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Biologists Report on Record Chinook Returns on Columbia River for 2015

All photos via Randall Bonner

In spite of low water conditions, Columbia River Chinook fisheries are still consistently producing fish.

Joe Hymer, a Washington state Fish and Wildlife biologist updated his findings on the Lower Columbia for summer Chinook in the Seattle Times, revealing one of the largest catch rates in nearly 50 years.

The 5,928 adult summer Chinook kept from the Lower Columbia mainstem sport fishery this year is the largest catch since at least 1965.  The previous record were the 5,160 adults caught in 2011.

The summer data taken from June 16 to July 31 showed 50,555 anglers with 5,928 Chinook kept, 458 jack Chinook kept and 4,560 steelhead kept, and 1,491 Chinook released and 3,068 steelhead released, plus 958 sockeye kept and 436 released. The catch per unit effort (CPUE) was 0.1468 fish per rod.

The entire Chinook catch from Feb. 1 to June 15 was 151,713 anglers with 19,586 Chinook kept and 5,052 released, plus 1,127 jack Chinook and 1,181 steelhead kept, and 724 steelhead and 46 sockeye released. The CPUE was 0.163.
The author with a Spring Chinook that fell victim to a rolling herring on board Bill Taylor's Osprey Guide Service boat in the Columbia River.

Upriver on the Columbia, fall Chinook have set records for returning fish over Bonneville Dam, as anglers fishing upstream in the Hanford Reach have continued to be successful.

The returns at the end of September have reflected the highest number since 1938 when counts began after the dam was completed. These Chinook are still coming over the dam at about 10,000 a day.

This year’s counts supersedes the 1,152,643 counted in 2014 and 1,129,664 counted in 2013. A weekly report in The Spokesman from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist in the Tri Cities area stated:

It was another good week for salmon fishing in the Hanford Reach. Harvest for the week was estimated at 5,993 fall Chinook (5,706 adults and 288 jacks). WDFW estimates there were 9,115 anglers fishing in the Hanford Reach this past week (3,500+ boats). So far this season 13,778 adult chinook and 715 jacks have been harvested.

Fish were harvested throughout the Hanford Reach with the best catch per boat at White Bluffs and Ringold at just over two fish per boat. Vernita was running about 1.6 chinook per boat.

Overall, anglers fishing in the Hanford Reach average better than 1.5 Chinook per boat, 10 hours per fish. Bank angling at the Ringold Springs Access area picked up this week with 71 Chinook harvested for the week.

WDFW staff interviewed 2,561 anglers from 1,025 boats and 207 bank anglers fishing for fall Chinook in the Hanford Reach.

The in-season run update (Sept. 23) for the Hanford Reach is 195,620 adult Chinook based on the long-term mean, (152,517 based on the 2014 return).

A fall chinook that fell victim to the author's herring on board Mike Arnold's Absolute Angling Guide Service boat.

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Biologists Report on Record Chinook Returns on Columbia River for 2015