VANCOUVER Anticipating another strong return of spring Chinook salmon, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon on Wednesday set the initial 2015 fishing season to run through April 10 on the lower Columbia River.
Under guidelines approved for this year’s season, anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam will be allowed to catch an estimated 11,500 spring Chinook before an updated run forecast is available in early May.
Another 1,200 adult upriver Chinook are reserved for anglers fishing upriver from Bonneville Dam to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles above McNary Dam. Additional fish have also been reserved for the Snake River sport fishery.
Those catch guidelines are based on a projected run of 312,600 adult spring Chinook to the Columbia River, just shy of last year’s banner return, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“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.”
From March 1 through April 10, anglers fishing downriver from Bonneville Dam may retain one marked, hatchery-reared adult spring Chinook as part of their daily catch limit. The sport fishery will close in that area on three Tuesdays – March 24, March 31, and April 7 – to accommodate potential commercial fisheries.
Spring Chinook fishing is currently open on a daily basis from Buoy 10 near the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to the Interstate 5 Bridge.
Under the new rules, the fishery for boat and bank anglers will expand upriver to Beacon Rock on March 1, with bank fishing also allowed from Beacon Rock upriver to the fishing boundary just below Bonneville Dam.
Upstream of Bonneville Dam, the fishery will be open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis from March 16 through May 6 between the Tower Island powerlines (six miles below The Dalles Dam) and the Washington/Oregon state line. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the Tower Island powerlines during that time.
Anglers fishing upstream of Bonneville Dam will also be limited to one marked, hatchery-reared adult spring Chinook per day from March 16 through May 6. The fishing area above Bonneville Dam extends upriver to the Washington/Oregon state line.
Barbless hooks are required in both areas, and anglers must release any salmon or steelhead not visibly marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin.
Roler noted that this year’s projected run includes 232,500 upriver spring Chinook salmon bound for rivers and streams above Bonneville Dam – well above the 10-year average of 178,000 upriver fish.
Similar to past years, Washington and Oregon will manage the fishery with a 30 percent buffer on the upriver Chinook forecast until more is known about the actual magnitude of the return and an in-season run update is available, he said.
“We’ll continue to take a conservative approach in managing the fishery,” Roler said. “If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look toward providing additional days of fishing on the river later in the spring.”
In addition to setting fishing seasons for spring Chinook salmon, representatives for Washington and Oregon also approved fishing rules for this year’s eulachon smelt fishery. Regulations for both fisheries will be posted on the state DFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/rulechanges/ by January 29.