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Originally published January 28, 2012 at 10:01 PM | Page modified January 29, 2012 at 6:22 PM

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Great expectations await spring chinook fishery on the Columbia

It's only a matter of time before the first migrating spring chinook is hooked by a lucky angler in the Lower Columbia River.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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It's only a matter of time before the first migrating spring chinook is hooked by a lucky angler in the Lower Columbia River.

We already know this fish will be among a strong forecast of 414,500, which could lead to the fourth-largest return of upriver spring chinook on record.

Fishing is currently open daily from Buoy 10 in the Lower Columbia up to I-5. The fishery expands upriver to Beacon Rock from March 1 to April 6 (closed March 20, March 27 and April 3), and possibly longer depending in the catch rate.

Also opening March 1 is bank fishing from Beacon Rock to the boundary below Bonneville Dam.

Fishing above Bonneville Dam will be open daily from March 16 to May 2, between the Tower Island power lines 6 miles below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank angling is allowed from Bonneville Dam up to the power lines during that time.

Starting March 1, anglers below Bonneville may keep one hatchery-marked adult spring chinook daily. Above the dam, anglers can keep daily beginning March 16.

More statewide salmon forecasts will be revealed when state Fish and Wildlife has a public meeting 9 a.m. Feb. 28 at the Natural Resources Building in Olympia.

But before those figures are unveiled, let's gaze back at how things fared last season.

The big eye opener was an estimated 378,056 salmon angler trips taken in the Lower Columbia last year, which broke the previous record of slightly more than 371,000 set in 2010.

The 24,973 summer steelhead kept by anglers last year smashed the previous record of 18,324 fish kept in 2010, and was the highest on record since at least 1975.

Add to that another 45,000 adult chinook kept, second only to 2010 when 49,000 fish were taken home by anglers.

Ample time on the water also allowed anglers to reap their fishing fortunes.

Last year, spring chinook fishing on the Lower Columbia was open Jan. 1 to April 4, April 8-19 and reopened on May 15. In that time, a total of 154,895 angler trips were taken with 11,694 spring chinook kept.

Anglers were allowed to keep summer chinook from May 15 to July 17. In past years, the option would close by mid-April and wouldn't reopen until mid-June. Also during the small period when chinook catch-and-keep was closed July 18 to Aug. 1, summer steelhead action ramped up.

The summer steelhead catch of 11,160 in August was tops for any month since at least 1969, and walloped the previous record of 8,549 from July.

Add to that a record 18,509 kept or released in August, compared to the previous record of 15,934 in July 2009.

Going back to records that started in 1969, the 5,160 adult summer hatchery chinook kept were a record. The old record was 4,924 fish caught during a nonselective fishery in 2006.

When the fall chinook started to show up in the Columbia around August, fishing never slowed down.

A record 28,168 adult fall chinook were caught in the Lower Columbia from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31. The previous record was 26,195 adults kept in 2003.

During that period, 147,343 angler trips were taken, which was a record effort since at least 1980. The previous high was 117,975 angler trips taken in 2009.

The good times weren't just limited to one location, as the Hanford Reach area saw a record 11,598 kings kept last year.

There also were a record 1,427 Lower Columbia sockeye (which rarely bite any lure or bait thrown at them) kept. That was nearly twice the previous record of 900 in 2009.

With the upwelling of cold water from La Nina conditions securely fastened in the ocean, there should be more excellent survival rates as this season's fish migrate back.

All ocean and Puget Sound salmon fisheries will be finalized April 1-6.

For a list of meetings, go to

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/reeltimenorthwest/2017297742_salmon_fishing_season_setting.html.

Notes

• The Northwest Ice Fishing Festival at Molson and Sidley lakes near Oroville is Feb. 18. There will be a pancake breakfast and Italian dinner served at the Grange Hall. Cost is $20 for adults and $10 for kids age 14 and under. Details: www.orovillewashington.com.

• The Seattle Boat Show is now through Feb. 5 at CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle. Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., except for Feb. 5, when it ends at 4 p.m. Cost is $12 adults, five-day pass is $24; $7, youth ages 11-17; and kids under 10 are free. Details: www.seattleboatshow.com.

• Mount Rainier National Park offers daily snowshoe walks on weekends through March 25. The walks are offered at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. Sign up at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center information desk at Paradise beginning one hour before the start time.

Snowshoe walks cover approximately 1.5 miles, and last up to two hours. Snowshoes are provided, or visitors may use their own. A donation of $4 per person is requested. Participants must be at least 8 years old and should wear sturdy boots and dress in layers. Organized groups of 13 to 25 can reserve a snowshoe walk in advance. Group snowshoe walks begin at 10:30 a.m. For details, call 360-569-6575 or www.visitrainier.com.

• The Vertfest, a celebration of backcountry culture, is Feb. 18-19 at Alpental. The festival kicks off Saturday with the Monika Johnson Memorial Rally, and clinic day is Sunday. The El Presidente Freestyle Camp, Feb. 18-19 at Summit Central, is open for intermediate or better snowboard abilities ages 8 and older. Details: www.summitatsnoqualmie.com.

• Washington Sea Grant and the Port of Seattle Fishermen's Terminal are hosting a Boat Engine Troubleshooting and Maintenance Workshop 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on March 6-8 at the Nordby Building at Fishermen's Terminal in Seattle for commercial fishermen and recreational boaters. Learn to troubleshoot problems in the fuel, lubrication, electrical, cooling, exhaust and drive systems of diesel and gas inboards, stern drives and outboards (two-cycle and four-stroke). Cost is $150. Details: 206-543-1225.

• Fly-fishing authors/instructors Skip Morris and Rick Hafele are offering a two-day workshop 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 25-26 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Issaquah, which is sponsored by the Creekside Angling Company fly shop in Issaquah.

Learn about the insects that move the fish, how to imitate those insects with the right fly, learn from a fly-tying master on how to tie some of his favorite patterns, techniques for fishing a fly effectively, how to read the water, and more. Cost is $145 for both days, $80 for one day, and discounts offered for fly club members. Class size limited and preregistration required. Details: http://hookednow.com/events.

• The Washington Sea Grant and Port of Seattle Fishermen's Terminal are sponsoring a Coast Guard-approved First Aid at Sea course for commercial fishermen and recreational boaters 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 29 at the Fishermen's Terminal in Seattle. Topics include cardiopulmonary resuscitation, patient assessment, hypothermia, cold-water near-drowning, shock, trauma, burns, fractures, choking, immobilization techniques, first-aid kits and more. Cost is $80. Space is limited, and preregistration is advised. Details: 206-543-1225.

• Mountain Madness, Inc. is offering avalanche awareness clinic 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the REI Store in Tukwila. Details: www.mountainmadness.com.

• The Roche Harbor's Salmon Classic Invitational is Feb. 2-4 at Roche Harbor Marine & Resort on San Juan Island. Limited to 100 boat limits (four anglers per boat). First place is $10,000. Cost is $700, plus sales tax of $54.60, and includes moorage and angler's dinner all three nights. Details: 360-378-5562 or email at market@rocheharbor.com.

• The Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca will be Feb. 18-20, and is hosted by the Gardiner Salmon Derby Association, a nonprofit corporation that supports area emergency and other services. Cost is $40. Details: www.SwainsInc.com or http://gardinersalmonderby.org.

• The Northshore Trout Unlimited meeting is the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center, 18560 1st Ave. NE in Shoreline. Details: http://northshoretu.blogspot.com.

• Mount St. Helens climbing permits are on sale. Cost is $22. Permits are required year-round to climb above 4,800 feet. Details: 360-891-5007 or www.mshinstitute.org.

• The Issaquah Alps Trails Club holds weekly hikes and meets in downtown Issaquah. Details: www.issaquahalps.org.

• The Washington Trails Association offers statewide trip reports and trail conditions. Details: www.wta.org.

• The Seattle Audubon Society offers field trips and classes every month. Details: 206-523-4483 or www.seattleaudubon.org.

• The Western Bass Club meets every third Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Kennydale Hall in Renton. Details: www.westernbassclub.comor www.nickbarrfishing.com.

• The new nonprofit Cascade Musky Association is looking for members. Cost is $25 or $35 for a couple/family membership. Details: www.cascademuskyassociation.com or www.wafish.com.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com

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