The spring chinook run has finally begun in earnest, and the Yakima River finally is opening up -- though later than hoped for and, in light of the balmy weather, later than angers would have liked.
The fishery's opening will be staggered similar to last year, with the lower portion of the Yakima River, from the mouth to the Prosser Dam, having opened yesterday, and the portion of the upper river from Union Gap to the railroad bridge below Union Gap opening Saturday.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's decision to open the Yakima River fishery now follows last week's sudden upriver movement, ending what had been virtual gridlock at Bonneville Dam.
After not having a single 5,000-salmon count day at the Bonneville Dam all the way through May 5, which is usually just about the middle point of the entire run, the Bonneville fish ladders haven't had a single day under 5,000 since.
More than 30,000 were counted Tuesday and Wednesday last week; Sunday's count was almost 9,000, pushing the season total to 110,514, not far off the 10-year average of about 124,000.
The springers began coming through Prosser last week as well, with 210 counted there as of last Thursday (141 of natural origin). The preseason projection of 12,000 springers to the Yakima River mouth has been downgraded to 9,600, which is still plenty to sustain a fishery.
But the recent run of warm weather is likely to have a negative impact on fishing success.
"The river was actually dropping and getting into shape there for a while," said John Easterbrooks, the WDFW's Region 3 fish program manager. "But now with these 90-degree days this whole thing could be moot."