the film

Chances are Slim in Fishing Lottery

by Rob Phillips
Yakama Herald, March 30, 2006

Here we go again! Even though the Columbia River above Bonneville Dam has been open for spring chinook salmon fishing since March 16, you probably would have a better chance at sighting an albino unicorn or finding Bigfoot standing around posing for photos than catching a springer in the mid-Columbia right now.

As of Wednesday, all of eight adult chinook salmon had climbed the fish ladders at Bonneville. That is eight, as in one more than seven. And two of those fish, probably out of sheer loneliness, have jetted upstream and are already above The Dalles Dam.

So, if my math is correct, that leaves six spring salmon in approximately 57 miles of river. Of course, if the river is a half-mile wide and averages 30 feet deep, that would be ... let's see, carry the two, and divide by the square root of total miles minus the depth ... that equals, well, a whole lot of water in which to try to find one of the six salmon.

Don't even get me started on what the odds are of persuading one of those six salmon to bite, even if you could figure out where they might be at any given time. Let's just say that you have a whole lot better chance at getting hit by lightning and hitting the state Lotto, all in one day, than catching one of the salmon quad pod.

Just to remind you, biologists have predicted that 88,400 chinook salmon will be migrating their way up over Bonneville in the next couple of months, but it was assumed that more than six would have been upstream by now.

Hopefully (cross the toes on your lucky rabbit's foot) the run is just late. This year's slow start is a scary reminder of the run last year -- that was late for sure, but it also was considerably smaller than what was originally forecast.

SEA LIONS GET AN EARLY START: The lack of salmon hasn't seemed to stop the sea lions from cruising up the Columbia and satisfying their taste for fresh seafood. The sea lions have already been seen at the fish ladders at the dam, but right now, because the salmon run is so slow, they are chomping down more steelhead and sturgeon than salmon. But when the salmon arrive, if they arrive, it is obvious what the sea lions will do.

Which brings a question to every angler's lips.

"When will they open sea lion season?"

The answer is, probably never. Sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and it literally would take an act of Congress to make it legal to lethally remove the salmon-slurping sea lions.

It is estimated that last year up to 1,000 sea lions entered the Columbia, taking their fair share of spring salmon along the way. An adult sea lion will eat up to seven salmon a day, so once again, if you do the math, it adds up to some very unhappy salmon anglers and some even less happy salmon.

In the meantime, officials are asking anglers to be patient while they try to figure out what to do about the sea lions. Right now the plan is to "haze" the mammals by throwing flares and percussive devices at them, or by shooting them with rubber bullets to see if that will get them to move elsewhere.

All I can say is, if you've ever had a sea lion come up and take a salmon right off of your hook, which is happening more and more frequently in the lower Columbia, you'd understand why angler patience is running pretty thin right now.

COLUMBIA SNAGGER SENTENCED: I received an e-mail from Yakima fishing fanatic Henry McClamrock the other day containing a press release about a Prineville, Ore., man who got caught snagging salmon on the Columbia at the mouth of the Deschutes River last fall. It took a while to move through the court systems, but in January a Wasco County circuit court judge found the guy guilty and in early March sentenced him to pay a $1,000 fine and serve 15 days in jail. In addition, the man got a two-year suspension of his angling privileges, 12 months probation, and forfeited fishing rod and gear among other penalties.

The Oregon State Patrol caught the poacher after a tip was phoned in from an un-named Yakima fishing fanatic who was tired of seeing fish being snagged by anglers who supposedly are jigging.

It is good to know there is some justice, and some anglers willing to do something about it, especially after watching too many others get away with the illegal fishing activities at the mouth of the Deschutes, the mouth of the Klickitat and at other popular fishing holes. Thanks, Henry.

FISHING LICENSE REMINDER: Your 2005-2006 hunting and fishing license is good only through the end of March, which, if you haven't checked the calendar lately, is tomorrow. If you are going to be fishing this weekend or in the near future, or if you are going to be hunting turkeys this spring, you will need a new license. Licenses can be purchased at local retail outlets or on the web at

Rob Phillips is a freelance outdoor writer and partner in the advertising firm of Smith, Phillips & DiPietro.
Chances are Slim in Fishing Lottery
Yakama Herald, March 30, 2006

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