2023 Columbia River spring Chinook fishing seasons announced

Columbia River

by WA Department of Fish & Wildlife Staff

OLYMPIA – Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon on Wednesday approved this year's recreational spring Chinook salmon fishing season for the Columbia River, with seasons expected to look similar to 2022.

The 2023 forecast for upriver spring Chinook is 198,600 fish, slightly more than the 185,209 that returned to the Columbia River in 2022, and significantly higher than the 10-year average of 150,485 fish.

"We're optimistic about many returns to the Columbia River this spring, and there should be some good fishing opportunities for anglers on the lower river," said Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River fisheries manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "We're still watching some stocks closely to make sure we're achieving our conservation goals, and those may have an impact on opportunity as we track and update the runs throughout the season."

That includes the natural-origin Chinook returning to the Snake River and the upper Columbia spring Chinook stocks, both of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Salmon fishing is now open daily from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Interstate-5 bridge under permanent regulations, but spring Chinook usually don't arrive in large numbers until late March and April. See permanent regulations in the 2022-23 Washington Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet.

The river will open for the following dates and locations in 2023:

  • March 1 through April 7: Buoy 10 line upstream to Beacon Rock (boat and bank), plus bank angling only by hand-cast from Beacon Rock upstream to the Bonneville Dam deadline.
    • Daily limit 6, including no more than 2 adults, of which no more than 1 may be an adult Chinook. Release all wild steelhead and all salmon other than hatchery Chinook. Salmon minimum size 12 inches. Shad retention is also permitted, no minimum size or daily limit.
  • April 1 through May 6: From the Tower Island power lines (approximately 6 miles below The Dalles Dam) upstream to the Oregon/Washington border, plus bank angling by hand-cast only between Bonneville Dam and the Tower Island power lines.
    • Daily limit 6, including no more than 2 adults of which no more than 1 may be an adult Chinook. Release all wild steelhead and all salmon other than hatchery Chinook. Salmon minimum size 12 inches.

The projected pre-update recreational fishing harvest for both upriver and lower river spring Chinook in 2023 is 7,766 adult Chinook kept for the fishery below Bonneville and 845 fish kept above Bonneville, both increases over 2022.

Managers will monitor the fisheries, dam counts, and hatchery returns and adjust as necessary in-season, with the run-size update typically occurring mid-May.

Anglers can also expect to harvest spring Chinook in the Cowlitz, Kalama, and Lewis rivers in 2023, with regulations for those fisheries listed in the 2022-23 fishing regulations pamphlet.

Salmon and steelhead rules and limits in Deep River will be the same as the mainstem Columbia River when the mainstem is open to spring Chinook retention.

Anglers should review the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for all permanent rules for the waters they plan to fish, as well as check for any emergency rule changes before heading out. Regulations may be modified in-season as returns materialize.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish, wildlife, and recreational and commercial opportunities.

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