OLYMPIA – The sport fishery for spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River has been extended through April 13 to allow anglers to catch thousands more hatchery-reared fish available for harvest.
Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon today approved a six-day extension, based on catch reports that show current harvest levels are well below expectations. The fishery was initially scheduled to close at the end of the day Friday, April 6.
During the extended fishing period, the sport fishery will be closed Tuesday, April 10 to accommodate a one-day opening for commercial fishing during the extension period.
Fishery managers will meet again April 12 to determine whether to allow additional fishing time.
With the lower Columbia running high, cold and muddy in recent weeks, the state’s earliest salmon run has been slow to enter the river, said Cindy Le Fleur, Columbia River policy manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
“Like last year, poor river conditions have delayed the run and put a damper on catch rates,” Le Fleur said. “The extension will give anglers a few more days to catch some fish, before the first phase of the fishery comes to a close.”
The extension approved today does not affect spring chinook fisheries under way above Bonneville Dam.
Anglers fishing downriver from the dam may retain one marked, adult hatchery chinook per day. All wild chinook salmon must be released immediately.
Through April 6, the catch of hatchery spring chinook by anglers fishing below the dam is projected to reach 1,796 fish – well below the 14,500 spring chinook available for harvest before the run forecast is updated in May. Only about 1,163 of the catch through April 6 are expected to count toward the 12,700-fish harvest guideline for upriver fish.
Despite those catch deficits, Le Fleur said it is too soon to reassess this year’s pre-season forecast, which anticipated a return of 314,200 upriver spring chinook – potentially the fourth-largest run on record.
“We’ve been here before,” Le Fleur said. “If history is any guide, the fishery will pick up very quickly once river conditions improve.”
Along with the six additional fishing days in April, lower-river anglers could get another chance to catch spring chinook in May, once fishery managers update the run forecast.
To guard against overestimating this year’s run, Le Fleur said the states are managing spring chinook fisheries with a 30 percent buffer until the May update.
News of any additional fishing days will be announced on WDFW’s website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/), the Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500), the Region 5 hotline (360-696-6211*1010) and through local news media.