Springer Take Nears 10K

“It’s a conspiracy, just admit it,” a friend in Longview wrote to me late last night.

He’s been donating too much gear and time to the Columbia this season for spring Chinook with little if any reward.

“OK, Andy, it’s time to confess,” he writes. “It’s a conspiracy between big business and WDFW to get people to spend money in a waning economy, isn’t it?  There is no half a million fish coming up the Columbia.  That was just a trick to get tackle, license, gas, boat, and food sales up.  I won’t tell anyone.  You have your ear on what they’re conspiring, so come on, just let your buddy know the truth.  WDFW doesn’t have a f****g clue about what’s in the river and what’s not, do they?”

It’s tempting to buy into that line, especially with light dam counts (1,848 through yesterday, 14% of the 10-year average), so-so catches between the Interstate and the estuary and his smelly skunkage.

But believe it or not, last month’s springer catch was actually the best in two decades.

According to a fact sheet out yesterday afternoon from WDFW and ODFW:

Through April 4, the preliminary total catch of spring Chinook (all stocks) in the Columbia River downstream of Bonneville Dam is estimated at 11,100 fish (9,600 kept) from 90,600 angler trips.

The February effort of 7,600 angler trips was the highest since 2004 (9,500), and February kept catch of 128 fish was the highest since 2003 (209).

The March effort of 63,400 angler trips was the highest since 2003 (65,800), and the March kept catch of 6,800 fish was the highest since 1990 (9,000).

As good as the those figures show, there are, however, over 10,000 springers still available for anglers to catch below Bonneville Dam.

That’s because the sport haul of springers bound for tribs above Bonneville Dam, where some wild runs are protected as threatened species, is still well under preseason benchmarks.

“The total kept and release mortality for upriver fish (“catch balance”) is estimated at 6,900 fish, or 40% of the 17,200 available,” the fact sheet explains. “A balance of 10,300 upriver fish (kept and release mortalities) remains available for the recreational fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam from April 5 until a run update.”

Managers also crafted seasons to ensure upstream anglers weren’t shut out of the fishing.

But with that many fish still out there, are we going to see any sort of opener in the best fishing area, the Interstate?

“Based on catch through April 4 and current catch rate information, no changes to the on-going fishery are anticipated at this time,” the fact sheet states.

April 3 was the last day to fish the Columbia from I-5 to Bonneville Dam. The river below I-5 and above the dam to McNary Dam remain open.

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