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Columbia River spring Chinook salmon fishing season looking up

by Staff report
| February 25, 2022 1:00 AM

OLYMPIA – A news release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on Feb. 23, shows that Columbia River Chinook salmon returns are up over 30,000 fish compared to last year.

The release stated that the 2022 forecast for upriver spring Chinook numbers is 122,900 fish, above the 91,756 fish that returned last year. This would be the highest return since 2016, the release stated.

“Forecasts are generally up from the lower returns we saw in recent years, which is helpful to get fish back to their natal streams while also providing some additional fishing opportunity,” said Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River fisheries manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, in the release.

The release states that salmon fishing will be open daily from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Interstate 5 bridge, but spring Chinook usually don't arrive in large numbers until late March and April.

The lower river mainstem is now open for spring Chinook fishing, unlike in the past several years, according to the release, thanks to higher projected returns to several lower-river tributaries that are predicted to meet their corresponding escapement goals. These include the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis rivers.

The Columbia River will be open for the following dates and locations:

March 1-April 6: From Buoy 10 line upstream to Beacon Rock (boat and bank), plus bank angling by hand-cast only from Beacon Rock upstream to the Bonneville Dam deadline. Shad retention is also permitted, no minimum size or daily limit.

April 1-May 5: From the Tower Island power lines (approximately 6 miles below The Dalles Dam) upstream to the Oregon/Washington border, plus bank angling by hand-cast only between Bonneville Dam and the Tower Island power lines.

For both dates and locations the daily limit is six, including no more than two adults, of which no more than one may be an adult Chinook. Fishers are to release all wild steelhead and all salmon other than hatchery Chinook. Salmon minimum size is 12 inches.

In the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis rivers, anglers can expect the opportunity to harvest hatchery spring Chinook this season. The Lewis river will follow fishing rules published in the current Washington sport fishing rules pamphlet.

The Cowlitz and Kalama rivers have updated regulations, the release said. For the Cowlitz River, from the mouth up to 400 feet below the Barrier Dam, from March 1 through April 30. For Kalama River from the mouth upstream to 1,000 feet below the fishway at Kalama Falls Hatchery, from March 1 until further notice, they will follow the same daily fish limits as the Columbia except hatchery coho may also be retained.

The release states that effective May 1 until further notice, salmon angling is closed on the Cowlitz river.

The release suggest anglers should review the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations, as well as any emergency rule changes, available at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ for the waters they plan to fish.

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