Spring Run Early
by Bill Rudolph
Spring anglers on the lower Columbia caught more than 5,000 spring Chinook by April 13, after their early recreational season had been extended a week by Columbia Basin harvest managers. Their catch is more than twice the number of springers counted so far at Bonneville Dam (1,994 by April 17). Managers estimated that the sport catch was made up of about two-thirds upriver fish. When the harvest from lower river gillnetters was added, the total catch of upriver fish was about 4,300 Chinook.
The lower river is now closed to sport fishing, but is still open above Bonneville Dam, and probably will stay open well into May. A few sea lions have shown up, and one seen in previous years, was trapped and euthanized. The animal suffered from pre-cancerous lesions, according to ODFW, and was too unhealthy to qualify for relocation. The Queens Zoo in New York has offered to take up to two qualified California sea lions.
Managers will not update their preseason forecast of about 141,000 upriver spring Chinook at the dam this year until more fish show. On April 22, they will review the run status on a weekly basis.
In their April 16 report, they said the total upriver catch (kept and release mortalities) in all non-treaty fisheries through April 12 was 4,276 fish, noting that a final upriver run size of 61,000 (43 percent of forecast) was required to remain within catch balance limitations for actual/ongoing fisheries through April 14.
Early returns are much lower than the 10-year average of about 17,000 (by April 17), but higher than the past two years; only 857 Chinook were counted by this time last year, and 1,319 in 2011. The water temperatures at Bonneville are nearly 3 degrees higher than last year at this time, and haven't been this warm this early since 2006.
On April 9, commercial gillnetters were allowed a 9-hour mainstem commercial salmon fishing period (9 Chinook per vessel landing limit). About 1,250 upriver Chinook were expected to be landed, which included 1,140 upriver mortalities (kept plus release mortalities), but only 690 upriver fish were actually caught.
Last week, the Pacific Fishery Management Council picked an ocean fishing option off Washington that would allow sporties to catch about 48,000 Chinook this summer, a few thousand fish below last year's quota. But coho catches are pegged 5,000 fish higher than last year at about 75,000 fish. The summer season will include several openings for hatchery Chinook only in specific areas.
In the Columbia River, the Buoy 10 fishery will be open from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. The fishery will be open for Chinook and hatchery coho Aug. 1 through Sept. 1 and Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. The mainstem Columbia River from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open for Chinook and hatchery coho Aug. 1 through Dec. 31, with varying bag limits in specific areas.
The sockeye and hatchery summer Chinook fishery on the mainstem Columbia River below Bonneville Dam will be open from June 16-June 30, with a daily limit of two adult salmon or steelhead, or one of each.
Managers have implemented a permanent rule requiring anglers to use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River and most of its tributaries.
Puget Sound anglers are expecting about 6 million pinks this summer, with bonus limits in all marine areas. Pinks return to the Sound in odd-numbered years. Most Chinook and coho fisheries are expected to be similar to last year's seasons,
Meanwhile, the forecast for sockeye returning to Baker Lake is strong enough to allow a fishery there beginning July 10. However, the run size is not expected to be high enough to open the Skagit River for sockeye fishing this year. Nor is any recreational fishing expected for the Lake Washington sockeye run, which must top 350,000 before anglers are let loose. The 2013 prediction calls for a return slightly under 100,000 fish. -B. R.
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