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Anglers must release wild spring chinook

During the coming season, anglers will be required to release any wild spring chinook salmon they hook in three tributaries to the Columbia River, as well as at Drano Lake.

In addition, fishing on one of those tributaries-the Klickitat River-will be limited to three days per week through May 31, with a bag limit of one hatchery chinook or steelhead per day.

The changes, according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel, are designed to conserve wild chinook salmon in the Columbia River basin.

"This year, for the first time, all age classes of hatchery chinook salmon returning to tributaries of the Bonneville Pool have been marked for identification," said Craig Burley, regional fish manager for the state fish and wildlife agency. "That will allow us to have a selective fishery that maximizes fishing opportunities for hatchery chinook, while protecting wild stocks."

Waters affected by the new requirement to release wild chinook include the Klickitat, White Salmon and lower Wind rivers, as well as Drano Lake below the Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery. Wild chinook have an intact adipose fin, which is clipped from hatchery fish for purposes of identification.

Burley said the need for new fishing rules was especially apparent on the Klickitat River, where this year's expected return of 1,300 adult spring chinook salmon is not high enough to support a full fishing season and also meet hatchery production goals.

"At a recent meeting in Goldendale, most anglers said they would rather have a lower daily catch limit on the Klickitat than a major reduction in fishing days," said Burley. "So that's the way we structured this year's season."

Starting April 1, the spring chinook fishing season on the Klickitat will be open Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from the mouth to the Fisher Hill Bridge, with a bag limit of one hatchery chinook or steelhead per day. As of June 1, the river will be open seven days per week and the bag limit will increase to six hatchery salmon, no more than two of which can be adults.

Wind River will be open to anglers March 16 through June 30 from the mouth to 400 feet below Shipherd Falls. From May 1 through June 30, anglers may retain any chinook salmon from 100 feet above Shipherd Falls to 400 feet below the coffer dam and from 100 feet above the coffer dam to markers 800 yards downstream of Carson National Fish Hatchery.

Drano Lake opens March 16 downstream of the markers across from Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery and upstream of the Highway 14 bridge. The season runs through June 30, but will be closed every Wednesday from April 12 through May 31.

The lower section of White Salmon River will be open April 1 through June 30 from the markers on the east and west shores to the powerhouse. The upper section will be open April 1 through June 15 from the powerhouse to 400 feet downstream from Northwestern Dam.

The daily catch limit on the Wind River, the White Salmon River and Drano Lake is a total of two fin-clipped salmon or steelhead, or one of each. On the Klickitat River, the daily limit is one marked salmon or hatchery steelhead. Anglers must release all unmarked salmon and steelhead, except on the Wind River starting May 1.

For hatchery fish, the minimum retention size for salmon is 12 inches. For steelhead, the minimum retention size is 20 inches.

Night closure and non-buoyant lure restrictions will be in effect in May on the Klickitat River, and from March 16 through June 30 on the Wind River and Drano Lake.

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