 1236.7 feet

The next Water Supply Forecast will be updated the week of April 7 and flood control elevations may change.

Get links to river flows in this region at The Spokesman-Review Outdoors topics page.

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

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

State restricts access to beach and water near Wanapum Dam

BOATING — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has closed five water access sites along the Columbia River behind Wanapum Dam, where the water level has been drawn down in response to a cracked spillway.

The closures affect the Yo Yo, Old Vantage Highway, Sunland Estates, Buckshot and Frenchman Coulee/Climbing Rocks water access sites plus roads from nearby wildlife areas.

WDFW officials said they closed the sites and are preventing access to the beach and exposed riverbed in WDFW wildlife areas along the river to protect public safety, fish habitat, and archeological and cultural resources. 

The reservoir behind the dam was lowered by about 26 feet after divers discovered a 65-foot-long fracture Feb. 27 along one of the dam's spillways. As a result, the water level behind the dam is at its lowest point since the Grant County Public Utility District facility began operating in 1964.

Jim Brown, WDFW regional director for north-central Washington, said the reservoir level is so low that boaters can't reach the water with their trailers, and some newly uncovered areas near the shoreline present quicksand-like conditions.

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, Brown said.

“For their own safety, we're asking people to please stay off the beaches and any other areas that were under water before the drawdown,” he said.

Brown said the closures will be in effect until further notice and are being coordinated with the Grant County PUD. He said signs are being installed to inform the public, and WDFW law enforcement officers will be enforcing the closures in cooperation with local sheriff's offices.  Grant County PUD is restricting access to the river on other nearby lands.

When the closures are lifted, information will be posted on the WDFW website:  wdfw.wa.gov .  Further information about the incident is available from the Grant County PUD at www.grantpud.org/your-pud/media-room/news .  

Wind River springer fishing seasons set to start

FISHING — The fish are still on their way, but the Washington is announcing spring chinook and steelhead seasons on the Wind River, a popular Columbia River tributary.  Here are details from the Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Action:  The daily catch limit will be 2 chinook or 2 hatchery steelhead or one of each at various times and locations on the Wind River. 

  • Wind River from the mouth (boundary line markers) upstream to the

Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge:  Open March 16 through July 31.   

Anglers with a two-pole endorsement may fish with two poles for salmon 

and steelhead May 1 through June 30.  

  • Wind River from Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge upstream to 400 feet

below Shipherd Falls:  Open April 1 through July 31;

  • Wind River from 100 feet above Shipherd Falls to 800 yards downstream of

Carson National Fish Hatchery (except closed waters from 400 feet below to

100 feet above coffer dam):  Open May 1 through June 30.

Species affected:  Chinook and steelhead

Other information:  Release wild chinook downstream from Shipherd Falls. Release all trout other than hatchery steelhead. Minimum size 12 inches for salmon and 20 inches for steelhead.

When fishing for sturgeon or other species, only one pole per angler may be used.

The area from the railroad bridge upstream to Shipherd Falls will be closed to all fishing from March 16-31 to protect wild steelhead when salmon abundance is low. 

Reason for action:  The 2014 Wind River spring chinook returns are expected to be slightly higher than the recent 5 year average and more than twice last year’s actual return.  Surplus hatchery origin fish are available for harvest.

Would you criticize an angler for keeping a record-setting walleye?

FISHING — Some people are criticizing John Grubenhoff of Pasco for not releasing the 20.32-pound Washington state record walleye he caught Friday in the Columbia River.

Experts say he did the right thing, without even getting around to the argument that walleye are a non-native species.

It’s official: 20.32-pound walleye is Washington record

FISHING — The whopper walleye caught in the Columbia River on Friday — see today's story —  has been officially declared a state record by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Following is the official announcement, just posted:

New State Fishing Record:  Walleye (Sander vitrius)

Caught by John Grubenhoff of Pasco, WA, in Lake Wallula (Columbia River), Benton County, on Feb. 28, 2014

Weight:            20.32 lbs

Total Length: 35.50 inches (90 cm)

Girth:                22.75 inches (57.5 cm)

Fishing method/gear: Trolling in 22 feet of water upstream along a current break at 0.8 mph and using a Rapala® J-13 lure 6 feet behind a 2 oz. “bottom walker” weight. 

Conditions: Sunny, but with a cold front coming in the next day. Water temperature: 37.2 degrees; air temperature: upper 40s.

Species description:  Walleye are extremely popular sport fish everywhere they occur, and are known for their exquisite flavor. They are native to the Midwest United States and were first identified in Washington about 1960 in Banks Lake. They have since spread throughout the Columbia Basin and the Columbia River from Lake Roosevelt, downstream to near Longview. Washington is known nationwide for its walleye fishing.

Previous record: Taken Feb. 5, 2007 in Lake Wallula (Columbia River) by Mike Hepper of Richland, WA

Weight:            19.3 lbs

Total Length:   33.7 inches

Girth:                22.2 inches

Wanapum pool drawdown leaves boat ramps high, dry

FISHING — It isn't a hot spot for fishing this time of year, but if you're thinking of launching a boat in the Columbia River's reservoir behind Wanapum Dam, think again.

The 20-foot drawdown resulting from precautions after a crack was found in the dam have left boat ramps far from the water, as you'll see in the photos with this story from the Yakima Herald.

Pasco angler catches 20-pound Washington record walleye in Columbia

UPDATE March 5, 2014, 3:15 p.m.:  It's official! The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has just confirmed Grubenhoff's walleye as a state record.

FISHING — A walleye weighing 20.32 pounds caught in the Columbia River on Friday is a pending Washington record.

John Grubenhoff, 57, of Pasco was fishing in the McNary Pool near the Tri Cities when he caught the egg-heavy female measuring 35 1/2 inches long and 22 3/4 inches in girth.

A state biologist witnessed the weighing on a certified scale on Friday. State biologist Paul Hoffarth measured the fish on Saturday and said he doesn't foresee and issues that would prevent the record from being confirmed.

Grubenhoff's walleye would top the current record of 19.3 pounds caught by Tri-Cities angler Mike Hepper in February 2007.

Oregon's record, also from the Columbia, is 19 pounds, 15 ounces caught in 1990.

The world record listed by the International Game Fish Association is 25 pounds caught in Old Hickory Lake, Tenn., in 1960.

Grubenhoff, who's pursued walleyes for 29 years, said he rushed home from his job at Sandvik Special Metals on Friday afternoon to get in some fishing before dark. Winter is prime time for catching trophy walleyes while the hens are still full of eggs.

“A cold front was forecast to come in that evening so I figured that fishing would be good,” he said, noting the water temperature was 37.2 degrees. “Boy was it. My first fish came within about 10 minutes, a nice hen around 14 pounds. I released her as usual and went back at it.”

Within 10 minutes, he caught and released a 6-pound male. He said he hooked the record fish about a half hour later “fishing a current break adjacent to a windswept, rocky shoreline in about 22 feet of water.”

He was trolling upstream at about 0.8 mph with a Rapala J-13 – a 6-inch-long minnow lure in silver and black – about 6 feet behind a 2-ounce bottom walker.

“The largest walleye I've caught up until now was around 18 pounds,” he said. “She was released after a few photos.”

But he said he knew Friday’s fish was a possible record and took it - almost - immediately to be weighed on a certified scale.

“I have been tournament fishing for about 25 years, mostly with my son Jacob, who is my best buddy,” he said. “We've won nine tournaments and placed in the money dozens of times.”

Ranch & Home, a Tri-Cities sporting goods store, has offered to pay for the taxidermist and a reproduction to display in the store, he said.

Pasco angler catches 20-pound state record walleye in Columbia

4 p.m. — See updated post and photo here.

FISHING — A Columbia River walleye weighing 20.32 pounds was caught in the Columbia River on Friday and is likely to be confirmed as a Washington record, state Fish and Wildlife Department biologists say

John Grubenhoff of Pasco was fishing in the McNary Pool near the Tri-Cities when caught the fish measuring 35 1/2 inches long and 22 3/4 inches in girth. 

A state biologist witnessed the weighing on a certified scale on Friday. Paul Hoffarth, area district biologist, measured the fish on Saturday and said he doesn't forsee and issues that would prevent the record from being confirmed.

Grubenhoff's walleye would top the current record of 19.3 pounds caught by Mike Hepper in February 2007.

Winter is prime time to catch record walleyes while the females are heavy with eggs.

Oregon's walleye record is 19 pounds, 15 ounces caught in 1990.

The world record listed by the International Game Fish Association is 25 pounds caught in Old Hickory Lake, Tenn., in 1960.

First springer heads up Columbia

FISHING — Here's the harbinger of what should be a better than average spring chinook fishing season in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

“First spring Chinook of the year returned to Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery yesterday!” says Joe Hymer, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife salmon specialist in an email received moments ago.

Lake Roosevelt levels holding fairly stable

RIVERS — The level of Lake Roosevelt  near the elevation of 1,273 feet today and lake levels are expected to remain between 1,271-1,273 this week, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Grand Coulee Dam is being operated to meet power demand and the minimum tail water requirement of 11.5 feet below Bonneville Dam for chum and the 65 kcfs minimum Hanford Reach protection flows below Priest Rapids Dam.

The February Water Supply Forecasts indicated that Lake Roosevelt's inflow potential is 82% of average. The forecast for the Dalles is 83% of average.  Due to a relatively dry January, flood control elevations have risen since last month.

The following are flood control elevations for Lake Roosevelt:

  • January 31 - 1290 feet
  • February 31 - 1290 feet
  • March 31 – 1283.3 feet
  • April 31 – 1282.7 feet

The next Water Supply Forecast will be updated the week of March 10 and flood control elevations are expected to change.  February has seen an increase in precipitation and it is expected the March forecast will reflect this change. 

Get links to river flows in this region at The Spokesman-Review Outdoors topics page.

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

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

Conservationists spotlight Columbia River Treaty

CONSERVATION — The effort to modernize the international Columbia River Treaty and perhaps return salmon upstream over Grand Coulee Dam will be highlighted in an annual conservation benefit program during an evening of food and presentations on Friday, Feb. 21, at the  Patsy Clark Mansion in Spokane.

D.R. Michel, Upper Columbia United Tribes executive director, will present the keynote address in the program organized by the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. 

The 2014 “watershed heroes” to be honored at the program include two Washington State University emeritus professors — Norman Whittlesey and Walter Butcher — for their contributions in water economics and ongoing scrutiny of costly federal and state irrigation projects proposed for our region.  

“Their academic integrity in service to the public has helped protect rivers, taxpayers, and ratepayers for decades,” said John Osborn, the event's co-organizer. 

The event will begin at  6:30 p.m. at the Mansion, 2208 W. 2nd Ave.

RSVP: John Osborn, john@waterplanet.ws , (509) 939-1290.

Tickets are $25 (click here or pay at the Patsy Clark Mansion).