Columbia River anglers will get four more days to catch hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon below Bonneville Dam.
Realizing tough fishing conditions have held this year’s catch below expected levels since late last month, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon agreed Thursday to extend the season through April 19.
This extension follows an eight-day extension previously approved that runs through today.
Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said test fisheries have found relatively high concentrations of spring chinook in the lower river. But water conditions have slowed their passage over Bonneville Dam and made them hard to catch with a hook and line.
“Anglers have been catching fish in some areas of the lower river, but turbid, high-water conditions have put a damper on overall catch rates,” LeFleur said in a news release. “Visibility underwater is about two feet, so the fish have a hard time seeing anglers’ lures.”
Through today, lower-river anglers are projected to have caught and kept a total of 5,900 spring chinook, including 4,600 upriver fish that count toward the 7,700-fish harvest guideline.
This year’s harvest guideline for the lower river fisheries is based on a projected return of 198,400 upriver fish, minus a 30 percent “buffer” to guard against overestimating the run. Based on the estimated catch through Tuesday, the fishery will close with a buffer of approximately 43 percent, said Guy Norman, southwest regional director.
“After this extension, we don’t anticipate making any changes in the season until more fish pass over the dam and we can update the run-size forecast,” Norman said in the release. “We want to give lower-river anglers a chance to catch some more fish, but we also have to make sure we can meet our conservation objectives and our obligations to upriver fisheries.”
The fishery affected by the extension ranges from Buoy 10 upriver to Rooster Rock for boat and bank anglers, and to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam for bank anglers only. When the fishery is open, anglers can retain one marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon as part of their daily limit.
Anglers also can keep hatchery-reared steelhead and shad when the spring chinook fishery is open. However, all wild salmon and steelhead must be released unharmed.
The fishing extension does not affect the spring chinook season above Bonneville Dam, which will be reviewed at a joint-state hearing Wednesday. That fishery is open seven days a week through April 24 between the Tower Island powerlines below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank fishing is also allowed from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines located about 6 miles below The Dalles Dam through April 24.
Anglers fishing above Bonneville Dam can retain up to two marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon or hatchery steelhead as part of their daily limit.