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Ecology and salmon related articles

Columbia and Cowlitz:
Fishing Prospects on the Rise

by Jordan Nailon
Nisqually Valley News, July 17, 2014

Chinook salmon is a favorite catch for Idaho anglers. (Pete Zimowsky photo) Piscatorial prospects are up in our area as Chinook and steelhead continue to ply the steady rivers of our land.

On the Columbia River the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has extended Chinook, sockeye and sturgeon fishing through the end of July. Meanwhile, the WDFW is working in conjunction with Tacoma Power to recycle steelhead from the power station back downstream for another run through the gauntlet.

Under the new lower Columbia River rules, anglers will be permitted to harvest Chinook from the Bonneville Dam down river to the estuary through July 31. Sturgeon retention in the Bonneville Pool will be open July 18-19, while sturgeon harvest in The Dalles Pool will be open through the end of the month. Upstream, sturgeon harvest is allowed above McNary Dam to the Oregon/Washington border through July 31 as well. However, white sturgeon harvest is currently closed from Buoy 10 to Bonneville Dam and then again from John Day dam up to McNary Dam. Catch and release is allowed in these areas.

As a result of this second Chinook season extension, anglers are allowed to keep two salmonid fish per day, comprised of hatchery steelhead, hatchery chinook and sockeye. The most current WDFW projection numbers estimate a Columbia River return of 74,000 summer Chinook and 560,000 sockeye.

"Salmon are returning at or above projections, which gives us room to reopen those fisheries," said Ron Roler, Columbia River Policy Coordinator for the WDFW. "We also have 468 white sturgeon in the Bonneville Pool still available for harvest."

While the river is open to Chinook harvest, the results have not quite kept pace. Last week anglers in the gorge landed an average of 0.41 summer Chinook per boat and a paltry 0.08 Chinook per rod from the bank. Downriver in the estuary boating anglers fared no better, hauling in only 0.18 Chinook per boat.

Summer steelhead in the big river were a more reliable option as gorge boat anglers averaged 0.95 steelies per boat and 0.21 steelhead from the bank.

The estuary was even better with boating anglers catching 2.6 steelies per boat.

For those anglers interested in making a summer trek to the eastside of the state there is good news from the Columbia River near Pasco. The WDFW has increased the daily harvest limit to eight salmon, including up to six adult sockeye from the mainstem of the Columbia upriver from Priest Rapids Dam.

On the Cowlitz River last week, the WDFW tallied 78 boat anglers that caught a total of 53 summer run steelhead. One of those steelies was released for future fun. Bank anglers held their own as well, with 35 landlubbers hauling in 12 adult spring chinook and one summer run steelhead, which was released.

According to the WDFW, the bulk of the salmon were caught in the Barrier Dam pool, while the majority of the steelhead were reeled in around the trout hatchery.

Tacoma Power reportedly recovered 906 adult spring Chinook, 108 jacks, 186 mini-jacks, 858 summer steelhead and two sockeye salmon. Two-hundred and one of those steelhead were recycled back into the Cowlitz. The river flow on Monday, July 14 was 4,280 cubic feet per second with 12 feet of water visibility.

For those interested in smaller fish to fry, bass are currently taking the bait. According to WDFW, boat anglers in the Bonneville Pool averaged 1.5 keeper bass per rod while their counterparts in The Dalles Pool landed 2.5 bass per rod.

No new stocking efforts have been undertaken by the WDFW in recent weeks, but plants from earlier in the season are sure to be reaching good eating size. Early morning and twilight evenings along a shaded bank are the best time to test the waters for trout.

Jordan Nailon
Columbia and Cowlitz: Fishing Prospects on the Rise
Nisqually Valley News, July 17, 2014

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