Columbia River Spring Chinook Fishing 2023

Mid teens fat lower columbia river spring chinook

There are a few fisheries you can just set block out your calendar for. I don’t care what the forecast says (I mean I kind of do), I don’t care what the chatter is, I’m making plans to fish the Columbia River spring chinook fishery each and every year.

It’s not because the catching is prolific (it’s often a grind), it’s not because spring chinook are the biggest salmon (they aren’t). But, I just love to eat what I catch and Columbia River spring chinook are THE best tasting salmon (fish?) on the planet. That’s right!

I’m getting excited just writing about this topic with only a few months until our delicious spring salmon season.

So how can I help you with my frivolous salmon content? A few ways…many of you will be on the water every day you can no matter what. Me? I’m gonna drag my butt from the south Puget Sound area and whomever I can get to come with me to “time the run” and hopefully have the most productive time on the water.

To do that, we use a lot of data, because like many of our salmon fisheries, there’s a ton of digital content (data!) available to us, to let us know “when is it time to go?”

And this blog is the ONLY place you can get all of this data in one convenient easy place. So here goes.

Forecast for 2023 Columbia River River Spring Chinook

Overall, the forecast of spring chinook on the Columbia River in 2023 is much improved from recent lows and challenging years and I couldn’t be more excited about that!

This blog post will largely be focussed on the lower part of the Columbia River, which means ALL of those fish have to swim past my tight rolling cut plug herring and refuse to take it for me to miss out. I like those odds!

Now here’s the deal though…this fishery is often only open until March 31st or maybe a week into April. The permanent regulations, which is all we have to go on right now as I’m writing this in January, state that the river closes on Mar 31st. This will get updated in February, but you can never be too confident of the exact timing of this run as it’s heavily dependent on water temperatures which can vary greatly year to year.

Why that’s important, is that while 320k+ springers sounds like a lot, only a small fraction of those spring chinook will be in the river while there’s an open season.

Often times though, the season will close on time and later be opened through emergency regulations as available harvest continues to be available.

So things are dynamic which makes watching the data that much more important.

If you want to read my entire guide to catching springs on the lower Columbia River, head over to my page on that topic.

If you are looking for more generic and comprehensive coverage of fishing the Columbia River in 2023, click on the linked text.

Watching Dam / Fish counts on the Columbia River

The above graph will update automatically as dam / fish counts are reported of adult chinook heading over Bonneville Dam.

These numbers do not have to be very high for chinook fishing to be decent in the stretch downstream of the I5 bridge. It is nice to see some fish heading up river though with a climbing trend that foretells more fish coming behind them.

What does Willamette Falls chinook counts have to do with fishing for springers in the lower Columbia River?

I believe that in general the Willamette River fish return in greater numbers earlier than other spring chinook, and are absolutely available to intercept in many lower river locations. in some ways these fish counts are even more helpful and predictive than the Bonneville ones, so we will include both for your convenience.

Fishing Reports for Lower Columbia River Spring Chinook Fishing

When WDFW restarts their creel checking program, these will be automatically updated in this section.

Permanent Fishing Regulations for the lower Columbia River 2022 -> March 31st, 2023

from a true north and south line through Buoy 10 to the Megler Astoria Bridge, except see Youngs Bay Control Zone CRC (519)

Species Date Additiional Rules

All species


Night closure and barbless hooks required (salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon only).

Year-round

Anglers may fish with either a saltwater, freshwater, or combination license in the waters of the Columbia River from the Buoy 10 line to a line from Rocky Point on the Washington shore, to Tongue Point on the Oregon Shore.

Aug. 1-Dec. 31

Each angler aboard a vessel may deploy salmon/steelhead angling gear until the daily salmon/steelhead limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved.

Trout

Year-round

Catch-and-release.

Other game fish

Year-round

Statewide min. size/daily limit.

Salmon and hatchery steelhead

Jan. 1-Mar. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adult salmon, 2 hatchery steelhead or 1 of each may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook.

Apr. 1-July 31

Closed.

Aug. 1-Aug. 24

Chinook – min. size 24”. Coho – min. size 16”. Daily limit 2. Up to 1 Chinook may be retained. Release all salmon and steelhead other than hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho.

Aug. 25-Sept. 7

Chinook – min. size 24”. Coho – min. size 16”. Daily limit 2. Up to 1 Chinook may be retained. Release all salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Sept. 8-Sept. 30

Salmon – min. size 16”. Daily limit 3. Release all salmon and steelhead other than hatchery coho.

Oct. 1-Oct. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adult salmon may be retained, of which up to 1 may be a Chinook. Release all salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Nov. 1-Dec. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults, of which up to 1 Chinook and up to 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Shad

Apr. 1-May 15

Closed.

May 16-Mar. 31

No min. size. No daily limit.

Sturgeon

Year-round

Catch-and-release.

Forage fish

Year-round

No min. size. Daily limit 10 lbs., all species combined. Forage fish jig gear allowed. Forage fish may be used live for bait. CLOSED to fishing for eulachon (Columbia River Smelt).

Bottomfish

Year-round

Daily limits, seasons, size restrictions, and gear restrictions are the same as those of the adjacent portion of Marine Area 1.

Youngs Bay Control Zone – waters south of a line originating on the Oregon shore at the east end of the seawall at the Warrenton Fiber log yard (approx. river mile 10.1) northeasterly through green navigation buoys 29, 31, 33, 35A to the center of the Astoria-Megler Bridge abutment adjacent to, and north of the ship channel, and continuing southerly in line with the center of the Megler Bridge span to the Oregon shore. (The Youngs Bay Control Zone includes all waters from the line defined in this section, south to the Hwy. 101 Bridge.) CRC (519)

Species Date Additiional Rules

All species


Night closure and barbless hooks required (salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon only).

Aug. 1-Sept. 15

CLOSED WATERS.

Sept. 16-Dec. 31

Each angler aboard a vessel may deploy salmon/steelhead angling gear until the daily salmon/steelhead limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved.

Sept. 16-July 31

Anglers may fish with either a saltwater, freshwater, or combination license in the waters of the Columbia River from the Buoy 10 line to a line from Rocky Point on the Washington shore, to Tongue Point on the Oregon Shore.

Trout

Sept. 16-July 31

Catch-and-release.

Other game fish

Sept. 16-July 31

Statewide min. size/daily limit.

Salmon and hatchery steelhead

Jan. 1-Mar. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adult salmon, 2 hatchery steelhead or 1 of each may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook.

Apr. 1-Sept. 15

Closed.

Sept. 16-Sept. 30

Salmon – min. size 16”. Daily limit 3. Release all salmon and steelhead other than hatchery coho.

Oct. 1-Oct. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adult salmon may be retained, of which up to 1 may be a Chinook. Release all salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Nov. 1-Dec. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults, of which up to 1 Chinook and up to 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Shad

Apr. 1-May 15

Closed.

May 16-Mar. 31

No min. size. No daily limit.

Sturgeon

Sept. 16-July 31

Catch-and-release.

Forage fish

Sept. 16-July 31

No min. size. Daily limit 10 lbs., all species combined. Forage fish jig gear allowed. Forage fish may be used live for bait. CLOSED to fishing for eulachon (Columbia River Smelt).

Bottomfish

Sept. 16-July 31

Daily limits, seasons, size restrictions, and gear restrictions are the same as those of the adjacent portion of Marine Area 1.

from the Megler Astoria Bridge to a projected line from Rocky Point on the Washington bank through Red Buoy 44 to the red navigation marker 2 at Tongue Point on the Oregon bank CRC (519)

Species Date Additiional Rules

All species


Night closure and barbless hooks required (salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon only).

Year-round

Anglers may fish with either a saltwater, freshwater, or combination license in the waters of the Columbia River from the Buoy 10 line to a line from Rocky Point on the Washington shore, to Tongue Point on the Oregon Shore.

Aug. 1-Dec. 31

Each angler aboard a vessel may deploy salmon/steelhead angling gear until the daily salmon/steelhead limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved.

Trout

Year-round

Catch-and-release.

Other game fish

Year-round

Statewide min. size/daily limit.

Salmon and hatchery steelhead

Jan. 1-Mar. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adult salmon, 2 hatchery steelhead or 1 of each may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook.

Apr. 1-June 15

Closed.

June 16-July 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 1 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery jack Chinook.

Aug. 1-Aug. 24

Chinook – min. size 24”. Coho – min. size 16”. Daily limit 2. Up to 1 Chinook may be retained. Release all salmon and steelhead other than hatchery coho and hatchery Chinook.

Aug. 25-Sept. 7

Chinook – min. size 24”. Coho – min. size 16”. Daily limit 2. Up to 1 Chinook may be retained. Release all salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Sept. 8-Sept. 30

Salmon – min. size 16”. Daily limit 3. Release all salmon and steelhead other than hatchery coho.

Oct. 1-Oct. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adult salmon, of which up 1 Chinook may be retained. Release all salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Nov. 1-Dec. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults, of which up to 1 Chinook and 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Shad

Apr. 1-May 15

Closed.

May 16-Mar. 31

No min. size. No daily limit.

Sturgeon

Year-round

Catch-and-release.

Forage fish

Year-round

No min. size. Daily limit 10 lbs., all species combined. Forage fish jig gear allowed. Forage fish may be used live for bait. CLOSED to fishing for eulachon (Columbia River Smelt).

Bottomfish

Year-round

Daily limits, seasons, size restrictions, and gear restrictions are the same as those of the adjacent portion of Marine Area 1.

from a line from Rocky Point on the Washington bank through Red Buoy 44 to red navigation marker 2 at Tongue Point on the Oregon bank upstream to a line at the west end of Puget Island projected from green navigation marker 39 on the Washington bank to green navigation marker 41, then to red navigation marker 42, and terminating at red navigation marker 44A on the Oregon Bank CRC (521)

Species Date Additiional Rules

All species


Night closure and barbless hooks required (salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon only).

Feb. 15-June 15

Salmon, trout, and steelhead handling rules apply when fishing from vessels less than 30’ in length.

Aug. 1-Dec. 31

Each angler aboard a vessel may deploy salmon/steelhead angling gear until the daily salmon/steelhead limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved.

Trout

May 16-Mar. 31

Min. size 12”. Daily limit 2. Barbless hooks required. Release all trout other than hatchery cutthroat trout.

Other game fish

Year-round

Statewide min. size/daily limit.

Salmon and hatchery steelhead

Jan. 1-Mar. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adult salmon, 2 hatchery steelhead or 1 of each may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook.

Apr. 1-May 15

Closed.

May 16-June 15

Salmon – min size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery jack Chinook.

June 16-July 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 1 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery jack Chinook.

Aug. 1-Aug. 24

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained of which up to 1 may be a Chinook. Release all salmon and steelhead other than hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho.

Aug. 25-Sept. 7

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adult salmon, of which up to 1 Chinook may be retained. Release all salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Sept. 8-Sept. 30

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults may be retained. Release all salmon and steelhead other than hatchery coho.

Oct. 1-Oct. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adult salmon, of which up to 1 Chinook may be retained. Release all salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Nov. 1-Dec. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults, of which up to 1 Chinook and 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Shad

Apr. 1-May 15

Closed.

May 16-Mar. 31

No min. size. No daily limit.

Sturgeon

Year-round

Catch-and-release.

from a line at the west end of Puget Island projected from green navigation marker 39 on the Washington bank to green navigation marker 41, then to red navigation marker 42, and terminating at red navigation marker 44A on the Oregon Bank upstream to the Longview Bridge CRC (521)

Species Date Additiional Rules

All species


Night closure and barbless hooks required (salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon only).

Feb. 15-June 15

Salmon, trout, and steelhead handling rules apply when fishing from vessels less than 30’ in length.

Aug. 1-Dec. 31

Each angler aboard a vessel may deploy salmon/steelhead angling gear until the daily salmon/steelhead limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved.

Trout

May 16-Mar. 31

Min. size 12”. Daily limit 2. Barbless hooks required. Release all trout other than hatchery cutthroat trout.

Other game fish

Year-round

Statewide min. size/daily limit.

Salmon and hatchery steelhead

Jan. 1-Mar. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adult salmon, 2 hatchery steelhead or 1 of each may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook.

Apr. 1-May 15

Closed.

May 16-June 15

Salmon – min size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery jack Chinook.

June 16-July 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 1 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery jack Chinook.

Aug. 1-Sept. 7

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained of which up to 1 may be a Chinook. Release all salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Sept. 8-Sept. 30

Closed.

Oct. 1-Oct. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained, of which up to 1 may be a Chinook. Release all salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Nov. 1-Dec. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adult salmon of which up to 1 may be a Chinook, or 2 hatchery steelhead or 1 of each may be retained. Release all salmon other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Shad

Apr. 1-May 15

Closed.

May 16-Mar. 31

No min. size. No daily limit.

Sturgeon

Year-round

Catch-and-release.

from the Longview Bridge to a line projected from the Warrior Rock lighthouse through Red Buoy 4 to the marker atop the piling dolphin located at the downstream end of Bachelor Island on the Washington shore (Warrior Rock line) CRC (523)

Species Date Additiional Rules

All species


Night closure and barbless hooks required (salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon only).

Feb. 15-June 15

Salmon, trout, and steelhead handling rules apply when fishing from vessels less than 30’ in length.

Aug. 1-Dec. 31

Each angler aboard a vessel may deploy salmon/steelhead angling gear until the daily salmon/steelhead limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved.

Trout

May 16-Mar. 31

Min. size 12”. Daily limit 2. Barbless hooks required. Release all trout other than hatchery cutthroat trout.

Other game fish

Year-round

Statewide min. size/daily limit.

Salmon and hatchery steelhead

Jan. 1-Mar. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adult salmon, 2 hatchery steelhead or 1 of each may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook.

Apr. 1-May 15

Closed.

May 16-June 15

Salmon – min size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery jack Chinook.

June 16-July 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 1 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery jack Chinook.

Aug. 1-Sept. 7

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained of which up to 1 may be a Chinook. Release all salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Sept. 8-Sept. 30

Closed.

Oct. 1-Oct. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained, of which up to 1 may be a Chinook. Release all salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Nov. 1-Dec. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adult salmon of which up to 1 may be a Chinook, or 2 hatchery steelhead or 1 of each may be retained. Release all salmon other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Shad

Apr. 1-May 15

Closed.

May 16-Mar. 31

No min. size. No daily limit.

Sturgeon

Year-round

Catch-and-release.

from upstream of a line projected from the Warrior Rock lighthouse through Red Buoy 4 to the marker atop the piling dolphin located at the downstream end of Bachelor Island on the Washington Shore (Warrior Rock Line) to the I-5 Bridge CRC (523)

Species Date Additiional Rules

All species


Night closure and barbless hooks required (salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon only).

Feb. 15-June 15

Salmon, trout, and steelhead handling rules apply when fishing from vessels less than 30’ in length.

Aug. 1-Dec. 31

Each angler aboard a vessel may deploy salmon/steelhead angling gear until the daily salmon/steelhead limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved.

Trout

May 16-Mar. 31

Min. size 12”. Daily limit 2. Barbless hooks required. Release all trout other than hatchery cutthroat trout.

Other game fish

Year-round

Statewide min. size/daily limit.

Salmon and hatchery steelhead

Jan. 1-Mar. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adult salmon, 2 hatchery steelhead or 1 of each may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook.

Apr. 1-May 15

Closed.

May 16-June 15

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery jack Chinook.

June 16-July 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 1 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery jack Chinook.

Aug. 1-Sept. 13

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained of which up to 1 may be a Chinook. Release all salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Sept. 14-Sept. 30

Closed.

Oct. 1-Oct. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained, of which up to 1 may be a Chinook. Release all salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Nov. 1-Dec. 31

Salmon – min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adult salmon of which up to 1 may be a Chinook, or 2 hatchery steelhead or 1 of each may be retained. Release all salmon other than Chinook and hatchery coho.

Shad

Apr. 1-May 15

Closed.

May 16-Mar. 31

No min. size. No daily limit.

Sturgeon

Year-round

Catch-and-release.

There’s a season above the I5 bridge as well, but again I would refer you to the full article on Columbia River fishing for those or just consult the WDFW official regulations for a complete set.

Emergency Fishing Regulations for Columbia River Spring Chinook 2023

The above permanent regulations for the Columbia River are subject to change at any time and without being updated on this blog. One must consult the WDFW Emergency Regulations before any trips to ensure they are in full compliance with state laws regulating fisheries.

How to fish for Columbia River Spring Chinook

I’ve got a whole article on this topic of how to fish for Columbia River spring chinook here.

That article has links to gear you might need as well, so definitely check it out!

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