Due to ideal fishing conditions and higher than expected catch rates, Oregon and Washington fishery managers decided Wednesday to close all sport fishing for spring chinook in the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam effective 12:01 a.m. Monday, April 21. The season was initially scheduled to end April 30.
“Chinook anglers have been doing extremely well on the Columbia River,” said Chris Kern, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife assistant Columbia River fisheries manager. “The catch rate for April has been the highest we’ve seen in many years, and the catch rate in the immediate vicinity of Portland and Vancouver has been the highest we’ve ever seen in the spring.”
That high angling success resulted in great fishing, but also used up the limited available catch, prompting managers to close the season ten days earlier than planned in order to remain within Endangered Species Act limits on the federally-listed chinook run.
Based on ESA-impact limits and preseason estimates, managers had expected a kept catch of 18,000 to 20,000 chinook salmon. Biologists now project that anglers will have landed 22,000 fish by April 20, while remaining within the ESA guidelines, Kern said. Due to high effort and catch rates, and the increasing abundance of fish, the projected remaining impact quota is too small to allow additional fishing days after the 20th.
“This has been a season of high catch rates with lots of anglers getting their limits,“ said Steve Williams, ODFW assistant administrator for Columbia River fisheries, “We’re disappointed it couldn’t have gone on longer but we need to take this step in order to remain within ESA guidelines.”
The decision closes all angling for salmon, steelhead, and shad from Hayden Island to Bonneville Dam. Fishing from Buoy 10 to Hayden Island closed on April 5. Fishing above Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam is scheduled to remain open through May 10. Tributaries below Bonneville Dam remain open under permanent regulations.
This year’s upriver chinook run appears to be returning late, Kern said. To date only 7,800 chinook have gone over Bonneville dam. If the run estimate is revised to reflect a larger return the fishery may be reopened.