Using a forecast for a strong return of spring chinook salmon, the initial recreational fishing season on the lower Columbia River will run March 1-April 7.
Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon met Wednesday to set the start of the 2014 fishing season on the lower river.
Starting March 1, anglers fishing downriver from Bonneville Dam may keep one hatchery adult spring chinook per day. The sport fishery will close in that area on two Tuesdays — March 25 and April 1 — to allow for possible commercial fisheries.
Anglers fishing above the dam will also have a one-fish daily catch limit for hatchery spring chinook during a season scheduled March 16-May 9. The fishing area above the dam runs to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles above McNary Dam.
Barbless hooks are required in both areas, and anglers must release any salmon or steelhead not visibly marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin, said an agency news releae.
The spring chinook fishery looks promising, and the initial seasons could be extended if enough fish are available for harvest, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“The stage is set for a great fishery this year,” Roler said in the release. “Not only is the run forecast well above average, but the light snowpack makes it unlikely that anglers will have to contend with high, turbid water as they have in some years.”
Pre-season projections say 308,000 adult spring chinook will return to the Columbia River basin this year, including 227,000 upriver fish bound for rivers and streams above Bonneville Dam. That compares with a return of just 123,100 upriver fish in 2013, Roler said.
This year’s initial catch guideline will allow anglers fishing below the dam to catch up to 12,400 spring chinook before an updated run forecast is released in late April or early May. Another 1,325 adult upriver chinook will be reserved for anglers fishing between Bonneville Dam and the state line.
To guard against overestimating this year’s run, the states will again manage the fisheries with a 30 percent buffer until the forecast is updated with information about actual returns.
The new regulations are posted online at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/rulechanges.