LEWISTON – Washington opened a limited spring chinook season on the Snake River on Tuesday and welcomed the return of fishing following a nearly six-week hiatus.
By emergency rule, the Snake River opened to spring chinook fishing near Little Goose Dam and opened at Clarkston the next day, on Wednesday. Salmon fishing will be allowed Tuesdays and Fridays at Little Goose and Wednesdays and Saturdays near Clarkston until further notice.
The state has a harvest quota of about 400 adult chinook and anglers will be able to keep up to four chinook per day with a maximum of one adult fish.
Washington Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind closed the state to hunting and fishing on March 26 as part of the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. A few days prior, state parks and wildlife areas were closed.
The state has lifted most of the closures and is also allowing people to play golf. But social distancing and limited travel remain stated goals and helped shape the unusual structure of the spring chinook season.
Fishing is generally allowed consecutive days even in years with low fish numbers. For example, last year spring chinook fishing on the Snake River was open Saturdays and Sundays. This year the open days at each location on the Snake are spaced out.
“It’s an unusual day structure to discourage people from camping,” said Chris Donley, fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Spokane. “The governor’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ order says day trips only and we are trying to support that.”
The reopening of fishing came in time for anglers to perhaps catch the spring chinook run as it builds toward a meager peak. The daily tally of chinook passing Little Goose Dam hit triple digits for the first time last Sunday.
Fisheries managers are expecting another poor spring chinook run – the fourth in four years. The official forecast calls for about 56,400 spring and summer chinook bound for the Snake River to return at least as far as the mouth of the Columbia River. That is just 53 percent of the 10-year average.
Fisheries managers in Washington and Oregon opened a four-day chinook season on the Columbia River. The river opened Tuesday and Saturday and will reopen May 13.
Washington suspended the sale of nonresident hunting and fishing licenses last week.
“It’s just stay home, stay local and fish in your own community,” Donley said.
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