With a near-record run of spring Chinook salmon expected over the Columbia River's Bonneville Dam this year, local biologists are optimistic there will be a season for the prized fish on the Imnaha River.

"This year there are more fish coming back so we should be able to have a season," said Brad Smith, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's district fish biologist in Enterprise. "I'm optimistic at this point."

The federal government must approve the season, but state fishery managers say pre-season run estimates justify a decent season on the Imnaha.

"This year we have requested authorization for harvest of 500 fish," Smith said.

With snowpacks slightly below normal, conditions should be prime when the salmon arrive in the Imnaha in late spring.

"My expectation is we'll probably see some pretty decent flow conditions during the fishery," Smith said.

Spring Chinook, prized as excellent table fare, typically arrive in the Imnaha from late May through early July. The salmon don't spawn until late summer or early fall, so they have high fat and oil reserves, which improves their eating qualities.

Nearly 300,000 of the spring-run salmon are expected over Bonneville Dam. Anglers have already begun to catch the fish in the lower Columbia, and fishing is expected to be good in April between the Interstate 5 and I-205 bridges, where boaters troll for them.

ODFW will announce season dates and limits for the Imnaha season after it is approved by NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency responsible for Snake River salmon management.

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