Yakima River spring chinook run a mixed bag

The prospects for this year's anticipated spring chinook fishery on the Yakima River are at once promising, disappointing and up in the air.

Promising is the predicted size of the run, which -- at 15,900 salmon bound for the Yakima, and 8,860 of those being catchable hatchery fish on their way beyond Roza Dam -- will ensure a Yakima River spring chinook fishery.

Disappointing is the lateness of the run, which will almost certainly push back the date of that fishery from the anticipated May 1 opening.

Only 1,110 adult chinook had made it through Bonneville Dam by Sunday -- a date that, on the 10-year average, has typically seen nearly 2,400 spring chinook move through.

"It's looking more like we'll probably slip the opening date back from May 1," said John Easterbrooks, regional fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "The numbers at Bonneville are still paltry. The run is really late. By May 1, there's likely not going to be many fish over McNary or Prosser to make it worth opening."

The possibility still exists for a May 10 opening, Easterbrooks said, with the fishery expected to run through the end of May, by which time virtually all of the hatchery salmon in the Yakima will have made it over Roza Dam.

What's still up in the air is whether or not anglers will be able to fish in the Boundary Reach -- the area of the Yakima River bordering the Yakama Nation, which controls fishing activities on that section of the river.

Tribal and state fishing managers had not yet come to an agreement as of Monday afternoon.

Only the hatchery fish, recognizable by their clipped adipose fin, can be retained as part of the fishery -- but they comprise 56 percent of the predicted run.

The remaining spring chinook in the run include roughly 3,200 wild fish headed for the Naches River and more than 3,800 "naturally produced" Upper Yakima salmon -- a distinction indicating fish that have naturally spawned in the river system but may be the progeny of both wild and hatchery fish.