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Fall chinook run smashing all records on Columbia

Graph shows fall chinook salmon fish passage over Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River as of Sept. 12, 2013. (Fish Passage Center)
Graph shows fall chinook salmon fish passage over Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River as of Sept. 12, 2013. (Fish Passage Center)

SALMON FISHING -- It's not a run of fall chinook coming up the Columbia River this season, it's a stampede.

On Tuesday, regional fish managers upped their forecast for this year's fall chinook returns to 835,000 adult upriver brights reaching Bonneville Dam, which would smash the record of 610,436 set in 2003.

The count over Bonneville Dam Wednesday night totaled 573,567 with 42,506 fish coming up on Wednesday alone. That's the sixth highest single-day count since record-keeping started in 1938, and it's probably the DOWNSIDE of the run's peak.

This year's run set three single-day record numbers over Bonneville Dam in the past week, peaking with 63,870 on Monday.

"It’s a string that is mind-boggling, historic — Chin-pocalypse in the words of one angler who stands to reap the benefits, king-ageddon," exclaims Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman magazine. "It’s not just the Columbia. There are signs that Puget Sound pink salmon were hugely underforecast, and the Oregon and California Coasts’ Chinook season was bonkers."

The largest percentage of the upriver chinooks crossing Bonneville Dam is headed for the Hanford Reach of the Columbia as well as to the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon rivers in Idaho.

I'll make the easy forecast and predict that thousands of anglers will be there to greet them this season.

Steelhead forecasts

Columbia-Snake fish managers adjusted the forecast for A-run steelhead to 205,000 fish, including 86,000 wild steelhead.  That's an increase from the previous week's forecast, but still below the preseason forecast of 291,000.  The A-run fish provide the fisheries for Snake River tributaries including the Grande Ronde as well as the Upper Columbia and tributaries.

The size of the B-run steelhead bound mostly for Idaho's Clearwater River has not been updated, yet, but it continues to track behind expectations.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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