Because Columbia River spring chinook salmon counts continued to lag far behind projections, Washington and Oregon fishery managers shut down salmon fishing in the mainstem river on April 21.
The closure affects the entire mainstem river, from the mouth at Buoy 10 to below McNary Dam, state fisheries managers said in their announcement. The action also ended all fishing for steelhead and shad in the mainstem river.
Not affected by the closure is fishing for hatchery spring chinook and other species in Columbia River tributaries Fishing remains open, under state rules, on the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, Wind and Klickitat rivers, as well as Drano Lake.
The early fishing closure in the mainstem river was prompted by a continued shortfall in the numbers of chinook passing Bonneville Dam.
By April 18, only 1,544 chinook had been counted at the dam. The low counts prompted state fish managers to warn anglers in advance that an early fishing closure was possible.
If the counts for spring chinook at Bonneville Dam improve during the coming weeks, fishery managers will consider re-opening the fishing seasons. Fishery managers were scheduled to meet on April 27 to assess the run and make a new run size prediction.
Over the last five years, an average of 31 percent of the run had passed by mid-April, which would equate to more than 70,000 fish.
Based on 10-year-average counts, more than 50,000 chinook normally would have passed the dam by this point in the year.
Pre-season projections called for a total returning run of 254,100 upriver spring chinook and 116,900 Willamette River-bound fish.
Fishery managers set the Columbia River spring chinook fishery based on the number of fish expected to return from the ocean and the allowable impact to wild salmon and steelhead stocks listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
"Impacts" are the unintended mortalities associated with handling and releasing wild fish.
The allowed non-Indian impacts are 2 percent of the total runs of ESA-listed Snake River spring/summer chinook and upper Columbia River spring chinook.
Through April 17, sport fishers had made 96,500 angler trips, handled 11,200 chinook and kept 8,700 hatchery fish.