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Salmon Runs Look Good at Area Spots

by Rob Phillips
Yakima Herald, February 2, 2006

It is no secret that the Columbia River spring chinook salmon runs have been far below forecast the past couple of years. But for anglers who may be a little depressed after hearing that the Columbia River salmon run forecast for this year is only 88,400 spring chinook, there may be a bright spot on the horizon.

It seems that of those 88,400 chinook bound for waters above Bonneville Dam, a decent portion of them will be headed to two rivers that are frequented by local salmon anglers. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is saying that they are expecting 12,500 adult spring chinook salmon to return to Drano Lake at the mouth of the Little White Salmon River, and 7,400 springers are forecast to return to the Wind River this year.

Last year, only about 500 spring salmon were caught by anglers at Drano, one of the most popular spring salmon fishing spots for Central Washington anglers. If this year's predicted run of 12,500 fish materializes, it would be three times larger than last year's run and one of the best runs in recent years.

The run of 7,400 chinook on the Wind River, another popular spring salmon fishing hole, would be about double what returned to the river in 2005. Last year, salmon anglers caught about 1,500 springers at the Wind.

And, for the first time, it's looking like anglers fishing those rivers will only be able to keep chinook that are adipose fin-clipped, signifying that they are of hatchery origin. This should be no problem for most anglers, since they have been allowed to catch only marked hatchery salmon in other locales, and have been dealing with the same regulations for steelhead for years.

The regulations for keeping only fin-clipped salmon are not set yet, but that is looking like the way WDFW department officials are leaning right now. The fish biologists figure over 95 percent of the fish that returned to those two rivers last year were fin-clipped.

At the Klickitat River, another popular river with local anglers, the prediction for the run of spring chinook salmon is not quite as rosy. Biologists are forecasting a spring salmon run of 1,300 on the Klick. Last year, only around 200 fish were caught by sports anglers on the Klickitat from a run of around 1,200 fish.

Fishing seasons and regulations have not yet been set for the Wind, Little White Salmon and Klickitat Rivers, but they should be set and announced sometime in the near future. For the last few years the spring salmon fishing season on the Wind and at Drano opened on March 16.

If you can't wait until March or April to do some salmon fishing, the lower Columbia River is open now. Anglers may fish for hatchery-reared Columbia River spring chinook salmon downstream of the Interstate 5 bridge at least through April 19. The season was announced last week under an agreement reached by Washington and Oregon fishery managers.

As many anglers know, the bulk of the spring salmon run doesn't really start moving up the Columbia until late March or early April, so the season doesn't offer much fishing time during the peak of the run. But officials are predicting that the lower Columbia season will be extended based on how the run is progressing and how many fish are caught in the lower river by commercial and sports anglers.

In addition, officials also announced last week that the Columbia River from the Tower Island power lines upstream to McNary Dam, plus the Oregon bank between Bonneville Dam and the Tower Island power lines, will be open March 16 to April 30. Washington anglers may retain two hatchery adult salmon and two hatchery adult steelhead per day during this season on the Columbia.

For the past few years, anglers fishing the mouth of the Wind River have hoped that the Washington side of the Columbia above Bonneville would open as well, to help alleviate the sometimes crowded fishing problems there. But, because of what will most likely be different fishing seasons, it's looking like anglers will be confined to the sport fishing boundaries at the mouth of the Wind again this year.

The good news is that at least it is looking good for a season on these rivers, and if the runs come as predicted into those rivers, we might have some decent fishing. But, as the past couple years have indicated, we'll just have to wait and see. As always, keep an eye on the fish counts at Bonneville, and cross your fingers.

Rob Phillips
Salmon Runs Look Good at Area Spots
Yakima Herald, February 2, 2006

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