The first confirmed spring Chinook of the 2011 run was caught today in the lower Columbia.
“They’re here!” reported that springer-news monger, biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, at 3:34 PST this afternoon.
“ODFW sampled an 18-pound lower river stock spring Chinook from the lower river commercial fishery today,” he said in an email sent out to all sorts of fishheads.
About a half hour later, Hymer followed up with more info on the first fish: “It was caught in Zone 2 (between Pacific/Wahkiakum County line and Wahkiakum/Cowlitz county line). It’s a commercial white sturgeon fishery but adipose-fin-clipped salmon may be sold. The salmon sold for $16 a pound” to a licensed buyer.
Hymer says there have been rumors of other early catches this year.
Managers are forecasting 198,400 above-Bonneville-bound springers, 104,000 to the Willamette, 6,600 to the Cowlitz, 600 to the Kalama and 3,400 to the North Fork Lewis.
“(It’s) early, but there have been fish caught earlier in past years,” he says. “Remember – (the) Willamette return is expected to be 60 percent 5-year-olds this year, and those fish tend to return earlier.”
You’ll want to grab a copy of the February Northwest Sportsman for tips on catching those über-early kings.
Last year’s first confirmed sport-caught Columbia springer was landed Feb. 1 by Jesse Eveland. He was fishing with guide Larry Kesch below the mouth of the Willamette while trolling a cutplug herring downstream.