Columbia River Spring Chinook
Capt. Jerry Brown
March 22, 2009
Columbia River - Freshwater Fishing Report
The spring chinook fishery has been growing in fits and starts on the lower Columbia River, drawing an increasing number of anglers hoping they picked the right day and area to try their luck. On some days, one in two boats has been catching fish on various parts of the river, then the bite suddenly drops off, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.
"It's time to get serious," Hymer said. "The catch should start smoothing out pretty soon, and increase day by day. Now is when the fishing starts getting good."
An aerial survey conducted March 12 found 340 boats on the lower river - more than double the count two weeks earlier. Most of those boats, along with 258 bank anglers, were concentrated around Vancouver, although the fishery has begun to stretch downriver to Cathlamet, Hymer said.
Through April 18, salmon fishing is open three days a week (Thursday through Saturday) downstream from the west power lines on Hayden Island to Buoy 10. From the power lines upstream to Bonneville Dam, the fishery is open seven days per week through March 22, before switching to a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule through April 22.
Below Bonneville Dam the daily salmonid bag limit is six fin-clipped fish, no more than two adult salmon or steelhead or one of each. No more than one may be an adult chinook. Wild chinook and wild steelhead must be released.
A daily limit of one hatchery adult chinook is also in effect on the Kalama and Lewis rivers, where hatchery returns are expected to be relatively low. One hatchery adult chinook will also be the daily limit on Deep River whenever the section of the Columbia River downstream from Hayden Island is open for salmon fishing.
Since March 16, salmon fishing has also been open seven days a week from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam, where anglers may retain two marked, hatchery-reared adult salmon or steelhead (or one of each) per day. The same daily limit is in effect for the bank-only fishery from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Tower Island power lines and on the Wind River and Drano Lake, which also opened March 16.
Hymer said it will be awhile before the bite picks up above Bonneville Dam, where fish counters had tallied only 26 springers as of March 16.
Hymer recommends that anglers fishing for spring chinook sink a flatfish or cut plug herring fairly deep - 20 to 30 feet - and resist the urge to set the hook too quickly. "The fish are fairly lethargic in the current cold-water conditions," he said. "My advice is fish deep, and give the fish time to grab your lure or bait."
Columbia River Fishing Forecast:
Nearly 300,000 upriver spring chinook are expected to return to the Columbia River this year, which would make the annual run the largest since 2001. An additional 37,000 springers also are expected to return to the Willamette River, up from 27,000 last year.
More Fishing Reports: