Latest from The Spokesman-Review
SALMON FISHING — Harvest and effort continues to increase in the Hanford Reach fall Chinook fishery on the Columbia River below Priest Rapids Dam.
Washington Fish and Wildlife Columbia River fisheries biologists report an estimated 3,407 boats fished for salmon in the Hanford Reach this past week through Sunday, up from 2,942 last week.
Paul Hoffarth, biologist in the Tri-Cities, said that despite the bigger crowd, the catch rate increased to 1.9 salmon per boat, up from 1.5 last week.
WDFW staff interviewed anglers from 779 boats (1,999 anglers:13,126 pole hours). An estimated 5,729 adult chinook and 752 jacks were harvested this past week.
Interviews with 212 bank anglers (1,097 hours) fishing for salmon at Ringold found they'd harvested 27 chinook. Anglers are also finding a few coho in their catch!
There were an estimated 9,146 angler trips for fall Chinook in the Tri-cities this past week. Fall Chinook counts at Bonneville Dam have declined to less than 10,000 adult chinook per day but harvest should continue to improve as more fish move into the Reach.
FISHING — The 2014 fall chinook run to the Columbia River is coming up short of expectations — but it's still at least the second best return since Bonneville Dam was built and fish counting started in 1938.
Here are the highlights of Columbia forecasts and observations released today from Washington and Oregon salmon managers:
Stock Status Updates
- Passage of adult fall Chinook at Bonneville Dam through September 23 totals 741,500 fish. Typically, passage is about 90% complete by this date.
- The 2014 Columbia River return is currently projected to reach 1,183,300 adult fall Chinook, including 677,600 Upriver Bright (URB) stock Chinook. The preseason forecast was 1,510,600 of which 919,000 were expected to be URBs.
- The total expected fall Chinook return (including URBs) is the 2nd largest since at least 1938. The 2013 is record return with 1,268,400 fall Chinook including 784,300 URBs.
- Passage of upriver summer steelhead at Bonneville Dam through September 23 totals 282,100 fish. Passage has been slightly greater than expectations. Upriver summer steelhead passage (July-October) is currently projected to reach 296,600 fish at Bonneville Dam, including 37,500 Group B stock (9,350 wild).
- Passage of adult upriver coho at Bonneville Dam through September 23 totals 156,000 fish. The counting period for this early stock component continues through September 30. Upriver early-stock coho passage at Bonneville is projected to reach 167,000 adult fish, compared to a preseason expectation of 102,200 fish.
FISHING Starting Saturday, Sept. 20, a 1.25-mile section of the lower Yakima River in Prosser will be closed to fishing from any floating device, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says.
The river from the Grant Ave. Bridge in Prosser downstream approximately 1.25 miles to the downstream side of the westbound Interstate 82 Bridge will be closed until Oct. 22.
Reason for action: This section of the Yakima River is adjacent to the Yakama Nation’s Prosser Fish Hatchery where over 2 million fall chinook smolts are released annually. Returning adult salmon congregate in this terminal area and attract many anglers during the Yakima River fall salmon season that is open through October 22. During the peak fishing period (late Sept. through Oct. 22), as many as 75 bank anglers may be fishing at one time from the north (left) and south (right) shoreline. The river at this location is narrow (50 – 100 feet wide) and will not accommodate bank anglers casting from shore and boat anglers who anchor in mid-channel. Limiting fishing in this reach to bank angling prevents conflicts between boat and bank anglers.
- Daily limit of six salmon (hatchery or wild); up to two adults. Minimum size - 12 inches.
- Night Closure is in effect. Barbless hooks are required.
- Fishing for steelhead remains closed. All steelhead (rainbow trout greater than 20” in total length) must be immediately released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.
- A Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement is required to participate in this fishery.
FISHING — Although it's clearly a gigantic run — and still likely to be a record — the size of the 2014 run of fall chinook heading up the Columbia River was officially downgraded from its earlier forecast today.
Washington and Oregon fish managers issued a report that downgraded the forecast from 1.51 million adult fall chinook to 1.26 million — or slightly above last year's record run.
Officially, the Columbia River Compact reported:
Passage of adult fall Chinook at Bonneville Dam since August 1 totals 630,800 fish. Daily
counts reached over 67,000 fish (September 7 and 8) and have slowly declined to 21,000 fish
per day (September 17). Based on the 10-year average, passage is 76% complete by September
17. The most recent in-season runsize estimates from TAC (9/15) include a Columbia River
return of 723,500 Upriver Bright (URB) and 110,000 Bonneville Pool Hatchery (BPH) adult
Chinook. The 2014 Columbia River return is projected to reach nearly 1,258,000 adult fall
Chinook (83% of preseason forecast of 1,510,600 adult fall Chinook)
Forget the change and go fishing.
UPDATED 11:25 with photo of the big steelhead Shawn Barron caught on Clearwater River (inset) shortly after his son, Tyler, caught the big fall chinook (above). That's what I call a good day of fishing!
FISHING — The nice thing about fishing in the lower Clearwater River this time of year is that the fish you catch are either big or bigger.
Steelhead have been attracting anglers to the waters near Lewiston since July, when the fish started trickling over Lower Granite Dam in decent numbers and up the Snake River toward Idaho.To date, more than 22,000 steelhead have passed over Lower Granite Dam (since June 1) and the fish continue to swim over their last Snake River hurdle at the rate of about 1,300 a day.
But now fall chinook are showing in bigger numbers as a forecast record run pushes into the Columbia River system. Indeed, the numbers of fall chinook over Lower Granite is higher than the number of steelhead.
"We are anticipating that the fall chinook salmon returning run to Idaho will be the second largest we have seen in quite some time last year was the largest," said Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.
"We are expecting around 50,000 adults to pass over Lower Granite Dam and what is even more exciting is this year the majority of the adult fish are three-ocean fish that typically range from 18-22 pounds.
"On average, more than 2,000 adult chinook a day have been passing over Lower Granite Dam for the past week. Soon we should exceed 3,000 adult chinook a day. Catch rates for Chinook have been quite slow, but they should pick up with all these fish starting to move in."
Steelhead fishing also has been fairly slow, he said, noting that surveys pegged success at 20 hours per fish in the Snake River and Clearwater River downstream of Memorial Bridge where fish can be harvested.
But expect these catch rates to improve as more fish move into Idaho.
"Steelhead fishing in the catch-and-release area of the Clearwater River (upstream of Memorial Bridge) has been fairly good with catch rates around 5 to 6 hours a fish," DuPont said.
"One interesting this about this year’s A run is that over half the fish that have passed over Lower Granite Dam are two-ocean fish running 9-13 pounds," he said. The A run is the term used for the earlier arriving steelhead that are typically dominated by one-ocean fish and are mainly destined for the Salmon and Grande Ronde rivers and up the Snake to Hells Canyon Dam.
"So, although the catch rates haven’t been all that great, people have been pleased with the size of the fish they are catching. Now that the B run (later arriving and generally larger two-ocean steelhead bound mostly for the Clearwater River Basin) is just starting to reach Idaho, the size of the fish should just get bigger.
Fall chinook anglers in Idaho often wonder why "wild" fish are protected when they seem to catch more "unclipped" salmon than "clipped" salmon produced at hatcheries. DuPont explains:
- Only about 30% of the chinook passing over Lower Granite Dam are fin-clipped. That is because a lot of wild fish are returning and because around half the hatchery fall chinook released in Idaho are clipped. This was done to help build the run when numbers were low. Thus, anglers will have to catch around four unmarked fish for every clipped fish that can be harvested.
Another question commonly asked: “Why can't anglers harvest fall chinook upstream of Memorial Bridge?” DuPont explains:
- First, only about 25 percent of the hatchery fish released into the Clearwater River are clipped. Thus, when you mix in the wild fish only about 15 percent of the fish are clipped. That doesn’t leave a lot of fish to be harvested. This clip rate is set until 2017. Discussion will occur to decide what the new clip rate will be starting in 2018.
- Second, the Clearwater River is a very popular place to catch-and-release steelhead, and has been for many years. Anglers come from all over the nation to fish this unique fishery. Opening a fall chinook season at the same time as this catch-and-release steelhead season occurs would cause significant changes in the dynamics of this fishery (more anglers and more boats). Many steelhead anglers say they are not in support of this.
- Finally, the Nez Perce Tribe is largely responsible for rebuilding the fall chinook run in Idaho. Because most of the Clearwater River is in the Nez Perce Tribal Reservation, we need to be considerate of their concerns and interests before moving forward with a fishery that targets fall chinook in this area. We will have discussions with the Tribe about this when we feel the time is appropriate.
UPDATED 9:15 a.m. with report from guide.
FISHING — What a difference a week makes when there's a big upstream surge of fall chinook into the Columbia River
Fishing success in the Hanford Reach is mushrooming as expected, according to creel surveys taken last week and reported today by Paul Hoffarth, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist in the Tri-Cities.
Here's the latest report, for Sept. 8-14:
An estimated 1,385 boats fished for salmon in the Hanford Reach (Hwy 395 and Priest Rapids Dam) this past week. WDFW staff interviewed anglers from 543 boats (1,351 anglers:7,790 pole hours). An estimated 972 adult chinook and 125 jacks were harvested this past week. Boats averaged just under a chinook per boat. Harvest in most of the mid to upstream areas is better than a fish per boat. Aquatic vegetation in the water in the downstream areas of the Reach is making fishing difficult.
Staff also interviewed 100 bank anglers (379 hours) fishing for salmon at Ringold with seven chinook harvested.
There were an estimated 3,448 angler trips for fall Chinook in the Tri-cities this past week. Fall Chinook counts at Bonneville Dam have been holding steady at ~ 30,000 adult chinook per day.
Compare that with last week's report, for Sept. 1-7:
An estimated 583 boats fished for salmon in the Hanford Reach (Hwy 395 and Priest Rapids Dam) this past week. WDFW staff interviewed anglers from 216 boats (412 anglers:2,422 pole hours). An estimated 170 adult chinook and 5 jacks were harvested this past week. Boats averaged roughly 1/3 of a chinook per boat. Harvest began picking up at all area launches over the weekend.
Staff also interviewed 63 bank anglers (183 hours) fishing for salmon at Ringold with one chinook harvested.
Keep in mind that the two consecutive one-day record surges over Bonneville dam were just getting settled into Hanford Reach below Priest Rapids Dam this weekend.
It's game on.
- Spokane fishing guide Dave Grove of Captain Dave's Guide Service just sent me a photo with a client holding a big chinook. Grove said it's the 27th chinook netted into his boat since he started fishing the Hanford Reach this weekend.
FISHING — In case you've been in a coma for the past few weeks, let me remind you that a forecast record of 1.6 million chinook salmon is stampeding up the Columbia River.
A one-day record of 67,024 chinook was counted on Sunday, Sept. 7, only to be exceeded Monday by a record rush of 67,521 chinook.
It takes about seven days for upriver brights going over Bonneville to work their way upstream and get settled into the Hanford Reach, says Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist.
That means 100,000-150,000 fish will be slamming into the reach this weekend.
Last year’s record run of nearly 1.2 million chinook was dominated by 3-year-old fish averaging 8-12 pounds. More than 70 percent of this year’s run is comprised of 4- and 5-year-olds, the bulk of them running 18-23 pounds.
Anglers have already been catching early arrivals.
On Sunday, Spokane fishing guide Dave Grove of Captain Dave’s Guide Service (509 939-6727) helped his clients catch three adult chinook. Wild as well as unmarked hatchery salmon can be kept in the Reach. His anglers also caught a jack and released two wild steelhead.
I caught fish with Grove on Monday and the rumor that upriver brights are for the smoker is overstated. Our fish were delicious off the grill. You have to fish harder and perhaps release some to find brighter fish in October, but it can be done.
But whether they come off the smoker or grill, this is a not-to-miss run of fish.
Hoffarth calls the forecast of 1.6 million adult fall chinook “uncharted territory for fish managers," with "incredible numbers that are hard to believe."
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Once on the brink of extinction and still too close for comfort, Snake River sockeye surpassed an important milestone this week.
Through Friday, 1,348 sockeye have been trapped in the Sawtooth Basin, the most since the run was placed on regulatory life support and a captive breeding program was initiated more than 20 years ago.
Read on for an update from the Lewiston Tribune on the status of this remarkable fishery that runs upstream 900 miles past the unnatural barriers of Columbia and Snake River dams:
By Eric Barker/Lewiston Tribune
Following decades of struggle, sockeye that return to Redfish Lake and other large lakes near the headwaters of the Salmon River bottomed out in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Returns were often in the single digits, and in some years not a single adult completed the journey from the ocean. Sockeye were protected as an endangered species in 1991 and a captive breeding program began the same year.
Under the program designed to preserve the genetics of the fish and keep the run from blinking out, returning adults were bred in captivity and the bulk of their offspring spent their entire lives in a hatchery setting. Numbers were slowly bolstered to allow more and more smolts to be released to migrate downstream to the ocean.
Returns remained meager to modest for several years and then made a jump starting in 2008, when 650 sockeye returned to the basin. That was followed by 833 in 2009 and 1,322 in 2010. This week, the 2014 run topped the 2010 run and is now the third-largest since 1956 - when 1,381 sockeye returned.
"Just based on how fish are coming back into the basin, we may surpass that 1956 number," said Mike Peterson, an Idaho Fish and Game senior research biologist at Nampa. "Certainly this is the highest number of Snake River sockeye that have crossed over Lower Granite (Dam) and the highest number of adults trapped since the captive brood program initiation."
In 1961, 4,351 sockeye returned to the basin, the most ever recorded. But that pales in comparison to returns before the fish were counted at weirs. Fisheries biologists don’t know exactly how many sockeye once made the journey from the Pacific Ocean to the deep, clear and cold lakes at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains. An Idaho State University study led by professor Bruce Finney estimated the run once numbered between 25,000 to 40,000 fish. Redfish Lake reportedly got its name because the fish, which turn crimson while spawning, made the lake shimmer red.
The run was nearly choked out with the 1910 construction of Sunbeam Dam on the Salmon River, about 20 miles downstream from Redfish Lake Creek. The crude concrete structure, which was breached in 1934, had little to no fish passage during its lifespan and fisheries biologists are not certain if the run was re-established by resident kokanee salmon or if enough adults were able to make it through the dam to allow the run to persist.
Now with numbers improving, the run could be poised to make another significant jump. Last year, the Springfield Fish Hatchery was built near Blackfoot to boost production of sockeye. The first set of juveniles raised there will be released next year, and by 2017 Peterson said the hatchery should hit its full production goal of 1 million smolts per year. More juveniles released should lead to more returning adults. This year’s return is based on the release of only about 165,000 smolts.
But for now, program officials are content to wait and see how much higher this year’s return will climb. Between 10 to 20 sockeye have been trapped at weirs in recent days. And while the run appears to have peaked, it could persist for a number of weeks.
"We are kind of excited to see where we end up," Peterson said.
FISHING – Anglers fishing a section of the lower Columbia River will have one extra day to retain unmarked fall chinook salmon this month under an agreement reached today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.
That agreement allows anglers fishing from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upriver to the Warrior Rock line to retain either a marked or unmarked chinook through Sunday, Sept. 7, before a new rule takes effect requiring the release of all unmarked chinook.
The agreement delays the effective date of the previous regulation by one day, said Ron Roler, a fishery manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“This year’s fall chinook run has been coming in more slowly than expected, easing fishing pressure on wild fish,” Roler said. “That allows us to ease up a bit on our harvest restrictions and still meet established conservation guidelines.”
Hatchery-reared salmon are marked for identification by clipping the fatty adipose fin near their tail. Wild salmon are generally not marked.
Through Sept.14, the daily catch limit for anglers fishing in the affected area is two adult salmon, or two hatchery steelhead, or one of each – but only one chinook salmon. However, all unmarked chinook must be released starting Sept. 8.
FISHING — Patience.
A record run of fall chinook is headed to the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River below Priest Rapids Dam.
But they ain't there yet, according to this creek report from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist in the Tri-Cities.
An estimated 212 boats fished for salmon in the Hanford Reach (Hwy 395 and Priest Rapids Dam) this past week. WDFW staff interviewed 14 boats (25 anglers:100 pole hours) fishing for salmon with no catch. Staff also interviewed 8 bank anglers at Ringold with no catch.
Above are the latest graphs showing fish moving over Bonneville Dam, the first dam the fish encounter up the Columbia from the ocean, as well as McNary Dam, the last dam the salmon negotiate before heading either toward the Snake or up the Columbia into the Hanford Reach.
FISHING — This announcement just posted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is good news if you're champing at the bit to cast for the early portion of the record run of fall chinook heading up the Columbia River.
Action: Fall chinook season opens two days early to coincide with Labor Day weekend.
Effective date: Aug 30, 2014 (one hour before official sunrise).
Species affected: Chinook salmon
Location: Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam to Wanapum Dam
General Rules: Daily limit six (6) chinook only; up to two adults may be retained. All other rules for Columbia River apply, including barbless hooks. Two poles allowed through Aug 31, 2014.
Reason for action: The standard opening date for fall chinook in the Priest Rapids Pool is September 1. With Labor Day weekend falling on August 30, 2014, opening two days early will allow for additional angling opportunity.
Anglers are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license 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 spring chinook fisheries. The endorsement has generated more than $1 million annually for WDFW to maintain and increase fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River basin.
Monitor fishing rule changes on the fishing hotline at 360-902-2500 or the WDFW webpage.
FISHING — Not much time left, according to this announcement just posted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:
Action: Lake Wenatchee closes for sockeye salmon fishing.
Effective date: Sept. 1, 2014 (one hour after official sunset).
Species affected: Sockeye salmon
Location: Lake Wenatchee (Chelan Co.)
Reason for action: The majority of adult sockeye salmon currently in Lake Wenatchee will soon become largely unavailable to anglers due to their annual migration to the spawning grounds on the White and Little Wenatchee Rivers. Sockeye condition and desirability will have declined drastically. This closure will further reduce unnecessary impacts to bull trout with such relatively few sockeye still being present in Lake Wenatchee.
FISHING — Starting Monday, Aug. 18, anglers fishing in ocean waters off Westport can keep up to two chinook salmon as part of their two-salmon daily limit, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says.
With that change, anglers will be allowed to keep two chinook per day in ocean waters off Westport (Marine Area 2), La Push (Marine Area 3) and Neah Bay (Marine Area 4).
Those fishing Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) will continue to be limited to one chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit.
All ocean areas are open to salmon fishing seven days per week. Wild coho must be released in all four areas.
Ron Warren, WDFW fisheries policy lead, said the previous daily limit of one chinook off Westport was designed to ensure the fishery would remain open the entire season.
“We’ve kept a close eye on the pace of catch in the area,” Warren said. “With sufficient quota remaining, we want to maximize the recreational fishing opportunity through the rest of the season.”
Ocean salmon fisheries are scheduled to continue through Sept. 30 in marine areas 1 and 2 and through Sept. 21 in marine areas 3 and 4. However, a portion of Marine Area 3 will reopen Sept. 27 through Oct. 12.
Fishery managers will continue to monitor the ocean salmon fishery throughout the season and will announce any other changes on WDFW’s website.
Additional information on the ocean fishery, including minimum size limits and catch guidelines, is available in the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.
FISHING — As this year's record run of Columbia River sockeye pushes upstream, a record number of the salmon is headed into Lake Wenachee, where savvy anglers are finding some good fishing.
This blog post by Andy Walgamott offers some creative tips to catching the sometimes finicky sockeyes at this sweet lake near Leavenworth.
FISHING — Although there were a few jokes about the prevalence of "smoked fish," the sentiments were genuine last weekend as the ninth annual Brewster King Salmon Derby dedicated proceeds of a raffle to victims of the sprawling Carlton Complex wildfires.
The three-day derby raised $1,700 for fire victims in a drawing for a donated YETI cooler.
Just as important, the 275 participating anglers and their families spent money at local businesses, including those in Pateros, where many homes were lost to the fires sparked by lightning more than three weeks ago.
Wind that fanned the continuing fires forced anglers off the water in fog-like bank of smoke on Saturday, but conditions improved again on Sunday.
The Brewster area of the Columbia River is flush with fish this year, including a record run of sockeye salmon.
The largest fish of the derby was a 25-pound chinook caught by Wiley Flohr of Wenatchee to win the youth division.
The top adult division salmon weighed 21.85 pounds caught by Corey Maynard.
FISHING — All roads are currently closed to Lake Wenatchee, where a popular sockeye salmon fishery is set to open Saturday (July 19).
- Fires also are restricting access to the Pateros-Brewster area, a prime upper Columbia River sockeye fishery destination.
With several wildfires burning in the area, state officials have closed U.S. Highway 2 east of Stevens Pass as well as Old State Route 209 ("Chumstick Road") between Leavenworth and the lake.
Washington State Parks has also closed entry to Lake Wenatchee State Park, the site of the primary boat launch on the lake.
"The sockeye fishery will open as scheduled, but anglers may have to wait for a few days to get to it," said Jeff Korth, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "We strongly advise they check reports on fire and road conditions before they head out."
Sources of that information include:
- Fire Status: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3937/
- Road Closures: http://www.wsdot.com/traffic/trafficalerts/default.aspx
- Lake Wenatchee State Park: www.parks.wa.gov/AlertCenter.aspx?AID=167
Information on the upcoming sockeye fishery is available on WDFW's website.
FISHING — The record run of sockeye up the Columbia River has made way for a salmon season on Lake Wenatchee starting Saturday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has just announced.
However, fires may block road access for the opener.
Action: Lake Wenatchee opens for sockeye salmon fishing.
Effective date: July 19, 2014 (one hour before official sunrise).
Species affected: Sockeye salmon
Daily limit: The daily limit per angler is 6 sockeye, 12 inches in length or greater.
Location: Lake Wenatchee (Chelan Co.)
Reason for action: Based on current sockeye passage at both Tumwater Dam and mainstem Columbia River Dams, at least 65,000 total sockeye are projected to be destined for Lake Wenatchee. This provides an estimated 42,000 sockeye to be available for harvest above the natural spawning escapement goal of 23,000 fish.
Other information: Selective gear rules (up to three single barbless hooks per line, no bait or scent allowed, knotless nets required) in effect. Anglers may fish with 2 poles as long as they possess a valid two-pole endorsement. A night closure will be in effect. Legal angling hours are one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. Bull trout, steelhead, and chinook salmon must be released unharmed without removing the fish from the water.
NOTE: The Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery may be closed on short notice depending on participation and catch rates. Anglers are advised to check daily the fishing hotline at 360-902-2500 or WDFW’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/rules_all_freshwater.j
Anglers are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license. Revenue from the endorsement supports salmon or steelhead seasons on many rivers in the Columbia River system, including enforcing fishery regulations and monitoring the Columbia River fisheries. The endorsement has generated more than $1 million annually for WDFW to maintain and increase fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River basin.
FISHING — With a record run charging upstream, the catch limit for sockeye is being increased to six a day in the Columbia River upstream from the Tri-Cities.
On Friday the limit was increased from four to six upstream from Priest Rapids to Wells Dam.
Starting Tuesday, the sockeye daily limit will be increased for the mainstem Columbia above the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco.
On Wednesday, the six-fish limit will be allowed in the Wells Dam area, making the entire upper Columbia to Chief Joseph Dam — except the section that's closed to fishing and access because of Wanapum Dam repairs — open for six a day.
Here are the details just announced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:
Action: Anglers will be able to retain eight salmon and up to six adult sockeye salmon in the mainstem Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam.
Effective dates and locations on Mainstem Columbia River:
- From Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco to Priest Rapids Dam, July 15 – July 31, 2014.
- From Priest Rapids Dam to Wanapum Dam, July 11 – Aug. 31, 2014.
- From Wanapum Dam to Wells Dam, July 11 – Oct. 15, 2014.
- From Wells Dam to Hwy 173 Bridge in Brewster, July 16 – Aug. 31, 2014.
- 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 (ESA).
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.
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:
- From Priest Rapids Dam to Wanapum Dam, July 11-Aug. 31, 2014.
- From Wanapum Dam to Wells Dam, July 11-Oct. 15, 2014.
- From Wells Dam to Hwy 173 Bridge in Brewster, July 16-Aug. 31, 2014.
- 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.
FISHING — Salmon appear to be migrating up the Columbia River unimpeded by hastily engineered fish ladder extensions prompted by the drawdown and repairs to fix a crack in Wanapum Dam.
However, fish biologists are still concerned whether good fish passage will continue as the river level continues to drop into summer flows.
It's never a good time to have a crack in a dam on a major river, but fish biologists and anglers are sweating the possibility of a setback to years of effort, not to mention billions of dollars, to restore Columbia River salmon runs.
If this year's bountiful runs of sockeye and fall chinook can't make it upstream to spawning areas, the loss would affect the fishery for years.
"So far it looks good because sockeye have been coming up over Priest Rapids Dam at more than 20,000 a day plus a couple thousand summer chinook and they're not stacking up and having trouble getting over Wanapum (the next dam upstream)," Jeff Korth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional fisheries manager in Ephrata, said last week.
The sockeye run normally peaks over Priest Rapids around July 10, he said. Crowding and chaos could still occur.
From Wanapum, the salmon head up toward Rock Island Dam in a 36-mile stretch of reservoir that's been lowered about 20 feet to accommodate the dam repairs.
"It's interesting that the first six miles below (Rock Island) are flowing much like the original river and we expected the salmon to move up faster than they do under normal reservoir levels and less flow," Korth said. "But we monitored spring chinook passage and the lower level didn't make any significant difference."
The lowered reservoir behind Wanapum Dam is closed to boating and shoreline foot access mostly to protect archeological sites.
At Rock Island, dam workers already have installed extensions to the fish ladder. They are currently underwater.
"When the flows drop to about 100,000 cfs at the bottom off Rock Island, the extensions will be exposed and we're hoping the fish can move up,” Korth said.
"We won't know for sure until we reach those flows in mid- or late-July."
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.
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?
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
FISHING — Reports from the first week of the ocean salmon fishing season off the Washington Coast confirm the predictions that this is a season for the record books.
"At Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco), anglers averaged nearly a marked chinook per rod during the first two days of the season," reports Joe Hymer of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Following is a story published just before the May 31 ocean season opener listing details of the summer seasons and the expectations of fish managers and charterboat operators. And the expectations are being realized!
Time to book a trip:
Here's more information:
By Tom Paulu/Longview Daily News
The good news for Ilwaco’s fishing fleet is that the summer salmon runs for the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River should be immense.
The bad news: This is the first year when it’s been illegal to keep a sturgeon in the lower Columbia River.
In past years, May and June have been the biggest months for sturgeon fishing in the lower river. With only a few catch-and-release sturgeon trips this year, this weekend’s opening of the ocean salmon season is even more important for charter boat operators.
A chinook-only ocean season starts Saturday and runs through June 13. Starting June 14, anglers can keep chinook and coho. The salmon season on the lower Columbia River starts Aug 1.
Washington and Oregon fishery managers have been touting the big runs arriving this summer and fall.
The Columbia River fall chinook forecast is more than 1.6 million, the largest since 1938, the year after Bonneville Dam was finished (runs were higher before then). The 2013 fall chinook return of 1.2 million was nearly double the forecast of 686,900.
In addition to all those chinook, a monster run of coho totaling almost 1 million fish is forecast to return to the Columbia River this fall. In 2013, there were 316,900 Columbia River coho.
“I think fishing should be off the chain,” said Butch Smith, a charter boat owner and president of the Ilwaco Charter Association. He said commercial trawlers have been landing chinook weighing 30 pounds and up.
“I think the predictions are true,” Smith said. “We should have a pretty good king-only season and an excellent summer season that starts the 14th.”
“It should be absolutely fantastic,” said Milt Gudgell, owner of Pacific Salmon Charters in Ilwaco. “The commercial guys have been just pounding them.”
“This certainly could be a banner year for summer salmon fisheries, particularly off the Washington coast in the Columbia River,” Ron Warren, policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a news release.
Of the 1.2 million coho forecast, slightly more than half are Columbia early-stock coho, the main source of the ocean and Buoy-10 fishery. Buoy 10 is the name given to the 16 miles between Buoy No. 10 at the Columbia River mouth and the line between Tongue Point in Oregon and Rocky Point in Washington. At the fishery’s peak, the area often is mobbed with boats.
The late coho stock usually enters in October and November, when sport-fishing interest starts to wane.
Ilwaco is the largest port for charter boat sport fishing at the mouth of the Columbia, with about 25 boats.
Smith said early in the season, most people who book trips live within a one-day drive. Later in July, charter boat operators see more family groups on extended vacations, he said.
Dampening all the enthusiasm for the upcoming salmon runs is the lack of a sturgeon season.
The estimated number of legal sturgeon in the Columbia River went from 100,200 in 2010 to 72,700 in 2012, according to estimates by Washington and Oregon biologists.
In 1987, the lower Columbia River sturgeon harvest was 62,400. Last year, sturgeon fishing on the lower Columbia closed in June and the harvest was only 6,500.
Earlier this year, Smith made a pitch to the Fish and Wildlife Commission for a limited sturgeon fishery in May and June because it would have provided a needed economic boost to the Ilwaco area. He argued that the sturgeon population is rebounding along with the smelt they eat.
The commission didn’t discuss revisiting the issue (which would also require action by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission) but Smith said the issue will be discussed again next year.
Until two or three years ago, when sturgeon seasons were longer, they provided more than half of his income, Smith said. Last year, sturgeon trips still brought in about $80,000, he said — he’s only one of four charter boat companies in Ilwaco.
“This is worse than it was in ‘94 when they closed the (salmon) season,” he said.
Though salmon get most of the glory, Ilwaco charter boat operators also do trips for bottom fish, halibut and tuna.
Pacific Ocean, North of Cape Falcon, Ore., to Leadbetter Point, Wash.
n Recreational season for hatchery fin-clipped chinook from May 31-June 13 (9,000 coastwide quota).
n Recreational season for all salmon from June 14-Sept. 30 with a two-fish limit, of which only one can be a chinook and all coho must be fin-clipped. Quota of 92,400 coho with 13,100 chinook guideline.
In the following fisheries, anglers fishing from the same boat may continue fishing for salmon until all licensed anglers have reached their daily limits:
n The mainstem Columbia River from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to the Lewis River will be open for hatchery coho Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. Anglers will be allowed to retain one adult chinook as part of their two-adult daily limit from Aug. 1 through Sept. 6. From Sept. 7 through Sept. 14, anglers will be allowed to retain hatchery chinook. From Oct. 1 through Dec 31, anglers can retain two chinook daily.
n The Columbia from the Lewis River upstream to Steamboat Landing dock and the point straight across on the Oregon side of the river will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 for hatchery coho and chinook, with a daily limit of two salmon.
n From the Steamboat Landing dock upstream to the Bonneville Dam will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 for hatchery coho and chinook with a daily limit of three salmon, two of which can be hatchery coho.
n From Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 with a daily limit of three salmon, two of which can be hatchery coho. Anglers must release any unmarked coho caught downstream of the Hood River Bridge.
The sockeye and hatchery summer chinook fishery below Bonneville Dam will be open from June 16 through June 30 on the mainstem Columbia River, with a daily limit of two adult salmon or steelhead, or one of each.
The Buoy 10 salmon fishery will be open from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. The fishery will be open for chinook and hatchery coho Aug. 1 through Sept. 1 with a daily limit of two salmon, only one of which can be chinook. From Aug. 30 through Sept 1, all retained chinook must have an adipose or left ventral clip.
From Sept. 2 through Sept. 30, anglers will have a daily limit of three hatchery coho but must release chinook. Fisheries managers will assess in-season catch and may enact in-season changes to the chinook retention in August and September. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, anglers can keep five fish, two of which can be chinook.
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."
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.
- Monitor changes posted on the agency's emergency fishing rules webpage.
Read on for details: