States set 2020 Columbia River spring Chinook seasons

Columbia River

Photo Credit: Courtesy of ODFW

by OR Department of Fish & Wildlife Staff

Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington adopted revised spring Chinook salmon and steelhead seasons for the Columbia River today during a joint state hearing. These regulations replace permanent rules that remain in effect through February 29.

The season-setting process was influenced this year by a lower than average forecast for upriver-origin spring Chinook of 81,700 fish and poor expected returns to the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers (1,400 each). The predicted returns to the Cowlitz and Lewis are fewer than needed to meet minimum hatchery brood stock needs.

In the Columbia below Bonneville Dam, the modified recreational spring Chinook season will take place from Sunday, March 1 through Tuesday, March 31, then continue three days a week – on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays – from April 2 until the pre-season harvest guideline of 2,899 adult upriver Chinook mortalities is achieved. The open area is from Warrior Rock upstream to Beacon Rock (boat and bank), plus bank angling only from Beacon Rock upstream to the Bonneville Dam deadline.

In the Columbia upstream of Bonneville Dam, the recreational Chinook season will be open from Wednesday, April 1 through Tuesday, May 5. The open area for both boat and bank anglers is from the Tower Island power lines approximately six miles below The Dalles Dam upstream to the Oregon/Washington border (upstream of McNary Dam). From the Tower Island power lines downstream to Bonneville Dam, only bank angling is allowed.

The daily adult bag limit for both areas described above is two hatchery fish (Chinook or steelhead), of which only one may be a Chinook. Shad may also be kept. Oregon rules require the use of barbless hooks when angling for salmon or steelhead in the mainstem Columbia River. Beginning March 1, Washington will also require the use of barbless hooks.

For the area from the Warrior Rock line downstream to Buoy 10, angling for and retention of Chinook salmon, steelhead, and shad will close effective March 1 in order to help protect the Cowlitz and Lewis river stocks of spring Chinook. The Warrior Rock line runs from the Warrior Rock lighthouse on the Oregon shore to red USCG buoy #4, then to the piling dolphin on the lower end of Bachelor Island.

Columbia River spring Chinook salmon seasons are driven by Endangered Species Act limitations and a management agreement between the states and Columbia River Treaty Tribes specifying the total number of upriver-origin Chinook that can be killed. Therefore, open dates can change during the season if/when guidelines are expected to be met. The fishery below Bonneville Dam will be managed for a harvest guideline of 2,899 upriver Chinook (kept plus release mortalities) prior to the run update. Above Bonneville Dam, the pre-update harvest guideline is 387 upriver mortalities.

On the Willamette River, Chinook salmon and steelhead seasons will continue as planned under Oregon’s permanent sport fishing regulations, and for now does not include the two-rod allowance. This year, ODFW fishery managers are forecasting 40,800 adult Willamette-origin Chinook will return to the Columbia River mouth, which would be an increase from last year’s actual return of 27,292 adults. The Sandy and Clackamas rivers are also open year-around for retention of hatchery salmon (Chinook and Coho) and hatchery steelhead.

Fisheries managers also noted that, regarding recent Director to Director negotiations on Columbia River Fisheries Reform, allowable commercial fishing gears have not changed, and no changes in allowable gears are currently proposed. Per existing policy, if sufficient commercial allocation remains post run-update, mark-selective mainstem commercial fishing could be considered, but tangle nets, not gillnets, would be used.

The states scheduled another joint hearing for Wednesday, April 15 to consider additional action regarding Columbia River recreational fisheries, if needed.

For more information for upcoming fishing seasons, refer to Columbia River regulation updates at and e-regulations for permanent regulations.

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