It is good news for anglers, just not for the right reasons.
Washington and Oregon fishery managers have extended the sport fishery for spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River through April 22 to allow anglers to catch more hatchery-reared fish available for harvest.
The eight-day extension was OK’d based on catch reports that show current harvest levels remain well below expectations. The fishery was initially scheduled to close at the end of the day Friday.
During the extended period, the sport fishery will be closed Tuesday, April 17, to accommodate a possible commercial fishery.
Cindy Le Fleur, Columbia River policy manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said poor river conditions continue to delay the run, resulting in low catch rates for anglers.
“We have scheduled another meeting April 19 to further discuss the season,” Le Fleur said. “But we really need to start seeing higher numbers of fish make their way upriver before we can consider any additional fishing opportunities in late April.”
The extension 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.
Through Friday, the catch of hatchery spring chinook by anglers fishing below the dam was projected to reach 2,837 fish — well below the 14,500 spring chinook available for harvest before the run forecast is updated in May. Only about 1,908 of the catch through Friday are expected to count toward the 12,700-fish harvest guideline for upriver fish.
The pre-season forecast anticipated a return of 314,200 upriver spring chinook — potentially the fourth-largest run on record.
Along with the eight 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.