Hood River chinook season begins Sunday

Smaller, later run expected on Hood this year

If you wait, the fish will come.

The Hood River opens for spring chinook this Sunday, but someone forgot to tell the fish.

The spring run has been getting later and later for the last decade, and this year is proving to be no exception as the chinook salmon slowly make their way up the Columbia.

“Our projected numbers we over 300,000,” said The Dalles-based Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fish biologist Rod French of the expected chinook run over Bonneville Dam. “Right now we are at 140 … we have a ways to go.”

Yes, that is 140 — without any commas or zeros tacked on to the end.

When the fish do make it to the Hood, the run is not expected to be as good as in recent years.

The ODFW projects a run of about 650 hatchery chinook in the Hood River this year.

Meanwhile on the Deschutes, which also opens Sunday, ODFW is projecting a strong run of nearly 14,000 hatchery fish.

“We were predicting a very strong run for the Deschutes; not so good for the Hood,” said French. “We still expect those numbers but we are seeing a very large delay in fish ascending the Columbia through Bonneville.” Typically about 50 percent of the run is through Bonneville by second week of May.”

The delay has led to the lower Columbia chinook season, which was already extended once, to be extended again to April 22.

The number of fish above the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia, where the season lasts through May 2, has also been meager.

“We’ve been seeing more late runs in recent years and this looks to be especially late,” said John North, ODFW Columbia Fisheries manager. “We will probably meet in late April to look at that fishery to see where we are.”

That meeting may lead to an extension on the upper Columbia season as well, but if the late run of fish comes through in the next few weeks, it could still end on schedule.

“It’s too early to tell now,” North said. “The majority of the catch will be expected to come through from now on.”

Whether the Columbia is extended or not, the Hood has a hard June 30 spring chinook closure date, in order to protect low numbers of fall chinook.

The lower water temperature and high water levels in the Columbia due to recent heavy rains have not helped the big salmon get up the river, but French said there are signs good things are on the way for patient anglers.

“A test fishery tested last week in the lower part of the Columbia looked really good,” he said.

While anglers will have to wait for chinook to arrive in the Hood in large numbers, French added that the winter steelhead run has been particularly good.

Steelhead season runs year-round, and should be peaking later this month.

“It’s been good,” French said “We have well over a thousand hatchery fish.”

At least some fish got the memo.

n ODFW 2012 fishing regulations for the Hood River:

While access is somewhat limited in the Hood River due to private property, all of the former PacifiCorp lands remain open to the public. Anglers should note, however, that the access road to the former Powerdale Dam site has been closed by a private landowner.

Other upstream angler access points include the Tucker Park and the lands surrounding Punchbowl Falls. Anglers need to obtain permission from private landowners prior to accessing private lands to get the river.

Floating the Hood River is not recommended, due to the extremely dangerous conditions present in the river.

The Hood River opens for adipose fin-clipped chinook from April 15 through June 30 from the mouth to main stem confluence with the East Fork, and the West Fork from the confluence with the main stem upstream to the angling deadline 200 feet downstream of Punchbowl Falls.

The catch limit is two adult adipose fin-clipped salmon per day, and five adipose fin-clipped jack salmon per day.

All non-adipose fin-clipped chinook salmon must be released unharmed.

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