Category: Columbia River Fishing Reports

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Columbia River spring Chinook season is right around the corner

Salmon: The spring Chinook season doesn’t officially get underway on the lower Columbia River until March, but anglers can fish for ocean-fresh early arrivals under current rules throughout the month of February. Hatchery steelhead are also available in several rivers below Bonneville Dam.

The daily limit for salmon on the mainstem Columbia River is two adult hatchery Chinook, two hatchery steelhead, or one of each per day downstream from the Interstate 5 Bridge. The same is true in the lower Cowlitz, Kalama and Deep rivers, although the daily limit on the Lewis River remains at one adult hatchery chinook per day.

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are scheduled to announce this year’s spring Chinook season later this month. This year’s spring Chinook fisheries are likely to have constraints similar to those in 2019.

The 2020 pre-season forecast for Columbia River spring Chinook is estimated to be 81,700 upriver adults (135,800 upriver and lower river combined), the lowest prediction since 1999. Forecasts for tributaries below Bonneville Dam – and in the Bonneville pool – show similar trends.

Steelhead: February can be a relatively slow month for winter steelheading on lower Columbia tributaries as it marks the transition between early- and late-timed hatchery stocks. Most area rivers with hatchery steelhead seasons that are open this month have three-fish daily limits, although there are some exceptions.

Anglers who already have some experience winter steelheading in this area may have noticed somewhat later return timing than what they’re used to in some spots, due to a recent transition in some hatchery programs that utilize local steelhead stocks.  The table below shows southwest Washington rivers that are stocked with winter steelhead and the number of smolts released in 2018.  Most of the fish that will return from these releases will arrive in the winter of 2019-20. The table also provides the range of months when fish will be returning, with peak returns generally occurring in the middle of this range.

Tributary 2018 Smolt Releases Return Strategy Expected Fishery Timing
Elochoman River 114,100 Early Nov. – Feb.
Cowlitz River 626,000 Late Feb. – Apr.
Coweeman River 12,200 Early Dec. – Feb.
Kalama River 119,500 Late Feb. – Apr.
Lewis River 104,700 Early Nov. – Feb
Salmon Creek (Clark Co.) 37,600 Late Feb. – Apr.
Washougal River 87,800 Early Dec. – Feb.
Rock Creek (Skamania Co.) 20,000 Early Dec. – Feb.

Anglers are reminded to check the Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet for specific rules since barbless hooks and selective gear are also required in some locations.

Sturgeon: Retention fishing for white sturgeon remains open seven days a week in three pools of the Columbia River above Bonneville Dam and adjacent tributaries. The daily limit is one white sturgeon per day until further notice and an annual limit of two legal-size fish.

  • Bonneville Pool: Anglers may retain white sturgeon measuring 38-54 inches (fork length) between Bonneville Dam and The Dalles Dam until the catch reaches the 500-fish guideline.
  • The Dalles Pool: Anglers may retain white sturgeon measuring 43-54 inches (fork length) between The Dalles Dam and John Day Dam until the catch reaches the 135-fish guideline.
  • John Day Pool: Anglers may retain white sturgeon measuring 43-54 inches (fork length) between John Day Dam and McNary Dam until the catch reaches the 105-fish guideline.

Anglers should be sure to check for emergency rules affecting these fisheries. Sturgeon retention remains closed below Bonneville Dam, but catch-and-release fishing is open there and in areas above the dam that are open to retention fishing.

Trout: February is going to be a great month to catch trout. With more sunny days in the forecast, hatchery workers have been stocking area lakes with thousands of rainbows from Battle Ground Lake to Fort Borst Park. Check the Catchable Trout Report for weekly updates.

Anglers are harvesting kokanee in both Merwin and Yale reservoirs.

Interested in fishing for trout, but aren’t sure how to get started? How about carp and warmwater fish? Send an email to Stacie Kelsey at the WDFW regional office, and she’ll send you an informational fishing packet for youth or adults. Packets include information on fishing in southwest Washington; gear tips; cookbooks and more.

 

 


 

John Day Pool closes for sturgeon retention


 

WDFW FISHING RULE CHANGE

 

Action: Anglers must release all sturgeon.

Effective dates: 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Species affected: White sturgeon

Locations: The Columbia River from John Day Dam to McNary Dam.

Reason for action: Fishing effort picked up over this past weekend resulting in catches much higher than expected. Harvest estimates indicate the quota of 105 white sturgeon has been reached. This measure is necessary to prevent further over-harvest of the population.

Additional information: Catch-and-release fishing for sturgeon will continue to be allowed.

Please see the 2018-2019 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for additional angling rules specific to the Columbia River.

Information contact: Region 5 office; 360-696-6211

 

 


 

Latest Projections of low spring chinook returns constrain Columbia River fishing seasons


 

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon today approved a sports fishery, for spring chinook salmon on the Columbia River that reflects a significant reduction in the number of fish available for harvest this year.

According to preseason projections, about 99,300 upriver spring chinook will reach the Columbia this year, down 14 percent from last year and 50 percent below the 10-year average. Those fish return to hatcheries and spawning areas upriver from Bonneville Dam.

In addition, fishery managers are also expecting much lower returns than last year to several major lower Columbia River tributaries, particularly the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers. On the Cowlitz, this year’s spring chinook run is projected to reach just 11 percent of the 10-year average and fall short of meeting hatchery production goals.

Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said those projections are largely the result of poor ocean conditions, which have complicated fisheries management in recent years.

“Anglers will still find some good fishing opportunities in the Columbia River Basin this spring, but conservation has to be our first concern,” Lothrop said. “We have a responsibility to protect salmon runs listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and get enough fish back to the spawning grounds and hatcheries to support future runs.”

Although salmon fishing is currently open from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Interstate-5 bridge, spring chinook usually don’t arrive in large numbers until mid-to-late March. The new fishing regulations approved today will take effect in the following areas:

  • Columbia River below Bonneville Dam: Salmon fishing will open March 1 through April 10 on the Columbia River upstream from Warrior Rock boundary line to Bonneville Dam. Anglers may retain two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each per day, but only one salmon may be a chinook. The lower river downstream from Warrior Rock will be closed to fishing from March 1 through April 10 to conserve spring chinook returning to the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers.
  • Tributaries: The Cowlitz and Lewis rivers will also close to salmon fishing March 1 to conserve spring chinook for hatchery escapement needs, but will remain open for hatchery steelhead retention. The Kalama River will remain open to fishing for salmon and steelhead, but the daily limit of adult salmon will be reduced to one fish on March 1.
  • Columbia River above Bonneville Dam: Waters above Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington state line above McNary Dam will open to salmon fishing April 1 through May 5. Anglers may retain two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each per day, but only one salmon may be a chinook.

In all open waters, only hatchery salmon and steelhead identified by a clipped adipose fin and healed scar may be retained.

Along with new area restrictions in the lower Columbia, fishery managers also reduced initial harvest limits for upriver spring chinook returning to the upper Columbia and Snake rivers. If those fish return as projected, anglers in the Columbia and Snake rivers will be limited to a total of 4,548 fish, compared to 9,052 last year, prior to a run size updated in May.

Lothrop noted that this year’s projected return of 99,300 upriver spring chinook is the lowest since 2007, but still well above the record-low return of just 12,800 fish in 1995.

“Experience has shown that warm-water ocean conditions present a challenge to salmon survival,” he said. “As in the 1990s, we have observed that cyclical warming effect during the past few years with similar results. During these times, we have to be especially cautious in how we manage the fishery.”

Anglers are strongly advised to review the rules for the waters they plan to fish, available on the department’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/

WDFW is the primary state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish and wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities.

 


 

Sockeye Salmon season to open on the Columbia River


Starting anglers can catch and keep sockeye salmon on the Columbia River, but will be required to release any chinook salmon they intercept downriver from Bonneville Dam.

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon today agreed to modify fishing rules in joint waters of the Columbia, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) followed up by extending the sockeye fishery upstream to Chief Joseph Dam.

Before the season got underway, both states agreed to forgo scheduling any sockeye fisheries on the Columbia River due to low projected returns, especially those to the Wenatchee River.

However, an updated run forecast now projects that 209,000 sockeye will return this year – up from the 99,000 previously estimated – providing a sufficient number of fish for recreational fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia, said Bill Tweit, a WDFW special assistant.

“It’s always exciting to see salmon come in above the pre-season forecast,” Tweit said. “Sockeye can be elusive in the lower river, but anglers generally do well fishing for them from the Tri-Cities to Brewster.”

Snake River fisheries remain closed to protect Snake River sockeye listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

While the preseason forecast for summer chinook has not yet been updated, Tweit said current data indicate that chinook returns are tracking about 20 percent below the initial projection of 67,300 adult fish. That prompted fishery managers to close the lower Columbia River summer chinook season four days earlier than previously scheduled.

“Based on the low catches to date above Bonneville, we decided to close the chinook fishery in the lower river but leave it open upriver from the dam,” Tweit said.

Starting July 1st, anglers fishing from the Megler-Astoria Bridge to Bonneville Dam on the lower Columbia River can still catch a total of six salmon/steelhead a day. The daily limit for adult fish in those waters is two adult sockeye salmon or hatchery adult steelhead, or one of each. Anglers can round out their daily six-fish limit with hatchery jack chinook salmon.

For more information and details on daily limits in each section of the river, see the Fishing Rule Change at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/


 

States set initial fishing seasons for Columbia River spring chinook


 

PORTLAND – Salmon managers from Washington and Oregon have approved sportfishing seasons for spring chinook salmon on the Columbia River, setting the stage for the first major salmon fishery of the year.

Anglers are already catching a few spring chinook in the lower Columbia below the Interstate 5 bridge, but the bulk of the run usually doesn’t arrive until March when the new rules take effect.

According to the preseason forecast, approximately 248,500 spring chinook salmon will return to the Columbia River this year – an increase of 20 percent from 2017. That number includes 166,700 upriver fish bound for waters above Bonneville Dam and 81,820 fish expected to return to rivers below the dam.

Bill Tweit, a special assistant for Columbia River fisheries at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), noted that the upriver forecast is up 44 percent from last year, but still 10 percent below the 10-year average.

“This year’s fishery appears to be shaping up as a fairly normal season,” Tweit said. “Even so, we always have to take a conservative approach in setting fishing seasons until we can determine how many fish are actually moving past Bonneville Dam.”

Based on the preseason projections, the two states approved initial fishing seasons for waters both below and above the dam:

Below Bonneville Dam: Catch guidelines approved today allocate 6,680 upriver fish for a 38-day fishing season below Bonneville Dam from March 1 through April 7. The fishery will be open to both boat and bank anglers from Buoy 10 to Beacon Rock, and to bank anglers only upriver to the dam.

Above the dam: Spring chinook fishing will also be open March 16 through May 7 from the Tower Island power lines upriver to the Washington/Oregon border near Umatilla. The season will run for 53 days with an initial catch guideline of 900 upriver chinook. Bank fishing will also be allowed from the dam upriver to the power lines.
In both areas, the daily catch limit will be one adult hatchery chinook salmon, as part of a two-fish daily limit that can also include hatchery coho salmon and hatchery steelhead. Anglers fishing the Columbia River will be required to use barbless hooks, and must release any salmon or steelhead not visibly marked as hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin.

Tweit said this year’s initial catch guidelines include a 30 percent “buffer” in the preseason forecast to guard against overharvesting the run. If actual returns meet or exceed expectations, fish held in reserve will become available for harvest later in the season, he said.

Fishery managers will likely meet in May – when half the run has historically passed Bonneville Dam – to determine if this year’s fishing season can be extended.

To participate in this fishery, anglers age 15 and older must possess a valid fishing license. In addition, anglers fishing upriver from Rocky Point must purchase a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement. Revenue from the endorsement supports salmon or steelhead seasons on many rivers in the Columbia River system, including enforcing fishery regulations and monitoring the upper Columbia River spring chinook fisheries.

Additional information about fishing rules in effect during the upcoming spring chinook season is posted on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/