Out & About: Record fall chinook run forecast for Hanford Reach

OUTRUN – A potential record run of fall chinook salmon is forecast for the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River.

The preliminary estimate released by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife last week suggests the largest run of upriver brights since records have been kept.

The forecast of 432,500 upriver brights would top the record of 420,700 that came upriver in 1987.

Last year, 353,500 upriver brights were forecast in February, but the actual return was 298,000.

Snake River wild chinook are forecast for a big increase. Last year 15,100 were forecast and 16,700 showed up. This year, the forecast calls for 31,600 wild chinook.

The big upriver brights number contrasts with the forecast for upriver spring chinook, which, at 141,000, looks to be modest at best.

Ron Roler, WDFW fisheries biologist, said the sunny forecast for fall chinook could be an omen for the future.

“Right now it seems like a large number, but I think that number in the future will be dwarfed,” he said. “There is a lot more potential – upriver brights are only using a small portion of the river available to them.”

The total forecast of 677,900 Columbia River fall chinook to lower and upper river fisheries is greater than the 10-year average actual return (547,900) and would be the highest return since 2004 if the forecast holds.

Steelhead season poised to open on the Methow

OUTFISH – Washington fisheries managers Friday were on the verge of announcing a fishing season for hatchery-marked steelhead in the Methow River.

Watch for official word any day. Biologists were betting the season would open around March 1 and run two to three weeks.

Asotin wildlife land on agenda

OUTMANAGE – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has a full agenda of topics for its meeting Friday in Moses Lake.

The panel will take public comments on proposed changes to hunting rules, consider adopting sportfishing rules and vote on buying a 1,614-acre addition to the Blue Mountains Wildlife Area in Asotin County.

The meeting will convene at 8 a.m. at the Moses Lake Civic Center, 401 S. Balsam St.

The commission will accept public comments on 17 proposed hunting rule changes, including allowing the use of illuminated arrow nocks for archery equipment.

The panel will vote on nearly 70 sportfishing rules, including proposals that would allow the use of two fishing poles on 50 additional lakes throughout the state and liberalize limits for walleye, bass and catfish in the Columbia River system.

The standout among three proposed land transactions is the plan to buy 1,614 acres of the 4-0 Ranch in Asotin County as phase two of a multiyear project to secure a total of nearly 12,000 acres of prime fish and wildlife land.

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