Columbia Springer Update

How murky has the lower Lower Columbia been?

So murky that one springer angler fishing the Cathlamet area last weekend decided to shorten up his 5-foot leader between Fish Flash and herring because otherwise he doubted any fish would even see his bait behind the flasher.

“Visibility sucked,” says Jim Uehara, who is also a manager in the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Inland Fisheries Division.

With all this winter’s rains, the Willamette and Cowlitz have both been mudding up the Columbia.

“I don’t think it was 3 feet, more like 2 1/2,” he says.

Uehara came home with two over two days, but says he had to cover ground and practically hit the fish on the head with his bait.

Indeed, the lower end of the mighty river has seen the best bite in recent days.

According to fresh data from ODFW, anglers fishing below the Wauna powerlines near Cathlamet averaged .60 springers a boat last weekend.

That’s about 50 percent better than fishermen in the Portland-to-Longview stretch, who averaged .39 Chinook a boat.

Those fishing the Troutdale/Camas area only managed .07 salmon a sled.

However, a little birdy tells us they’ve found some springers above Chinook Landing in very shallow water, though getting them to bite has proved to be another thing.

Bankies plunking the estuary also did better than their upstream compadres, averaging .13 springers vs .06 from Portland to Longview.

Here are the raw numbers from ODFW:

Troutdale Boats:

Weekend checking showed six adipose fin-clipped spring chinook kept, plus one unlipped spring chinook released for 102 boats (257 anglers).

Portland to Longview Bank:

Weekend checking showed 11 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and 14 adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus four unclipped spring chinook and two unclipped steelhead released for 245 bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Boats:

Weekend checking showed 80 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus 21 unclipped spring chinook released for 256 boats (726 anglers).

Estuary Bank: (Clatsop Spit to Wauna Powerlines):

Weekend checking showed one adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and two adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus one unclipped steelhead released for eight bank anglers.

Estuary Boats (Tongue Point to Wauna Powerlines):

Weekend checking showed 21 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus four unclipped spring chinook released for 42 boats (115 anglers).

Tonight, commercial anglers have a four-hour gillnet fishery between the mouth of the Willamette and the mouth of the Columbia.

The timing doesn’t sit so well with some sport fishing interests.

“To conduct this fishery is a tough time when you have one of the most important recreational fisheries in Oregon and Washington finally starting to do well,” Ed Wickersham of the Coastal Conservation Association told Allen Thomas of The Columbian.

Netters are expected to catch 2,700 springers, 58 percent of which are predicted to be fish headed to tribs above Bonneville Dam.

Sport fishing continues through April 4 below Bonneville Dam. Boat fishing is only allowed below Rooster Rock.

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