Region sees record steelhead run

SUNDAY, DEC. 27, 2009

Anglers reel in thousands; local economy gets boost

The record run of steelhead that paraded up the Snake River delivered pleasure and profit from the mouth of the Columbia upstream 800 miles to the Salmon, Idaho, area.

On Aug. 13, a one-day record of 34,053 steelhead climbed over Bonneville Dam – the first of many they encounter on their migration from the ocean to spawning streams – and surged up the Columbia and inland like a piscatorial tsunami.

The 601,619 summer steelhead counted over Bonneville Dam from April through October was second only to the 630,000 that moved upstream in 2001.

But no year on record matched the number of those fish that were bound for Idaho waters. About 323,400 steelhead poured over Lower Granite Dam this summer and fall, smashing the record of 269,281 set in 2001.

So many hatchery fish were moving upstream, fish managers increased limits. In the upper Columbia, anglers were required to kill hatchery fish if they caught them in the effort to keep hatchery fish from overwhelming native steelhead on the spawning grounds.

Fish managers hinted they may have to reduce hatchery steelhead production to protect wild steelhead stocks starting next year.

A wealth of other fisheries blessed the region this year.

•Pink salmon crowded into Puget Sound in record numbers.

•Sport coho catches in the Columbia tied the record set in 1986.

•More than 830 endangered Snake River sockeye made the 900-mile upstream journey from the ocean to Central Idaho spawning areas, the largest return since records were started in 1985.

•Spring chinook jacks stampeded up the Columbia, more than tripling the previous record.

•Fall chinook jacks poured over Lower Granite Dam in September in the highest numbers since the dam was completed in 1975. Upriver bright jack returns to the Hanford Reach of the Columbia were the largest since the mid-1980s.

Historically, big jack returns are harbingers of big adult runs the following year.

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