What a difference a week makes.
Through March 20, boaters had kept all of 16 spring Chinook in the cold, murky waters of the Columbia from Cathlamet down.
In the week that followed, they bonked 472.
That from statistics released this afternoon by Washington and Oregon salmon managers.
Effort jumped sharply there as well, from a total of 520 boats through the 20th to 1,248 in the last week alone.
“It’s actually kind of shifted from up here,” says fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, “to Cathlamet.”
He points to improved water conditions and new fish downstream.
That said, 505 springers were kept in the Interstate stretch last week, which leads all comers in terms of effort and catch for the season — 1,064 kept for 6,321 boats and 15,790 anglers.
Overall through March 27, we’ve kept 3,331 adult springers and released 971 in 59,160 angler trips on the Columbia, Hymer says.
That’s a jump of 1,982 keepers and 23,429 trips since the March 20 run update.
Based on visual cues, Hymer says that 80 percent, or 2,649, of all the keepers have otherwise been headed beyond Bonneville. That means that 34 percent of the guideline of 7,750 upriver fish has been met.
Tonight, commercial fishermen will set their nets in the big river from the mouth of the Willamette down and are expected to catch 2,700 springers, with a range of 2,400 to 3,000.
That’s drawn some comments from sport fishing spokespeople, but Hymer contends, “The nets aren’t going to get them all — certainly not in four hours.”
So what’s a springer fiend who has Wednesday off to do, Joe?
Well, despite looooow catch rates last weekend — .07 springers a boat at checks in the Troutdale, Ore., area — Hymer suggests that river forecasts which call for dropping flows out of Bonneville tomorrow may prompt a bite in the area. Netting in the lower end of the river might also make some springers more snappy as well.
So far only seven springers have been caught in the waters immediately below the dam, where boat angling is not allowed. All but two had to be released because they were wild fish. For the year, 130 salmon have gone past Bonneville.
Overall, effort appears to be down this year compared to 2010, with only two-thirds as many boats counted on the river last Saturday compared to Saturday, March 27 of last year, according to Hymer. The run size is also forecast to be smaller and cold, murky waters have made for tougher fishing.
At roughly the same point last year, we bonked 4,220 for the same week, and had an overall catch of 6,682 with 1,011 released in 68,920 trips for the season.
Springer fishing runs through April 4 below Bonneville.
“There were also 490 steelhead kept and 375 released,” Hymer adds.