April 1, 2014
Spring chinook numbers appear to be building in the lower Columbia River with a day of commercial fishing adopted for Tuesday and a hearing on Thursday to consider extending the sport season.
Monday is the final day of the scheduled sport season downstream of Bonneville Dam although an extension is a virtual given considering catches have been poor and not near the allocation.
Runs of 227,000 spring chinook to waters upstream of Bonneville Dam and 81,000 to tributaries downstream of the dam are forecast for 2014.
However, the Columbia is high and dirty. The average flow for March at Bonneville Dam has been 242,000 cubic feet per second compared to an average of 166,000 cubic feet per second. Dirty water dampens the sport catch.
Washington and Oregon on Monday adopted a commercial fishery on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Beacon Rock downstream to the ocean. The commercials must use 4.25-inch-mesh nets. Wild chinook must be released.
Biologist Robin Ehlke of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said the commercial fleet is expected to catch 1,900 spring chinook, of which 1,400 are of upper Columbia origin. The commercial allocation prior to a mid-May update of the run forecast is 1,735 upper Columbia spring chinook.
At $8 per pound and with an average weight of 15 pounds, the value to the net fleet is projected to be about $228,000, Ehlke said.
Commercial fishermen also are allocated 4,200 spring chinook from Oregon’s Willamette River, a number they never achieve due to running out of upper Columbia chinook first.