BONNEVILLE - This year's cock-eyed fishing season still has harvest managers stymied. Nevertheless, they have allowed one more day of winter fishing for Lower Columbia River gillnetters after test fishing showed the ratio between upriver Chinook and Willamette fish had nearly evened out.
Managers had cut off the fishing early last month after only two days, when it became evident that over 80 percent of the catch was bound upriver past Bonneville Dam. That's a definite no-no, since the fishery was created to harvest surplus hatchery fish bound for the Willamette River. In a normal year, about 80 percent of the early fish are headed there.
Fish counts at Bonneville Dam are more than 10 times above the 10-year average, made up mainly of lunker hatchery fish bound for the Snake River that have spent the past three years in the ocean. Over 6,000 Chinook were counted by March 18, while the 10-year average is 460 fish.
It could be a signal of an early run, said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Joe Hymer. But he admitted it was a puzzling situation because the main Willamette Chinook run still had not appeared. Fish managers expect about 145,000 upriver Columbia spring Chinook this year, along with nearly 110,000 Willamette springers.