Spring is just on the horizon, and Columbia River salmon anglers got some more good news.
State Fish and Wildlife released a relatively decent spring chinook forecast of 24,100 for Wind River, Drano Lake and Klickitat River, a trio of Columbia River tributaries located just above Bonneville Dam.
“The return numbers are either double or nearly twice the size of last year’s figures,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
The Wind is expecting 8,500 spring chinook compared to a forecast last year of 3,000 and an actual return of 3,600. At Drano, the forecast is 13,100, up considerably from 4,900 (actual return of 7,300). The Klickitat came in at 2,500 compared to 2,200 (1,800).
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The upriver Columbia River spring chinook prediction is 227,100 compared to a forecast last year of 141,400 and an actual return of 123,100. If the run pans out as predicted, it would be the fifth-largest return since 1980.
The breakdown in the Upper Columbia portion of the spring chinook forecast is 24,100 in 2014 compared to a forecast last year of 14,300 and an actual return of 18,000.
The Snake River spring/summer component of the spring Chinook forecast is 125,000 compared to a forecast last year of 58,200 and an actual return of 67,300.
The Snake River wild spring chinook forecast is 42,200 compared to a forecast last year of 18,900 and an actual return of 21,900.
In the Lower Columbia, the Willamette River on the Oregon side, the forecast is for 58,700 spring chinook (59,800 was forecast in 2013 and the actual return was 47,300).
On the Washington side, the Cowlitz forecast is 7,800 (5,500 and 9,500); Kalama is 500 (700 and 1,300); and Lewis is 1,100 (1,600 and 1,800).
The Columbia River spring chinook are highly sought after by sport and commercial fishermen for their tasty Omega-3 laced, red-orange-colored meat similar to Alaska’s Copper River salmon.
There are rumors already swirling of a spring chinook recently caught. It is not uncommon for a few early spring chinook to return in January and February, but the height of the run is in March and April.
The Columbia River below the I-5 Bridge is open for salmon fishing with a daily limit of two adult hatchery chinook or steelhead or one apiece.
Additional spring chinook fishing seasons will be decided 10 a.m. Wednesday by state, federal and tribal fishery managers at the Clark Regional Wastewater District Office, 8000 N.E. 52nd Court in Vancouver.
Other summer and fall salmon forecasts will come to light at a state Fish and Wildlife meeting March 3 in Olympia.
Coastal razor clam diggers are riding high on what has been an excellent fall/winter season, and additional digs are coming up in the days ahead.
Digging will be open Tuesday at Twin Harbors; Wednesday at Twin Harbors and Long Beach; Thursday, Friday and Feb. 2 at Twin Harbors, Long Beach and Mocrocks; and Saturday at Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks and Copalis. Digging is open from noon to midnight each day.
At Long Beach, 2,009 diggers on Jan. 17-18 harvested 16,146 clams for 8.0 per person average; at Twin Harbors, 2,520 from Jan. 15-18 had 34,147 for 13.6; and at Mocrocks, 1,385 on Jan. 17-18 had 14,301 for 10.3.
Since the season began Sept. 19, 174,356 diggers took home more than 2.4-million razor clams during 55 digging days for a 13.6 average at Long Beach; 14.2 at Twin Harbors; 14.1 at Copalis; and 14.6 at Mocrocks.
Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager, expects digging to improve in this next round with better low tides and the surf is expected to calm down.
The daily limit is 15 razor clams regardless of size or condition. Each digger must keep their clams in their own containers or buckets.
Another series of digs are planned at the end of next month, More will also occur later this spring, and switches to daylight hours during morning low tides.