Springer Catch Jumps 2,000 In A Week

Best springer fishing on the Columbia so far?

“It’s either down low or around here,” says Joe Hymer of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission in Vancouver.


Tallies for boat anglers he put out this afternoon show that the Interstate (go figure) and the big river’s estuary are neck and neck for highest catch from Feb. 1 through March 21.

A total of 503 springers have been landed from Cathlamet down to Astoria (460 kept) while 502 have been caught between roughly I-205 and the mouth of the Willamette below I-5 (463 retained).

The past two years, the Interstate has been smokin’ hot while fishing in the lower river hasn’t been what it once was, especially during 2008’s season.

Hymer points to improved Willamette and Cowlitz returns this year for the revived bite in the estuary.

And upstream, the Interstate is again holding its fish.

“The upriver fish are spending some time up here like a few years ago — they’re not going over the dam,” Hymer says.

Only 122 springers have gone over Bonneville through Sunday, just a tenth of the 10-year average, and well below expectations but in line with how runs have proceeded the past five springs.

All that means the Interstate troll might be a spot to check once that section reopens on Thursday.

The third best section for boaters on the mainstem is from the Willamette down to just above the mouth of the Lewis River with 350 fish landed (another 94 released).

From the bank, the Oregon side is leading with 153 Chinook retained, with half of those coming from between the mouth of the Lewis and Sandy Island above Kalama.

On the Washington beach, 32 have been kept, and the best fishing is from Vancouver down to the Lewis.

A total of 2,819 springers have been caught this season — basically 2,000 in the last week alone — with 2,462 going on the barbecue.

However, the action is still not steady.

“What we haven’t seen yet is a fish per boat or better, but it should continue to improve,” says Hymer.

While the angler effort is following preseason expectations (through Sunday, nearly 43,000 trips), the catch is slightly different than modeled, with Chinook from the Willamette, Cowlitz, Kalama and other lower tribs making up 55 percent of the catch, Hymer says.

The other 45 percent is upriver fish; an average of six forecasts pegs the run at 470,000 this year, which would be a record.

Below is an excerpt from our March issue on how to fish the estuary, by Terry Otto:

The first place you can intercept springers is in this reach, from Tongue Point just east of Astoria upstream to Tenasillahe Island, below Cathlamet.

With the big tidal exchanges, most anglers like to anchor and fish plugs during the ebb tide when the fish will be running shallow, from 6 to 25 feet of water. Springers will follow the line of least resistance, moving up behind wing dams and along current seams below the islands. There is a string of islands along the Oregon side – Russian up to Tenasillahe – that are good ambush spots for anchoring. Near the Washington side, Rice Island and the Jim Crow Sands are also good anchor spots.

On the incoming tide, trolling plug-cut herring or plugs along the bottom in 12 to 25 feet of water can work well.

One of the most popular places is the Clifton Channel, on the Oregon side of Tenasillahe. The channel is fairly even-bottomed and big enough to accommodate a lot of boats. Virtually the entire channel is fishable, but most concentrate near the top end of the island.

The fish will also collect behind the wing dam just above the top of the island; some troll the length of it on the downstream side.

There are also good spots on the south side of Puget Island.

Good Oregon launches include the Westport and Aldrich Point ramps. On the Washington side, Cathlamet Marina is a good ramp with lots of parking.

(Oh, and don’t look now, but this year’s jack counts are already 1,000 percent above the 10-year average — 5 vs. .5 🙂


4 Responses to “Springer Catch Jumps 2,000 In A Week”

  1. rainey Says:

    the run this year will only be half of forcast. so fish early because will close soon.They model this run off the jack count.That obviously is not working look @ 2008

  2. Andy Walgamott Says:

    Well, we’re crossing our fingers that this run is just running behind, as have those in recent years — and isn’t off like those.

    This year’s run was also modeled on more than just a jack count, as were previous years such as 2008, 2009, etc.

    We wrote about how the managers did come up with the forecast of 470K here: https://nwsportsmanmag.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/how-the-springer-forecast-came-about/

    Here’s an excerpt:

    “Turns out, (470,000 is) just a midpoint from seven different mathematical models that spat out run sizes of anywhere from 366,000 to 528,000 adults next year.

    And it almost sounds as if Ellis et al, in their attempts to deal with all those jacks, looked at 470,000 different ways to forecast the run.

    “We looked at a huge number of models and then settled on 18 that had any validity,” he says.

    In previous years, they’ve used a straight linear graph of jacks on the X axis, adult 4-year-olds on the Y axis to come up with a number, but among the new approaches was a nonlinear curve.

    They also used models that factored in ocean indicators such as water temperatures, upwellings and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, climactic and environmental conditions that haven’t been used before.

    They shortened up their data set.

    They looked at jack returns to home hatcheries, not just past Bonneville Dam.

    And they calculated the absolute lowest number of adults that have come from a jack return.

    “With the 18, we did ‘hindcasting’ to narrow things down based on error rates,” Ellis says. “We chose seven that would have been acceptable in the past. They tended to have the lowest error rates.”

    The group then talked over those seven models’ pros and cons, and in the end averaged them, he says.

    “They’re all quite reasonable as far as predictors,” Ellis says, but he adds that right now, they’re “not trying to assess how accurate (the forecast) will be. There’s no history with this size of jack return.”

    “It’s kind of tricky when you’re dealing with records,” he says.

    “You can make extreme theories on jacks — outrageous inriver and ocean survival, so lots will come back. There’s lots of evidence pointing that way.

    “But another theory you can’t disprove is, maybe there’s a big change in maturation rates in the ocean. For some reason, a huge proportion came back as jacks and we don’t have a lot of adults out there. That line of thinking leads to lower estimates. That’s possible; we can’t rule it out.

    “But the sum total is, we should get a pretty good return,” Ellis says.

    Looking at 2009’s actual return, 169,000, he says, “I think we’re going to do a fair bit better, but don’t bet the farm.”

  3. Nearly 4,800 Springers Caught In Last Week « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] new catch figures are a significant jump over the previous week when managers said around 2,000 had been kept or […]

  4. Springer Catch Up To 18.4K « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] back to tribs above Bonneville. But then things began to pick up with 700 kept through mid-March, 2,462 by the next week, nearly 7,000 by the end of the month and 9,600 kings through April […]

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