The first indications we're turning the corner on winter transpired this week in the Lower Columbia River. "There are lots of signs that...

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The first indications we’re turning the corner on winter transpired this week in the Lower Columbia River.

“There are lots of signs that spring is starting to happen, and we checked another spring chinook to add to the couple of others we saw (last week),” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.

“The fish are mainly being caught in the Vancouver area and effort is starting to build, so people are getting spring fever,” Hymer said. “Some of the Willamette spring fish are moving up the main channel (of the Lower Columbia), and upriver-bound fish are being caught too.”

Fishing conditions are ideal, with low river water levels and excellent clarity.

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“We’ve got warmer water (temperatures) and no blowouts in the Willamette and Cowlitz, so conditions are looking good in the near future,” Hymer said.

The peak of the Lower Columbia spring fishery usually occurs in March and April. The upriver spring chinook forecast is 141,400, about 25 percent below the 10-year average.

Last year, 203,000 returned to areas above Bonneville Dam, and strong returns happened in 2011, 2010 and 2009.

Spring chinook fishing is currently open downstream of I-5 Bridge and will extend to Beacon Rock beginning Friday through April 5. Sport fishing is closed March 26 and April 2 for possible commercial fisheries. Beginning Friday, bank anglers may fish from Beacon Rock to the boundary below Bonneville Dam.

Anglers this spring will be allowed to catch up to 5,000 hatchery upriver chinook below Bonneville, but the season could go longer if catch levels remain under the guideline.

An additional 670 adult hatchery fish will go to anglers between Bonneville and the Washington/Oregon state line about 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam.

A total of 114,675 angler trips were taken on the Lower Columbia last season, with 13,332 adult spring chinook kept (11,105 from April 1-22) and 2,409 released.

Fishing report
Location Comment
Marine areas The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands remain best bets for hatchery chinook. Try Protection Island near Sequim, Winter Hole off Port Angeles and Freshwater Bay. In San Juans hit Waldron Island, Thatcher Pass, Spring Pass, Rosario Strait, Salmon Bank and north end of Orcas Island. Fair for chinook at Misery Point in Hood Canal. South Sound fly anglers released good numbers of sea-run cutthroat and resident coho.
Biting: Yes

Rating: 3 stars

Statewide rivers Fair for steelhead in Sol Duc, Queets, Hoh, Humptulips and Satsop. Wenatchee is fair for steelhead and whitefish, and Methow opens Friday. Slow for steelhead in Cowlitz, and a few wild fish released in Washougal. Columbia opens Friday for shad, but don’t expect much until April or May. Fair for walleye and bass in John Day Pool, and for walleye in The Dalles Pool.
Biting: Yes

Rating: 2 stars

Statewide lakes Some east side lakes in Columbia Basin open Friday for trout, and the warmer weather should create good prospects. Lake Chelan is fair for lake trout. Fair to good for trout at Lake Goodwin and Blackman’s Lake. Fair to good for cutthroat in Lake Washington off I-90, Juanita Bay, Yarrow Bay and south end of Mercer Island, and Lake Sammamish. Klineline Pond was planted with 1,500 trout last week.
Biting: Yes

Rating: 3 stars