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Huge salmon runs forecast for summer

Large numbers of sockeye, summer chinook are projected

Although forecasts for the 2012 spring chinook salmon run turned out to be overly optimistic, Northwest fish managers are projecting a large return of summer chinook to the Columbia River and a record-breaking run of sockeyes.

The summer chinook forecast of 91,200 adult fish would be the highest return since at least 1980, and would be 135 percent of the 10-year average, according a report by Oregon and Washington fish managers.

The high forecast stems largely from the record number of jacks that returned last year. Jacks are precocious fish that return back to their natal stream from the ocean after only one year in the ocean.

The Fish Passage Center counted 51,451 jacks moving up over Bonneville Dam last year, the highest count since 1960. The next best year for the jack preview was 2009, when 37,416 jacks moved upstream.

Summer chinook spawn in the Columbia, Wenatchee, Okanogan, Methow, Similkameen, Chelan and Entiat rivers in central Washington. The summer chinook season is set for Saturday through July 1 but could be extended.

The 2012 sockeye salmon run is predicted to include 462,000 adults to the Columbia River, which includes 28,800 fish to the Wenatchee, 431,300 fish to the Okanogan and 1,900 to the Snake River.

That prediction would be 348 percent of the recent 10-year average.

Fall chinook season, which starts Aug. 1, includes the popular Buoy 10 fishery near Astoria and the fall “upriver bright” season in the main stem Columbia and Hanford Reach. The 2012 run sizes and fishing season for chinook should be similar to last year with a preseason forecast of 651,300 Columbia River fall chinook.

That forecast includes an expected 353,500 adult “upriver bright” fall chinook headed for the mid-Columbia’s Hanford Reach, the Snake River and other hatcheries and spawning areas above Bonneville. The URB return if realized would be the fourth-largest return since record-keeping began in 1964.

Last year’s actual return was 325,100 as compared to the preseason forecast of 398,200.

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