Anglers are already gearing up for the next big thing to hit the Columbia River system as another strong run of spring chinook salmon is forecast this season.
Washington and Oregon fish managers have tentatively set an initial season to run on the Lower Columbia through April 10.
The fish quota guidelines are based on a projected run of 312,600 adult spring chinook to the Columbia, just below last year’s banner return, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The 2010-2014 annual average return is 321,537.
The peak during those years was 471,361 in 2010. The record high spring chinook return, dating back to at least 1938, was 541,002.
This year’s run forecast calls for 232,500 upriver spring chinook bound for hatcheries and spawning areas above Bonneville Dam in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, in both the Columbia and Snake river system.
The forecast predicts 27,500 upper Columbia spring chinook (4,500 wild) and 140,800 Snake River fish (45,300 wild), with the remainder of the run (64,200) comprised of spring chinook returning to mid-Columbia tributaries.
If accurate, this forecast of 232,500 upriver spring chinook would be the sixth highest return since 1980 and 131 percent of the average return observed over the past decade (2004–2013).
“The stage is set for another great fishery this year,” Roler said. “Not only is the run forecast well above average, but water conditions also appear to be favorable for the upcoming season.”
Anglers fishing upstream of Bonneville Dam to the Tri-Cities area will be limited to one marked, hatchery-reared adult spring chinook per day March 16-May 6.
Seasons farther up the system will be set later.
Idaho spring chinook seasons will be set by the state Fish and Game Commission later this month.
State and tribal fish managers plan to reduce the quota this year to increase the number of adult spawners to hatcheries along the Snake and Clearwater rivers. The plan calls for increasing hatchery production to dramatically increase the releases of juvenile salmon next year.
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