The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has expanded the popular fishing area at the mouth of the Wind River by moving the outside boundary about 250 yards out into the Columbia River.
Working with a crew from the U.S. Geological Survey, state personnel recently finished anchoring a white buoy line marking the new boundary, just as the number of spring chinook salmon passing Bonneville Dam was picking up nine miles downriver.
John Weinheimer, a WDFW fish biologist, said the fishing area was expanded to help relieve crowding at the mouth of the Wind River, where up to 200 boats a day often compete for space during the peak of the spring chinook season in late April and May.
Sediment from the river has contributed to the problem by crowding boats into areas still deep enough to fish, he said.
“The public has asked us for years to move the fishing boundary out into the Columbia,” Weinheimer said. “We’re trying it this year on an experimental basis to see if we can do that without a significant impact on federally protected spring chinook bound for the upper Columbia River.”
Weinheimer said the boundary line will be readjusted during the course of the season if catch monitoring shows a high catch of upper Columbia chinook.
The experiment would not be possible, he said, without financial support from the Columbia River endorsement fee paid by anglers who fish in the Columbia or its tributaries.
The Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement Advisory Board, which allocates that funding, approved spending $33,300 to hire temporary staff to monitor the catch and analyze the data over a three-month period.
“This is exactly the type of action the sport fishing community has requested be funded with the endorsement dollars,” Weinheimer said.
Approximately 8,400 hatchery-reared adult spring salmon are expected to return to the Wind River this year, up from 7,800 last year. The fishery for hatchery-reared salmon on the Wind River will remain open through June 30, regardless of the regulations in effect on the mainstem Columbia River.
photo: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife