The 2019 Columbia River Spring Chinook season has been set. Beginning March 1, Columbia River Spring Chinook will be open from Warrior Rock, just above the Cowlitz River, upstream to Beacon Rock, just below Bonneville Dam. The season is slated to close for this “Below Bonneville Dam” fishery on April 10. Catch limits are two adult adipose fin-clipped salmonids per day, only one of which may be a Chinook.
I’m a little bit surprised as to the length of the initial season. Typically our Columbia Springer season only lasts until the 6th or 7th of April, so I guess a few extra days isn’t bad. Fisheries managers often end up extending the season as there are still impacts left, so perhaps they’re now comfortable being a little more aggressive. Left out of this years season is the area below the Cowlitz River, which is home to fishing at places like Clifton Channel and Puget Island. The low returns predicted for the Cowlitz River are really what is driving this. Tacoma Power and Light has been terrible over the years at taking care of our hatchery fish and it is clear as you compare Cowlitz returns to the likes of the Kalama and Lewis. As I posted in December, returns are very similar for 2019 and the truth is the Cowlitz should be significantly higher than either the Kalama or Lewis. The runs will go up and down, but historical proportions should remain consistent. In 2016, the Cowlitz had nearly 5 fish return for every 1 on the Kalama. This year, return projections are nearly equal.
Of course when the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam closes, we will have opportunity at Drano Lake and in the Willamette River, so really, it feels similar to the last couple years.
We will start running combination Salmon and Sturgeon trips out of our Portland office around March 15. For those looking for the opportunity to catch Spring Chinook, but the guarantee of catching a bunch of fish, this is a great way to go. Let us know if you have any questions and if you’d like to get a date reserved. I’m looking forward to another year!