Fishing Information on Drano Lake
Adult fish returning to Drano Lake, an impoundment at the mouth of the Little White Salmon River are the perfect example of a successful mitigation program. In this case, mitigation funds are used to produce 1.0 million spring Chinook, 4.5 million upriver bright fall Chinook, and 1.7 million tule fall Chinook at the Little White Salmon hatchery for release into the Little White Salmon River and Drano Lake. These fish provide sport and tribal fisher harvest opportunity by mitigating for fisheries lost due to the construction and operation of large scale hydropower projects on the Columbia River. Returning adult fish fuel an intensive sport fishery that also "shares the wealth" with a one-day per week tribal gillnet fishery during the spring and fall. The Drano Lake fisheries focus effort on a hatchery produced stock of fish returning to a tributary of the Columbia River. Tribal gillnets are set in Drano Lake, reducing the potential incidental take of wild and ESA-listed fish in the main stem Columbia River. In this case fish produced at a mitigation hatchery allows harvest of hatchery fish in a tributary stream/lake (i.e. the terminal fishery) while minimizing impact to wild fish that migrate further up the Columbia River. Few hatchery programs can espouse the benefit of simultaneously providing both a harvest and a conservation opportunity.
When do the salmon return?
Spring Chinook adults typically enter Drano Lake during late March thru May. Fall Chinook can be in Drano as early as August until they make their push upstream to the hatchery in late October. Knowing the general run timing is great if you want to catch a fish, but how can a fisherman figure out the best time to fish Drano for salmon?
The best time to go fishing?
A new technology gives fishermen the tools to help plan their fishing trip. The Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag allows managers to gather data on specific fish movements. These tags are detected at various locations during the migration of a tagged fish, most notably at the large Columbia River Dams. While PIT tags have been historically used to track the downstream movement of migrating salmon smolts, the tags are also detected as the adult fish return to their birthplace to spawn. This provides great information to assist with the planning of harvest activity.
A total of 25,000 upriver bright fall Chinook salmon and 15,000 spring Chinook salmon receive PIT tags at Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery. As these fish begin their journey back to the hatchery and Drano Lake, they are detected at Bonneville Dam. An online website allows fishermen access to this data. A simple query can identify the exact date one of those large fish make it over Bonneville Dam. It’s only another 13 miles to Drano. Most fish make it that distance in a day!
To figure this out, go to the following website:
This is the Columbia River DART (data access real time) site that tracks adult salmon PIT tag returns. Select the year, species and stock of fish you’re interested in. Leave the Observation Site as Bonneville Dam Fishways since that is the first detection site downstream of Drano Lake. Leave the Release Basins as All Basin to simplify things and the Rearing Type as All.
Here’s an example of what you get when you select the 2010 return year for PIT tagged adult Spring Chinook salmon detected at Bonneville Dam:
Search for records similar to above that show the release site (RelSite) as LWSH (Little White Salmon Hatchery). The Obs_Date column shows the date the adult fish was detected at Bonneville Dam. So for last year’s spring Chinook return, the first PIT tagged adult fish destined for Drano Lake crossed Bonneville Dam on
A total of 15,000 fish are PIT tagged to represent the total hatchery release of 1 million fish. That means each PIT tag detected represents approximately 67 adult spring Chinook. Looking at the detections for April 10 above, the 5 PIT tagged fish detected represents 335 total fish over Bonneville and destined for Drano Lake. How long do you think it takes for a fish to swim from Bonneville Dam to Drano? I’d bet the fishing got pretty good on April 11!
You can run a similar query on the Columbia River DART system for fall Chinook returning to Drano Lake and the Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery. A total of 25,000 upriver bright fall Chinook are PIT tagged to represent the release of 2 million fish. That means each PIT tag detected at Bonneville Dam represents 80 fish!