Salmon count window

Returning salmon — in this photo a mix of Chinook and sockeye — are tallied at the Bonneville Dam fish-counting window near North Bonneville.

Washington and Oregon have opened a portion of the Lower Columbia River to spring Chinook fishing four times since March 1.

However, passage of the prized Chinook at Bonneville Dam was just 23.2 percent of the 10-year average on May 5. This was an improvement, as it was only 12 percent as of May 1.

According to a two-state Columbia River Compact Spring Fishery Update released May 1, the combined season kept catch through April 28 was estimated at 1,676 adult spring Chinook from 31,707 angler trips.

Still, passage of the Chinook at the dam is showing some improvement:

As of April 23, passage was just 1,250 fish, the second lowest in the last 10 years and only 6 percent of the 10-year average (2009-2018) of 22,499 for that date. On average, 9.7 percent of the run passed Bonneville Dam by April 23.

The May 5 update said that passage was 18,007 fish, compared to the 10-year average of 77,655. The jack count stood at 304 on May 1, less than a tenth of the 10-year average of 3,113. The return of jacks — immature salmon that return before their time — is traditionally viewed as a leading indicator of the strength of the following year’s run of adults.

With poor water visibility and few fish in the river, catch has remained low throughout the four recreational season openers, March 1 to April 10, April 13 to 14, April 20 to 21 and April 27 to 28.

The Compact will meet again May 8 to consider another spring Chinook opener for recreational anglers. The U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee by that time may have completed its first run size update. TAC estimates that half (50 percent) of the fish typically have passed the dam by May 9.

Upriver mortalities through April 28 are estimated to be 1,471 adult Chinook, or 40 percent of the 3,689 available to this fishery prior to a run update.

“High flow and/or turbidity negatively affected catch rates for all of the recent weekend openings,” the update said.

In addition, during its winter season, the commercial select area fishery in the lower river landed 695 spring Chinook (74 percent of the recent 5-year average) and 18 white sturgeon.

The commercial gillnetter catch in select areas so far during the spring season (through April 30) was 278 Chinook, well below the average at that point in the season, and 29 sturgeon, according to the May 1 update.

With the low Chinook preseason forecast of 99,300 fish, the variability of test fishing results and the need to assure Lewis and Cowlitz hatcheries get the broodstocks needed, the Compact this season reduced the open area for the recreational fishery. When open, anglers have been allowed to fish the Columbia River mainstem from the Warrior Rock deadline near St. Helens, Oregon, upstream to Beacon Rock, for both boat and bank angling, plus bank angling only from Beacon Rock upstream to the Bonneville Dam deadline. In previous years, fishing had been allowed from Astoria to Bonneville.

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