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Washington State News

WDFW Reopens Columbia River Below Bonneville Dam for Spring Chinook Fishing

OLYMPIA, Wash. – With Chinook returning in greater numbers than anticipated, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon on Wednesday agreed to reopen the lower Columbia River for recreational spring Chinook fishing beginning Thursday, May 12.

The run-size forecast for adult spring Chinook returning to the Columbia River in 2022 was increased earlier in the week to 161,800 adults, up from the pre-season forecast of 122,900. Chinook returns counted at Bonneville Dam as of May 9 indicate the run is coming in at 127 percent of the 10-year average.

 “This stronger run is welcome news, and it’s great that we can reopen spring fishing while Chinook abundance is still high and also align a portion of the fishery with the summer season,” said Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River fishery manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The summer season in the lower Columbia River is scheduled to occur June 16 through June 22. 

Managers agreed to open the lower Columbia for two distinct openings, with the first occurring Thursday, May 12 through Sunday, May 22. The second opening would take place Saturday, June 4 through Wednesday, June 15. The fishery and run will be assessed next week to determine if additional fishing time is possible. 

“This approach gives us the chance to evaluate fishery impacts following the first reopening and adjust as necessary, to continue our adaptive approach to managing fisheries in-season and ensure we remain within harvest constraints while considering offering additional opportunities in the future,” Lothrop said. “We’ll be monitoring returns and catch rates closely to ensure we’re achieving our conservation goals for this important stock.”

Fishing will be open on these dates from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line upstream to Beacon Rock (boat and bank), plus bank angling by hand-cast only from Beacon Rock upstream to the Bonneville Dam deadline. The daily limit is 6 hatchery steelhead/Chinook, including no more than 2 adults, of which no more than 1 may be an adult Chinook. Anglers must release all wild steelhead and all salmon other than hatchery Chinook. Salmon minimum size 12 inches. Shad retention is also permitted, with no minimum size or daily limit.

Anglers should review the permanent rules for the waters they plan to fish in the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations, as well as check for any emergency rule changes – available at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ — before heading out. Between May 23 and June 3, these areas revert to permanent rules as listed in the 2021-22 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. This includes rules for retention of hatchery steelhead, hatchery jack Chinook and shad on the Columbia River mainstem.

With the current run size and allowable allocation, the fishery on the portion of river above Bonneville to the Oregon-Washington state line has exceeded its allocation and will remain closed at this time. 

Members of the public can sign up to receive Columbia River fishery updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/lists.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish, wildlife, and recreational and commercial opportunities.